Updated: November 11, 2011 5:54PM
It’s been a couple years, but the Geneva-Batavia rivalry has some heat once again as both teams enter this week unbeaten, a natural choice as The Beacon-News Game of the Week.
Ben Rogers vs. John Gray
Geneva’s Rogers is a top-flight receiver and QB Matt Williams’ favorite target, while Batavia’s Gray has established himself as one of the area’s top cover corners with a nose for the ball. The Vikings have a balanced offense and Williams has proven he’s willing to spread the ball around, but Rogers is a playmaker and how well Gray can neutralize him will go a long way in determining how effective the Vikings offense is — or isn’t. Conversely, if Gray has an off night, that could trickle down to the rest of the Bulldogs.
Geneva Running Backs vs. Batavia Front 7
It seems the Vikings always manage to find a running game, and this year is no different with the emergence of Parker Woodworth. Woodworth has over 700 yards rushing and complementary back Bobby Hess has been effective in giving Woodworth some reps off. The Vikings have been balanced all year long, and doing so against Batavia is key to not only their success, but keeping Noel Gaspari and the Bulldogs’ high-powered attack off the field. As for Batavia, if it can do what no one has been able to so far — including Rock Island and Wheaton North — and contain Woodworth, it forces the Vikings into a one-dimensional game plan.
Noel Gaspari vs. Matt Williams
Yes, the two senior QBs will not go head-to-head, but they are team leaders and how well they play in the biggest game of their season (to date) will determine victory or defeat. Williams has the benefit of a strong running game to loosen things up, while the Bulldogs rely heavily on Gaspari to complete passes and keep drives alive. Both players have a variety of options to throw to and are more than capable of taking over a game — but the one that makes the fewest mistakes and the most correct decisions will be the one whose team is walking off the field with a win.
Batavia Defense/Geneva Offense vs. Pressure
Last week, the Bulldogs gave up their first first-half TD of the season to St. Charles East, then shut out the Saints the rest of the way in a blowout victory. Heading into Friday’s game, the Bulldogs’ defense has allowed just 39 points (7.8 per game) and only Bartlett scored more than once. How will this unit react if the Vikings put up two or three quick scores early? What if it becomes a shootout? Batavia has blown out every team its faced to this point, so it’s unknown how the group will react if it has to make a stop to win a game.
The same can be said for the Vikings offense, averaging nearly 40 points per game. They haven’t faced a defense that is statistically as stingy as the Bulldogs. How will they react if forced to punt early and often, or turn the ball over? The Vikings have played a few more closer contests than Batavia, but this is a rivalry game along with the added pressure of winner-take-all in the conference.