Things were looking as ominous on the field for Batavia High School as they were in the sky on Oct. 5 as the Bulldogs looked to be on their way to losing their first game of the season to Blanchester. However, despite injuries, dropped passes and less-thank ideal playing conditions, the Bulldogs, led by sophomore quarterback Keyshawn Foley were able to mount a second-half comeback and defeat the Wildcats 42-41.
“We talked about this being our most important game,” Batavia coach Don Sizer said. “That’s for two reasons, one being that it’s the game we’re playing and two, it’s going to head us towards the league championship, so it was a big game.”
The big game for the Bulldogs started off the wrong way as Blanchester used a modified option running attack to gash the Bulldogs early in the first quarter.
Not letting one big play get to them, the Bulldogs clamped down on defense and held the Wildcats scoreless the rest of the quarter while Foley was just getting warmed up.
The 6-foot-2, 210 lb. quarterback opened up the scoring for the Bulldogs with a 12-yard quarterback draw that found paydirt to square the game at 7 after the first quarter.
Foley accounted for a total of 348 yards, 94 passing and 254 rushing, as well as six touchdowns. The Bulldogs needed each and every one of Foley’s yards and scores, as they would find themselves in a sizable hole going into half time.
“We thought misdirection was going to be a problem for (Blanchester),” Sizer said. “We went to the (shot) gun (formation) some, and (Keyshawn) is a good sized kid who runs hard and is fast and smart with the ball. We thought we should involve him more in the running game because he runs hard and doesn’t stop.
“That’s hard to deal with, I don’t care who you are. (Foley) is a big, strong, athletic kid who just keeps moving his legs. Sometimes you fall off and he keeps going and that’s pretty much what happened.”
As Foley did his part to keep his team in the game, there had to be some times in the second quarter that he wondered if he would be able to do enough as the Blanchester offense broke off four touchdown runs in the second quarter alone.
Scoring 27 points in the quarter on four runs all over 35 yards, the Batavia defense was in a situation with which they were unfamiliar. Prior to Friday night, the Bulldogs had only given up more than 14 points in a game one time.
Batavia was dealing with some injuries, including one to starting linebacker Ryan Gormley, which had him in street clothes on the sideline for the game. Couple that with some looks that Batavia hadn’t seen before and the Bulldogs were in need of some halftime adjustments, down 34-21.
“They did a couple of things,” Sizer said of Blanchester’s offensive attack. “They had a couple formations that we hadn’t seen before. We had a couple miscommunications on our defense about who had whom on their option and when that happens, it’s pretty evident.”
Coming out of the break, the Bulldogs did some things that Coach Sizer hoped would slow down the Blanchester offense.
“Our biggest adjustment was putting in an extra linebacker and put (Zainn) Ison at free safety,” the coach said.
Even with the halftime adjustments, Blanchester mounted a scoring drive early in the third quarter, but the adjustments had yet to take root. From there on out, Blanchester was unable to get anything really going offensively, while Foley continued to make plays on the offensive side of the ball.
Although Foley had a hand in all six of the Batavia touchdowns, he did get some help from senior running back Ison, who carried the ball 16 times for 109 yards as well as Tony Gatto who had three touches for 27 yards. Gatto also caught two balls for 10 yards.
Gabe Archer also had two catches, good enough for 42 yards and Levi Sellars caught one pass for 38 yards. Sean Hill was on the receiving end of Foley’s only touchdown pass, a four-yard score.
With the Batavia defense in lockdown mode, Foley and the Batavia offense outscored the Wildcats 21-7 in the second half to seal their victory, keeping their record blemish free and giving them complete control in the Southern Buckeye Conference National Division race.
“Our next three games each have their own significance,” Sizer said. “There are points of emphasis on each week, but I don’t want to single out any game being bigger than another other than this week’s (at Bethel-Tate) will be the most important because it’s the one we’re playing now and it’s a league game.”