BATAVIA – Drew Gerke had to maintain a short-term memory.
Despite some early key drops on third down in the first quarter, Gerke, Batavia’s two-way star, still produced monumental plays to spark Batavia’s 33-7 win over Geneva on Oct. 7 in Batavia.
Entering the 104th meeting between the two programs, Geneva had not scored a point in five consecutive contests against the Bulldogs. The Vikings had not beaten Batavia since 2010.
Batavia’s 12-game winning streak against the Vikings in the Dennis Piron era is intact. The Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1 DuKane Conference) also became postseason eligible with the win, but it didn’t come without some grit.
After a scoreless first quarter, Batavia broke the stalemate with a 15-yard Ryan Boe completion to Gerke for a touchdown with 6:12 left in the half.
Geneva (5-2, 3-2) punted twice on its ensuing drives.
With two seconds before the half, Boe found Gerke for a 50-yard touchdown on a post route for a stunning, momentum-shifting 14-0 halftime lead.
“Honestly, [it] was a little easy post route and I got right past my guy,” Gerke said. “It was honestly too easy.”
Geneva opened the third quarter with a 16-play drive – aided by two Batavia defensive pass interference penalties – that was capped by Nate Stempowski’s 5-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7 with 5:54 left.
Gerke, who had four catches, 104 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in the game, wasn’t done.
On the ensuing kickoff, Gerke broke free for a huge 92-yard kick return for a score to swing the pendulum back in Batavia’s favor.
“I thought our kids came out ready to play,” Geneva coach Boone Thorgesen said. “They played hard in the start. … Those big plays really hurt us, and against good football teams, it’s hard to let up those plays and have the momentum and give the momentum up. That’s kind of what we did. We gave up the momentum in both those instances [the post route and kickoff return]. … It’s tough when that happens, but my kids played hard. Our goal now is to play our best football at the end of the year and we’ve got two games to do that.”
Gerke, who dealt with a broken finger earlier in the season, also has shifted to heavy snaps at cornerback to help on defense while maintaining his role at wideout.
“You just got to put all the negative and bad stuff in the past,” Gerke said. “And, obviously, that’s what I had to do. Just had to capitalize on what was happening. We knew we needed to make a big play [on the kickoff]. That was just what was going though my mind the entire time. Make a big play, even just get us good field position on it. Sure enough, [I] broke free and I scored.”
After Geneva punted, Boe cashed in with an 8-yard score to make it 27-7.
Stempowski then was intercepted. Charlie Whelpley took advantage of the turnover with a 4-yard rushing TD for a 33-7 Batavia lead.
Piron believes Gerke is “the best player” in the DuKane Conference.
“He’s dynamic. His speed is unmatched,” Piron said.
Boe finished 10 of 17 for 151 yards, two passing touchdowns and a rushing score. Ryan Whitwell had 60 yards on the ground.
For the Vikings, Stempowski finished 18 of 31 for 177 passing yards with an interception and a rushing score. The Geneva rushing attack was stifled for just a combined 37 yards between Troy Velez, Talyn Taylor and Stempowski.
“Really, I think overall we wanted to be aggressive,” Piron said. “That was huge. [Geneva] ate up the ball [to start the third quarter], did a great drive, but it was [partially because of] penalties. That was a little frustrating because we were playing good defense in the drive and the score was huge for them. I mean, they haven’t scored in five years. That was their first score in six games.
“Our kids, they’re mad that they scored. That was the goal: shut them out. That being said, [Geneva is a] quality football team, quality players with good wins.”