BATAVIA – Seldom does a football team leading by two scores with 5 minutes to play fake a punt, but these weren't ordinary conditions, and Batavia is no ordinary team.
The maneuver didn't work out as Batavia coach Dennis Piron hoped, but the Bulldogs' defense stepped forward with a decisive stop late as the Bulldogs held on for a 19-14 win against Lake Forest in Saturday afternoon's IHSA Class 6A state quarterfinal.
The Bulldogs (11-1) advance to a state semifinal next weekend at top-seeded and undefeated Rockford Boylan, which rallied past Prairie Ridge on Saturday in Rockford.
Batavia was near midfield, ahead 19-7, when – rather than punting into a substantial wind on fourth-and-3 – the Bulldogs called a fake. Punter Tucker Knox's pass overshot a wide-open Anthony Thielk, who appeared to stumble on his route.
"We'd been planning it all week," Knox said. "We had it. They blitzed everyone. I overthrew it a little bit and he cramped up right as he started to run, so it's tough, but I guess we didn't need it."
Explaining the call during a postgame interview on the field, Piron, referring to the wind, asked "You feeling this?"
"In practice [against the wind], we'd only been netting 20 [yards]," Piron said. "So we figured 20 max, net, and if we throw it and get [a first down], maybe the game is over. … It just didn't seem to be that big of a gamble. We didn't hit it."
The Scouts (9-3) capitalized on the favorable field position, needing less than a minute of game time to score off a 1-yard Trent Williams touchdown run with 3:52 to play in the fourth quarter. The extra point cut Batavia's lead to 19-14.
The Bulldogs' offense then went three-and-out, necessitating the dreaded punt into the wind. Knox managed a solid boot, giving Lake Forest possession at the Scouts' 48-yard line with 2:57 to play.
With the game in the balance, the the Scouts went backward on the possession – with a bad snap factoring in on third down – as Batavia's defense coaxed three incompletions from Lake Forest quarterback Regis Durbin.
The Bulldogs then only needed one first down, which came on an Anthony Scaccia third-down run, to kill the clock.
Scaccia rushed 31 times for 132 yards and scored both of Batavia's first-half touchdowns, an 11-yard TD run and a 14-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Micah Coffey.
Batavia led, 12-7, at halftime, then went ahead 19-7 with 8:55 left in the third quarter after a 54-yard TD strike from Coffey to speedster Rourke Mullins.
"I motioned across, corner came out on me and Micah broke the pocket," Mullins said. "The cornerback flew up on Micah, and I was able to keep on running. Micah saw me and was able to get it right to me."
Coffey also connected on a 55-yard, deep-ball completion to receiver Jordan Zwart in the first quarter to set up Scaccia's TD run.
"The linemen gave us so much time, those are actually like the third read Micah has," Piron said, referring to the two long receptions. "The delay didn't pop open, and Micah had time to look, look, boom, there's his kids that he knows. There's his buddy, Rourke, and there's his buddy, Zwart. Those kids make plays all season long. They're playmakers."
Coffey threw for 225 yards but also tossed two interceptions and lost a fumble. One of the interceptions was a giant momentum-swinger, as Lake Forest junior Andrew Nelson returned a sideline-route pass 90 yards for a touchdown that temporarily stunned the Bulldog Stadium crowd and put Lake Forest on top, 7-6, after the PAT in the final minute of the first quarter.
Defense was reputed to be the strength for the Scouts, who did not allow more than 21 points to any opponent all season.
"They were good," Coffey said. "They prepared really well for the stuff that we had. We had a few wrinkles, and they were able to do pretty well against them. So a lot of credit to those guys. They've got a lot of great players on that team."
Batavia's defense acquitted itself nicely, too, including fumble recoveries from linebackers Jake Hlava and Thielk.
Despite the wet, windy conditions, Bulldog Stadium was full and loud throughout the afternoon, especially when Scaccia's final rush ensured the Bulldogs would reach the 6A state semifinals for the second time in three seasons.
"It's amazing," Mullins said. "We get to go to [former head coach and current offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari's] alma mater, Rockford Boylan, and it's going to be a lot of fun. The town's completely behind us. It's awesome seeing them out there. I can't wait to go to Rockford next week."
BATAVIA 19, LAKE FOREST 14
Lake Forest 7 0 0 7 – 14
Batavia 6 6 7 0 – 19
HOW THEY SCORED
B – Scaccia 11 run (kick failed), 3:41
LF – Nelson 90 interception return (Gattari kick), 0:54
B – Scaccia 14 pass from Coffey (pass failed), 2:56
B – Mullins 54 pass from Coffey (Morgano kick), 8:55
LF – Williams 1 run (Gattari kick), 3:52
RUSHING – Lake Forest: Cirame 13-45, Quaid 1-5, Durbin 11-78, Williams 1-1. Totals: 26-129. Batavia: Scaccia 31-132, Green 5-5, Coffey 5-18, Thielk 1-1. Totals: 42-156.
PASSING – Lake Forest: Durbin 14-31-0-111. Batavia: Coffey 10-20-2-225, Knox 0-1-0-0. Totals: 10-21-2-225.
RECEIVING – Lake Forest: Cirame 3-minus 1, Howe 2-25, Glynn 6-48, Quaid 1-23, Preschlack 1-8, Williams 1-3. Totals: 14-111. Batavia: Zwart 2-83, Knox 1-8, Moffatt 2-23, Scaccia 3-39, Frazier 1-18, Mullins 1-54. Totals: 10-225.
TOTAL OFFENSE – Lake Forest 240, Batavia 381