By Chris Chaney
Going into the school’s first playoff game in nearly a decade last Friday night, Batavia was content to stick to the game plan that got them to the post season, namely running the ball and playing tough defense.
Facing a playoff-experienced opponent in the Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, the Bulldogs knew that they would have to be at the top of their game to garner the first playoff win in school history and did just that as they dispatched of the Eagles, 46-27, earning them a date with Clinton-Massie in the regional semifinals on Friday, Nov. 9.
“Going into the game, we knew that (CHCA) was an experienced playoff team and with that we knew that they weren’t going to do things other than what got them there,” Batavia head coach Don Sizer said. “We knew that we would just have to do what we do and they would do the same and with that, we wanted try to eliminate some of the mistakes that we made against teams earlier in the year that played a similar style as they do.”
Doing what they do, the Bulldogs kept the ball on the ground almost exclusively feeding, their three-headed rushing monster, Zainn Ison, KeShawn Foley and Ryan Gormley.
The trio combined for 418 yards on 53 carries and seven touchdowns.
“All three of those guys had great games,” Sizer said. “But without the guys up front, that would have never happened.
“With that said, they compliment each other because you have to watch out for all three of them when you’re defending us, so the other two guys who don’t get the ball, we fake it to them making (defenses) be leery of them, which opens up the third guy.
“Our running game makes sure that each of them get touches so that defenses have to defend all three of those guys every play.”
The Bulldogs opened the scoring first, orchestrating a 69-yard drive to open the game that chewed up 4:41 and was capped off with a Gormley one-yard touchdown run.
The Batavia defense did their job on the ensuing drive, getting the CHCA offense off of the field with a three-and-out, allowing Foley and Ison to put together another drive, this time for 78 yards, culminated by a five-yard Ison touchdown.
Up 14-0 with 3:26 left in the first quarter, Batavia looked to have all the momentum and the home crowd at full throat, but the Eagles didn’t make it to the post season by rolling over.
The Eagles answered with a quick scoring drive that only took 2:48 off the clock and cut their deficit in half, 14-7 at the end of the first quarter
With both defenses settled in, the scoring stalled for most second quarter until Foley broke a 12-yard scoring run on a fourth-and-one to extend the Batavia lead to 20-7.
Again, CHCA answered right back, scoring to cut the lead to 20-13 just before the half.
The third quarter brought much of the same with Batavia finding pay dirt first. Foley scored his second TD of the game on an eight-yard run, but a second missed PAT put the Bulldogs up 26-13.
CHCA fired right back, once again, scoring on a 50-yard pass and catch to cut the lead to six, 26-20 at the end of the third quarter.
The final frame was all Batavia, although there were some nervous moments early in the fourth quarter. Ison scored his second touchdown of the game with 10:12 remaining to put Batavia up 32-20, but the Eagles again cut into the lead, making it 32-27 with 8:38.
Unfortunately for CHCA, those would be the last points they would score. Foley opened the game up with a 62-yard touchdown run on a read-option and Ison ran in a two-point conversion to make the Bulldog lead 40-27 with 6:57 left.
The Batavia defense would force two turnovers the rest of the way, the first of which translated to the fourth of Foley’s touchdown and the final score of the game.
The Eagles, in desperation mode, were looking for a big play with 3:45 left in the game, but Sam Humbert picked off a Conner Osborne pass to put the game on ice.
“(CHCA) had a great offense, but they pass the ball a lot,” Sizer said. “The turnovers helped. We settled into some of the things that we wanted to do and tried to make some things happen.”
The Bulldogs advance to the regional semifinals on Nov. 9 when they will face Clinton-Massie at Kings High School at 7:30 p.m.
“(Clinton-Massie) are a really good football team and a perennial power around here,” Sizer said. “They’re pretty physical and play really good defense. They have some (playoff) experience, but in the first game it didn’t bother us. The kids handled the situation really well and I think we’re going to do the same (this week).”