Some of the area’s most formidable fall sports teams might have been outsted prematurely, but at least they lost to worthy opponents.
The Batavia and Kaneland football teams entered the season linked by their nearly identical 2011 seasons, ending their years with matching 12-1 records and home losses in last year’s state semifinals.
The programs’ momentum snowballed into this season, when the Bulldogs and Knights once more ran the table during the regular season. Unfortunately for both, they also shared similar postseason fates in the form of early-round upsets – Batavia lost in the first round of the 7A playoffs to Downers Grove North, while Kaneland fell in Round 2 of the 5A playoffs Saturday at Lincoln-Way West.
It’s probably of minimal consolation to the players who poured their guts into the season, but there is no embarrassment in either loss, regardless of what the playoff seedings might suggest.
Downers Grove North and Lincoln-Way West are both playing excellent football at this stage of the season. Downers followed its Batavia conquest with another road upset the next week, dominating Thornton in the second round.
For whatever reason, Downers Grove North is playing much better football now than it did for much of the regular season.
The same applies to Lincoln-Way West, which has won five straight games. The Warriors signaled they’d be a handful when they blasted Kaneland’s conference rival, Rochelle, 35-0, in the first round, prompting Hubs coach Kevin Crandall to tell the Rockford Register-Star that Lincoln-Way West was the best team Rochelle had seen all season.
That assessment might have raised eyebrows around Maple Park, but held up when the Warriors took it to the Knights on Saturday.
With Kaneland junior quarterback Drew David – obviously a key piece for the Knights – dealing with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, it’s debatable how realistic it would have been for the Knights to break through to Champaign this season. Still, a lopsided second-round loss – and one in which a usually effective Knights offensive line permitted nine sacks – was a jarring turn of events.
Disappointing as Saturday was, the Knights continued to stamp themselves among the elite football programs in the state this season. A third straight flawless regular season is an incredible accomplishment, and requires no state hardware for validation.
You can’t rule out another blockbuster season for Batavia or Kaneland in 2013. Both teams return accomplished QBs (Micah Coffey for Batavia, David for Kaneland) and another intriguing blend of skill players, including Anthony Scaccia and Anthony Thielk for the Bulldogs and Jesse Balluff and Dylan Nauert for the Knights.
Segway to soccer: While we’re talking about area powerhouses that were stopped short of their lofty goals, it’s worth noting that the St. Charles East boys soccer team’s postseason foil, Warren, went on to win the 3A state championship Saturday.
The Blue Devils, who nipped the Saints, 2-1, in an evenly played Barrington Supersectional, proceeded to rip Sandburg, 3-0, in a state semifinal before vanquishing nationally ranked power Naperville Central, 2-1, in double overtime to seize the state title.
If there were any question the Saints, who finished the season 20-3-1, were a legitimate state title contender, Warren removed all doubt by finishing the job.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.