When: 1 p.m. Saturday
The buzz in the stands
Have you heard a score from Rockford?
The players and coaches will be focused on the business at hand Saturday afternoon, but it’s deep enough into the playoffs that score texting and tweeting will reach overdrive for many fans, especially with Rockford Boylan and Prairie Ridge also kicking off at 1 p.m.
Batavia would be on the road against the winner of that game for the state semifinals; Prairie Ridge won at Bulldog Stadium in the 2011 Class 6A state semifinals.
Batavia’s linebackers vs. Lake Forest running back Hub Cirame.
The Scouts weathered their second-round win against injury-plagued De La Salle – a 27-7 Lake Forest win – despite a relatively quiet day for Cirame, but it’s hard to envision Lake Forest beating a team of the Bulldogs’ caliber without Cirame (1,215 rushing yards, 22 touchdowns) enjoying a big afternoon.
Bulldogs linebackers such as Anthony Thielk (team-high 78 tackles), Donovan Kilker (57) and Jake Hlava (55) have a way of filling gaps in a hurry, and have seen plenty of quality backs on the season.
While the personnel is almost entirely different, the programs are somewhat familiar with each other, schematically, from Batavia’s 31-17, second-round playoff win against Lake Forest in the 2011 playoffs, also in Batavia.
Scouts coach Chuck Spagnoli said that game is helpful in “knowing how to get to the school. That’s about it.”
Best-case scenario for the Scouts
Lake Forest’s improved offensive line stands up to the test of Batavia’s high-performing defensive line, enabling Cirame to keep the Scouts in manageable second- and third-down scenarios.
Spagnoli said the Scouts might be better equipped to fend off elite defenders this season than when Lake Forest visited Bulldogs Stadium in the 2011 playoffs.
“The difference between us now and us a couple years ago is we probably have a little more size in our offensive line,” Spagnoli said. “We’re certainly not any bigger on defense but our offensive line is a little bigger than it’s been in the past.”
Center Peter Durot (5-foot-11, 230 pounds) and tackle Danny Sullivan (6-1, 230) are the linchpins of a Lake Forest line that will try to keep the offense on the field and prevent Bulldogs pass rushers such as Josh Leonhard and Noah Frazier from closing in on the program’s single-season sacks record.
Scouts quarterback Regis Durbin has completed 57 percent of his passes but thrown eight interceptions compared to 10 touchdown passes. He’ll want to steer clear of Bulldogs ball-hawking cornerback Michael Moffatt.
“I think if you don’t pay attention to him, you’re foolish,” Spagnoli said. “He might be the best cover guy we’ve seen all year, no doubt.”
Best-case scenario for the Bulldogs
Batavia’s offense doesn’t wake up from what has been a dream season.
The Bulldogs are within 25 points of the program’s all-time points total for a season, and Anthony Scaccia is now the program’s single-season rushing (1,405 yards) and touchdown (27 overall, 21 rushing) record-holder.
Batavia coach Dennis Piron knows continued success will be well earned against a Lake Forest defense that is the Scouts’ chief strength.
“Defensively, they are probably one of the best defenses we’ve seen this year,” Piron said. “I’d put them on par with maybe even Richards or someone like that. They really get after you and they are aggressive and they blitz.”
Batavia’s offense has been as prolific so far in the playoffs (48-6 win over DeKalb, 48-13 win over Rolling Meadows) as it was during the regular season.
The Scouts, though, aren’t accustomed to being manhandled. The only teams to defeat Lake Forest this season are still alive in Class 8A (Stevenson) and Class 7A (Lake Zurich), and even in those two losses, the Scouts allowed no more than 21 points in a game.
“They are a very tough team and a tough team that you should be seeing at this point in the playoffs,” Piron said. “This is a game that whoever wins this game, they should be very proud because of the caliber of the opponent.”
Jay Schwab’s prediction: Batavia 27, Lake Forest 16
Between Lake Forest’s formidable defense and some potentially wet and windy weather Saturday, this might be the week the Bulldogs’ smooth, well-rounded offense finally encounters some turbulence.
Just not enough to keep Micah Coffey, Scaccia and friends out of the end zone a few times, and Batavia’s defense is capable of doing its part to advance the Bulldogs to the 6A state semifinals for the second time in three seasons.