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Jalen Buckley sparks Batavia past Wheaton North in OT

Batavia senior Jalen Buckley doesn’t know why it’s happening, but he admits that his team needs the adrenaline rush of a big play to get going. 

Batavia’s Jalen Buckley (27) runs the ball during the game against Wheaton North.
Batavia’s Jalen Buckley (27) runs the ball during the game against Wheaton North.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Batavia senior Jalen Buckley doesn’t know why it is happening, but he admits that his team needs the adrenaline rush of a big play to get going.

That’s probably why the No. 15 Bulldogs keep finding themselves trailing. They came back to win last week at Oswego and wound up in the same position at home against No. 9 Wheaton North on Friday, eventually pulling off a 23-20 win in overtime.

The Falcons led 17-7 early in the fourth quarter. That’s when Buckley lit the spark for the comeback with an 83-yard touchdown run.

“It’s a big part of our team,” Buckley said. “When we get those big plays, after that we really sell out on both sides of the ball. We find the energy that we need to bring at the beginning of the game.”

Buckley’s long touchdown run brought Batavia within 17-14. A little bit of luck tied the score. Patrick McNamara’s 27-yard field goal attempt was partially blocked but had just enough juice to squeak over the crossbar and tie the game at 17.

“I was going crazy,” Batavia linebacker Tyler Jansey said. “I don’t even know how that happened. That was insane.”

Wheaton North (2-1, 1-0 DuKane) drove down to the Batavia 17 in the final minute of regulation but the Bulldogs’ defense held strong and pushed the Falcons all the way back to the 35 by fourth down.

“Our secondary is probably the best it has ever been,” Jansey said.

The Falcons had possession first in overtime and were forced to settle for a field goal. Batavia’s defensive momentum carried right over.

Then Buckley, who also plays in the Bulldogs’ secondary, punched it in from the 3 to seal the win in overtime.

“You have to stay disciplined and make sure you watch the ball against Wheaton North,” Buckley said. “They have a lot of formations and a lot of different things they can run.”

Buckley had 25 carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns.

Wheaton North quarterback Mark Forcucci, a three-year starter, was 14-for-26 for 137 yards and one interception. The Holy Cross recruit connected with six receivers. Running back Brayton Maske had four catches for 37 yards and 19 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

Sophomore quarterback Ryan Boe was 11-for-18 for the Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0) with one interception and one touchdown. AJ Sanders had five catches for 51 yards and one touchdown for Batavia.

Wheaton North beat Batavia at NIU in the final game of the spring season.

“This means a lot because we felt we should have won that game last year,” Buckley said. “We’ll probably see them later down the road in the playoffs.”