DeKALB – The first state championship season in Batavia football history was made all the more precious for Batavia coach Dennis Piron by sharing it with his son, Peyton.
Peyton Piron was a junior receiver for the Bulldogs, and his prophecy from 2006 rang true Saturday after Batavia beat Richards, 34-14, for the IHSA Class 6A state title.
Coach Piron said Peyton helped lift his spirits after Batavia's 2006 championship game loss to Normal, when Piron was an assistant coach under Mike Gaspari.
"I remember my son saying 'Dad, that just means my class, my guys, when we're playing, we get a chance to be the first class to win a state title,' " Piron said. "I never forgot that. And to have him on the first state championship football team, first one in our history of Batavia, to carry water or hold snaps or do whatever he does, it's truly an honor for him and our family. He's a Bulldog. From the day he was born, the kid's a Bulldog."
Peyton Piron played sparingly in varsity games this year but should be in line for more time as a senior.
"Peyton's a great guy," Batavia senior receiver/cornerback Rourke Mullins said. "He's a hard-worker, and he's going to have a big year for himself next year."
Piron is trying not to take Peyton's presence around the team for granted.
"I'm not away from him every day like I have been [in the past]," Piron said. "I better pay attention to him, better quit yelling at him so much, because he'll be gone pretty quick."
Piron became emotional when discussing the intimate family ties within the program.
"Mike Gaspari is Peyton's godfather," Piron said. "That's Batavia, guys. There you go."
Grind it out: Batavia scored 28 points in the first half Saturday compared to six in the second half, but the Bulldogs did what they needed to keep Richards at bay.
"There was a lot of cramps again, a lot of kids limping off the field – it became a really, really tough second half. … That was a heck of a physical football game," Piron said. "There were some hits in that game that were tremendous on both sides of the ball."
" … The hits kept coming, and it got tougher and tougher to get yards on both sides."
Leonhard injured: About the only down-side for Batavia was an injury to junior defensive end Josh Leonhard, the team's sacks leader.
"I don't think it's too good," Piron said of the prognosis. "It's kind of a shame, he's an awful dynamic football player, but he'll bounce back."
Leonhard hit Richards quarterback Hasan Muhammad Rogers as he threw on fourth-and-goal at the end of the first half to cap a key stand for the Bulldogs' defense, but Leonhard then hobbled off the field.
Seldom-used backup Joey Gross saw some time in the game in Leonhard's absence, and Piron praised the junior's contributions.
"He had been looking great against our No. 1 offense, he was playing scout … He got his number called, boom, went in there, and really put some nice pressure on the quarterback," Piron said.
• Kevin Druley contributed to this report.