Batavia speeds past Elgin
BY GENE CHAMBERLAIN -- FOR THE COURIER-NEWS
Whether on special teams or playing defense, Batavia kept Elgin's speed bottled up for all but one play Friday night in an Upstate Eight Conference River Division game with huge playoff implications.
That was enough considering how efficiently quarterback Noel Gaspari and the offense played in Batavia's 28-7 triumph. Gaspari connected on 15 of 21 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and also scored an eight-yard clinching TD run in the fourth quarter himself to move the Bulldogs within one game of being playoff eligible.
"Our passing game was great tonight," Gaspari said. "It's been pretty good the whole year. We've just got to get the running game going a little bit."
The Batavia running game accounted for 122 yards, but more importantly it helped set up play-action and the rollout passing game that worked so well for the Bulldogs.
Batavia tight end Cole Gardner made two critical drive-extending catches on a 64-yard touchdown march to break a scoreless tie, a series that ended with Alec Lyons' five-yard TD run up the middle four minutes before halftime.
"If you're getting the ball to the tight ends a lot, the corners are going to forget about the receivers and start locking in on the tight end," Gaspari said. "Cole has been big all year for us."
David Peskind caught a three-yard TD pass with 8:35 left in the third quarter, and Batavia seemed in complete control.
"We would go quads with receivers and noticed that David Peskind, who is our farthest most inside receiver, was beating those slow linebackers," Gaspari said. "With how fast he is, I just tried to get it to him quick. That's what we did on the touchdown."
Elgin's speed, which had been contained all night to that point, surfaced on a 64-yard Dennis Moore burst up the middle and cut to the outside. The TD, 11 seconds after Peskind's catch, left the Maroons within a touchdown. Moore finished with 114 yards on 13 carries.
Then momentum seemed on Elgin's side with the Maroons forced a punt from the Batavia 25, but punter Ben Allison boomed one over return man Jordan Dean's head and it went for 60 yards to flip field position and make possible Ben Fornek's 5-yard TD catch from Gaspari with 4:19 left in the third quarter.
"You've got to field the punt too," Elgin coach Dave Bierman said. "You can't let it bounce. Those are hidden yards you dont see. Sometimes you've got to step up and field a punt and make a fair catch."
Another Allison punt in the fourth quarter, this one to the coffin corner at the Maroons' 3, turned field position and made it possible for Gaspari's eight-yard TD run with 8:44 to play.
Special teams had won Elgin a game over St. Charles North a week earlier with three TD returns. However, Allison and kicker Brandon Clabough, who used a bloop kickoff toward the sideline repeatedly, prevented any type of big returns.
"I thought our special teams game plan was outstanding and the kids executed both of those things flawlessly," said Batavia coach Mike Gaspari. "We don't look at punts as a negative -- it's the first and only play that guarantees 30 to 40 yards (of field position).
"And Ben Allison has been tremendous and R.J. Banker has done a great job with snaps all year and we have done a good job covering -- that team has been very solid all year."
Batavia (4-3, 3-1) held Elgin passers Lee Jackson and Jake Meyer to 10-for-38 passing for 154 yards.
"We had open people," Bierman said. "Sometimes we don't make the reception, sometimes we overthrow a receiver that's open.
"They bring four (rushers) most of time and we're blocking five or six and getting pressure when numbers should be to our advantage.
Batavia deserved to win tonight but we had some things that were there we didn't take advantage of."
The Maroons (4-3, 3-2) now find themselves needing to beat both St. Charles East and Metea Valley to earn a playoff spot because at five wins, they likely would not have enough playoff points.
"Our backs are to the wall," Bierman said. "We've got to win the next two. We'll see how they respond."