Punter can be an afterthought position for a Batavia football team that generally doesn’t have to bail on drives before cashing in for points.
Batavia’s Tucker Knox has managed to command Bulldogs fans’ appreciation despite his limited opportunities, including a field position-changing blast in the first quarter of the Bulldogs’ 19-14 win against Lake Forest in Saturday’s IHSA Class 6A state quarterfinal.
The Bulldogs’ first offensive possession began at their own 3-yard line, and Batavia was only able to advance the ball to the 17 before calling on Knox to punt. With a little help from the wind, Knox unloaded a 60-yard beauty that forced the Scouts to begin from their own 23-yard line.
Batavia’s defense held, the Bulldogs’ field position outlook subsequently improved and Batavia went ahead, 6-0, on its next possession after Anthony Scaccia scored on an 11-yard touchdown run.
For the season, Knox has punted 20 times for an average of about 37 yards a punt. Six times, he’s pinned opponents inside their own 20.
“I’ve been pretty happy with it,” said Knox, the Bulldogs’ backup punter last year. “I haven’t had to punt much, but I like the opportunity to help the team in any way I can.”
Batavia coach Dennis Piron lauded Knox’s performance, and said his reputation is one of the factors that emboldened him to call a fake punt despite the Bulldogs having a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter Saturday.
“I think Tucker might be one of the best punters if not the best in the state of Illinois,” Piron said. “He does special, special things.
“And part of the reason why we did fake it was because of the unexpectedness of us not punting it [because Knox is so solid].”
Knox said weightlifting and “practicing a lot” have boosted his punting prowess, but the 6-foot-6 senior is not just a specialist.
A quality athlete who also plays basketball for the Bulldogs, Knox has 11 pass receptions on the year as the tallest member of a deep Bulldogs receiving corps.
Massive wind gusts made Saturday especially tricky for kickers, but Knox certainly didn’t mind when the wind worked in his favor.
“It’s awesome,” Knox said. “There’s nothing like it.”
Speed to burn: Batavia receiver/cornerback Rourke Mullins is perhaps the fastest member of the Bulldogs’ team, and he put his wheels to good use Saturday, catching a 54-yard touchdown pass from Micah Coffey in the third quarter for the Bulldogs’ final TD.
“Every game I want to try to utilize my speed for my team,” Mullins said. “Coach Piron has done a great job with all of us getting our speed up during the offseason, and [offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari] gets me in places where I can use my speed every day.”
Mullins, who missed Batavia’s lone loss against Richards after a concussion suffered opening week against Glenbard North, has played more two-way ball in the second half of the season.
“I was able to work and get the position back [on defense], and I earned it,” Mullins said. “I love it. I love playing with the guys. They’re my brothers.”
Offensive explosion: If Aurora Christian can defeat visiting Stillman Valley on Saturday, the Eagles would face either Greenville or St. Joseph-Ogden in the 3A state championship game Nov. 29.
If it turns out to be Aurora Christian-Greenville, the potential for a heaping point total exists. Greenville defeated Mt. Carmel, 71-70, in a 3A quarterfinal Saturday that made waves statewide.
The Comets trailed, 70-49, before staging a miraculous comeback in the game’s final 2:30. Greenville recovered two onside kicks as part of the late uprising.
Comets quarterback Tyler Hutchinson reportedly threw for 648 yards and six touchdowns in the game.