By Chris Chaney
The Batavia Bulldogs’ dream season crashed back into reality on Friday, Nov. 9 as the Clinton-Massie Falcons defense stymied the usually potent Bulldogs’ rushing attack, while Batavia defense had trouble doing the same.
In the school’s first-ever region semifinal, the Bulldogs fell 42-13 after an offensive onslaught in the second half by the Falcons.
“They were a good team and very explosive,” Batavia head coach Don Sizer said. “We’re going to focus on the fact that we got to this point and emphasize the way we got here.”
The way the Bulldogs got there was nothing short of historical. Batavia shattered school records en route to an 11-1 season that saw a solid mix of senior leadership blend with younger talent to create a nearly unstoppable force in the Southern Buckeye Conference.
The Bulldogs went undefeated through the regular season, wearing their opponents down with their multiple offensive weapons, while their defense often played a bend-but-don’t break style that kept opponents out of the end zone.
Batavia averaged 36 points-per-game offensively and gave up an average of 17.10 before the 42 points put up by Clinton-Massie on Friday night.
The Bulldogs seemed to surprise the Falcons early on with their resiliency on defense and their ability to use all four downs to gain first downs.
Knowing that Batavia’s strength lied in its ability to run the football, the Falcons crowded the line of scrimmage, sometimes putting 10 men in the box, daring the Bulldogs to try something different.
That Batavia was able to still rack up 250 rushing yards is a testament to their athletes, led by sophomore quarterback KeShawn Foley.
“That’s hard to deal with, I don’t care who you are,” Sizer said of tackling his quarterback. “(Foley) is a big, strong, athletic kid who just keeps moving his legs.”
Even with most of their defense intent on stopping Foley, the sophomore ran for a team-high 123 yards and accounted for both of the Batavia scores.
Senior Zainn Ison added 91 yards and sophomore Tony Gatto added 33 more.
The Bulldogs went into the locker room at halftime well within striking distance, trailing 14-7 with more than a few almost-big plays that were stopped by shoestring tackles made by the Clinton-Massie defense.
“Almost isn’t good enough any more,” Batavia athletic director Ben Stewart said at halftime. “This is now or never.”
The Bulldogs kept their nose to the grindstone early in the third quarter, but eventually it was their defense that became worn down. The Falcons went on a scoring spree, putting 28 points on the board in the matter of 12 minutes to salt away the game and put an end to the Batavia season.
While the game didn’t end in the Bulldogs’ favor, the senior-laden team had a lot to hold their heads up high for.
The team secured the school’s first playoff victory in the opening weekend of the postseason with a 46-27 win over the Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Along with that victory came the school-record eleventh victory.
The Bulldogs’ playoff appearance was only the third in school history and the first since 2003.
While the team loses key players like Ison, who finished his senior season with 1,324 rushing yards, Ryan Gormley, Gabe Archer, Mike Posey, Dakotah Norman and Brody Browning, they return some key cogs who now that they have the taste of playoff football, will want to replicate it next year.
The Bulldogs will be led by Foley, Gatto, Sam Humbert, Levi Sellars and a cast of other players with more experience than Batavia has seen in years.
Only seven short months until summer practice begins.