Rob Pomazak had a conversation with Drew Surges this season that he has only had with a very select group of players since becoming head coach at St. Charles North.
He told his senior running back “you have to be ready to have the ball when everyone in the stadium knows it, and you still have to get the job done.”
As St. Charles North lined up for the game-winning two-point conversion attempt with a conference championship on the line, Surges got the job done.
He crossed the goal line on a rush out of the wildcat to give the North Stars a 32-31 victory over Batavia in double overtime to win the DuKane Conference title outright.
“This one was special,” Surges said. “We had no interest in sharing this one. Our revenge tour is complete now with a conference championship.”
While highlights of the North Stars (8-1, 7-0 DuKane Conference) storming Batavia’s field will replay for years to come, it was another highlight-reel moment that might soar to the top of Surges’s memorable senior season that put St. Charles North in position to pick up the win.
After Batavia jumped offsides on a 4th-and-2 from near midfield, North Stars quarterback Will Vaske dropped back and was hit as he was releasing the ball, popping it a few yards ahead into the air. Surges ran back, caught the ball, and broke several tackles en route to a wild 51-yard touchdown with 5:34 remaining in the fourth quarter to give St. Charles North a 17-14 lead.
Batavia’s Alec Crum then made a 37-yard field goal in the final minute to force overtime.
“That’s the craziest play I have ever seen,” Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. “It was the weirdest play in high school history. A play that looks like a sack for a huge loss turns into a touchdown. [Surges] has the presence of mind to go back and catch it and then it wasn’t like [Surges] just ran with no one there … he broke several tackles, it was crazy.”
Surges was held to just 17 yards rushing, while Vaske gave the North Stars a big spark after not having played since a Week 3 injury against Wheaton North.
The senior quarterback finished 16-of-29 for 224 yards and three touchdowns. It was also Vaske that rushed for a 10-yard score in the first overtime to put St. Charles North ahead.
After not seeing game action for several weeks, Vaske never had a doubt that he’d be back and making important plays for now a conference championship winning program.
“I have just been preparing as much as possible,” Vaske said. “Whenever my number was called, I knew I had to be ready to get back in there.
“It’s honestly just players going and making a play,” Vaske added on Surges’s wild touchdown. “He’s throwing guys down … When you have a player like that on your side, it really just makes everything so much easier for everyone. We knew if we got into a situation [to go for 2], Drew was getting ball and he was going to make a play for us. That’s just how it goes.”
After playing much of Friday night’s game without standout receiver and defensive back Drew Gerke due to injury, Batavia was forced to lean heavily on its running game. While the Bulldogs (6-3, 5-2) had near 1,000-yard rusher in Ryan Whitwell at its disposal all season, it was linebacker Tyler Jansey that was the big surprise in the rushing attack.
After carrying the ball just 15 times through the first eight weeks of action, the big 6-foot-1, 224-pound senior Wisconsin recruit rushed for an eye-popping 234 yards on 21 carries Friday night.
His 93-yard touchdown run opened the scoring for Batavia late in the first half.
Kickers Hunter Liska (SCN) and Crum each made long field goals in regulation, including Crum’s to force overtime.
Jake Furtney and Anthony Taormina caught touchdown passes for the North Stars in the win, while Whitwell and quarterback Ryan Boe has rushing touchdowns in OT for the Bulldogs.
Boe’s 5-yard TD run followed Vaske’s 10-yard TD for St. Charles North to force the second overtime. There, Whitwell first scored on a 6-yard TD. Vaske answered with a TD pass to Jake Furtney to tie it in the second OT period, setting the stage for Surges’ 2-point heroics.
“These are two of the best teams in the entire state in [Class] 7A,” Piron said. “We’re disappointed because we wanted to win a conference championship, but, who knows, maybe we see these guys again in a couple weeks.”
“Every year, you can put it in the books that this game is going to go down to the last play,” Pomazak said. “While we didn’t pay our best game tonight, we’re fortunate to be on the right side of it this year.”