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Daily Herald: Booming Batavia takes long road again

Prolonged success has forced the Batavia football team to the road.

It wasn’t Batavia coach Dennis Piron’s first choice to bus 278 miles to Belleville West for last week’s season opener, nor was it his wish to fight suburban traffic this Friday en route to a heavyweight nonconference matchup at Libertyville at 7:30 p.m.The Bulldogs are 52-6 in Piron’s five seasons — including five straight Upstate Eight River titles and the 2013 Class 6A state championship — so they couldn’t find anybody willing to play a nonconference game against them.“Everybody wants to get into the playoffs,” Piron said. “So if you’re in a conference where you’re concerned about winning a certain amount of games to make the playoffs, teams avoid playing teams they feel they can’t beat or have good chance to win against. (Libertyville) can’t get anyone to play them either. Same with Belleville West.”Libertyville, 34-13 in four seasons under coach Mike Jones, returns four players on either side of the ball from last year’s Class 7A runner-up.Gone is do-everything quarterback Riley Lees (Northwestern), but the Wildcats regroup behind veteran offensive linemen Tyler Jost (6-6, 275), committed to Iowa State, and 6-5, 270-pound Charlie Schmidt, also receiving Division-I interest.

Libertyville’s defense remains strong, thanks to returning linemen Ryan O’Malley (6-foot-4, 251 pounds) and Skyler Blacker (6-2, 280). Last week in a 29-0 victory, the Wildcats held Elk Grove to 36 total yards, forced 4 fumbles and registered 4 sacks.Batavia returns most of its offensive line from last year’s Class 7A quarterfinalist. The Bulldogs rushed for 350 of their 410 total yards in last week’s 34-24 win at Belleville West. Junior running back Reggie Phillips ran for 143 yards and a touchdown and senior quarterback Ben Weerts scored twice.Batavia junior outside linebacker Andrew Heinz had 9 solo tackles and 2 sacks.This report was produced in partnership with the Daily Herald. For related coverage, visit dailyherald.com/sports/prep