The Batters Box

Tom Batters
Michael Fay

I was talking to a Dunlap fan before the game Friday night, and he said, “If Metamora can hold (Logan) Schrader to under 200 yards passing, then they’ll have a chance to win, but that’s not gonna happen.”

I didn’t see that fan after the game.

Actually, I think he left in the third quarter as Metamora senior quarterback Michael Fay blazed down the sideline on his way to another touchdown.

Fay rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns (he also threw a touchdown pass) to lead Metamora to a 49-21 win over Dunlap.

Schrader, one of the area’s most prolific passers, threw for just 42 yards, and the Redbirds (4-1) outscored Dunlap 35-8 in the second half.

“We ran out of gas in the third quarter,” said Dunlap coach Brett Cazalet. “To beat Metamora, you have to play physical for the whole game, and they just wore us out.”

Momentum swing

Metamora led 14-13 at halftime. On the second play of the second half, Fay broke one tackle at the line of scrimmage and sprinted down the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown.

“That (touchdown) put a little pressure on them, and we felt like we gained some momentum,” Fay said.

Metamora senior kicker Brennen VanMieghem launched the kickoff into the end zone for a touchback and Dunlap took over at its own 20 yard line.

Dunlap (3-2) could not get a first down and was forced to punt.

The Eagles caught a break when they recovered a Metamora fumble at their own 41-yard line with 7:41 left in the third quarter.

But Metamora senior defensive linemen Drew Cullett and Preston Butner teamed up to sack Schrader for a three-yard loss. On the next play, Cullett pressured Schrader, who ran right into senior defensive end David Tracy for another sack (loss of eight yards), and Dunlap was forced to punt again.

The Redbirds put together a 15-play drive that resulted in an eight-yard Fay touchdown run to make it 28-13 early in the fourth quarter.

In that drive, Fay converted two third downs into first downs when he ran hard up the middle. It took two or three defenders to bring him down.

“You just lower your shoulder, and follow the line and do what you have to do to get the first down,” Fay said.

After another VanMieghem touchback (his fifth of the game), Dunlap was forced to punt again.

A 22-yard pass from Fay to senior wide receiver Brett McKinney gave the Redbirds the ball at their own 47-yard line.

On the next play, Fay broke loose, side-stepped the linebackers, and ran in for a 53-yard touchdown.

Schrader threw four straight incomplete passes on Dunlap’s next possession.

Metamora junior running back Charlie Nowotnik scored on a 37-yard run on the Redbirds’ first play of the drive, to make it a 42-13 game with 6:43 left.

Schrader scored on a 72-yard touchdown run with 5:05 left, but it was too late.

Leading 42-21, Metamora senior quarterback Beau Geier  spun away from the defensive back and ran 50 yards for a touchdown to make it 49-21.

Getting defensive

Metamora senior linebacker Tom Bieneman, who had 11 tackles and two sacks, was the Defensive Player of the Game.

With about five minutes left in the first half (with Dunlap leading, 13-8), after VanMieghem missed a 38-yard field goal attempt, Dunlap started a drive on its own 23-yard line.

Bieneman charged through the Eagles’ offensive line and sacked Schrader for a nine-yard loss.

Three plays later, the Eagles were forced to punt.

“The gap was empty, so I just went through it to get to the quarterback,” Bieneman said. “We got off to a slow start, but we felt like we were getting the best of them toward the end of the first half.”

Schrader used his legs, not his arm, to have his way with the Metamora defense early in the game.

He ran for three first downs and a touchdown in Dunlap’s opening drive. Late in the first quarter, he threw a five-yard touchdown to Peter Sorenson.

Early on, it looked like the Redbirds would have trouble stopping Schrader, but that changed quickly.

The Eagles did not gain a first down in the second or third quarters.

“Our secondary did a nice job on their receivers, and we had another nice game up front,” Metamora coach Pat Ryan said. “He (Schrader) is a playmaker, and that is a team that will win a lot of games. This was a good win for us.”

Geier, McKinney, and junior Adam Bowers helped shut down the Dunlap receivers. Nick Mangieri, Dunlap’s top receiver who is 6’4”, 225 pounds, did not have any catches.

Fay also played in the defensive backfield. It was his first game as a two-way player this season.

“He gave us a little extra protection back there. He’s gassed, though. I told him I’m going to make him run with the cross country runners, to get him into better shape,” Ryan said, smiling.

He can throw, too

Fay turned heads with his four touchdown runs and several hard-fought first down carries, but his passes were also highlight-reel material.

On third down and six, he hit McKinney for a 50-yard touchdown pass on Metamora’s first series of the game.

He later hit McKinney for an 18-yard gain, and he connected with Tracy for a 14-yard completion.

“Michael and Brett are a good combination,” Ryan said. “I probably could throw in a few more pass plays, but, you know me, I like to keep the ball on the ground.”

McKinney also returned the kickoff to the 46-yard line to set up the first scoring drive.

The art of deception

The Redbirds successfully completed a fake extra point for a two-point conversion after their first touchdown.

Geier took the snap, faked the hold for VanMieghem, and got up to scramble to his right. He scampered untouched into the end zone.

Later in the game, the Redbirds’ attempt at deception did not go as well.

On third down and 18, McKinney, who took the handoff from Fay, dropped back to pass. He slipped on the grass and his pass was a few yards short of the target.

VanMieghem missed a 38-yard field goal on the next play, allowing Dunlap to hold onto its 13-8 lead.

Don’t forget ‘Chuckie’

Nowotnik, who Ryan refers to as “Chuckie,” rushed for 126 yards on 17 carries.

He kept the chains moving and the clock ticking during a 15-play drive at the end of the third quarter.

“Chuckie is running the ball really well,” Ryan said. “He’s done a great job carrying the load in Bryan’s absence."

Ryan said senior Bryan Love, who rushed for more than 100 yards in weeks one and two before suffering an ankle injury in the second half of the South Elgin game, is close to returning.

“If this was the last game of the year, he probably could have played,” Ryan said.

Burch is back

Senior captain Tyler Burch returned after missing the first four games with a knee injury.

“I feel pretty good,” Burch said. “I got cut-blocked on the first play, so that was a little scary, but it feels OK. I have some pain, but it’s nothing that a little ice can’t fix.”

Burch said it was nice to beat the Eagles on the road, but there is a lot more football to be played.

“We can’t get a big head about it,” he said. “We just have to get back to practice and try to get even better. This was a fun win, but now it’s over. Time to focus on the next one.”

Poll position

Metamora is tied for fourth in the latest Associated Press Class 5A poll. Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, last week’s No. 2 team, is also ranked fourth.

Richwoods is ranked No. 2. The Knights received three of the 10 first place votes.Washington (3-1) is ranked No. 10.

South Elgin, the Redbirds’ week 2 opponent (a 49-26 loss) moved up to No. 5 in the Class 8A poll. Bloomington Central Catholic, the Redbirds’ Week 1 opponent (a 48-24 win) is in the “others receiving votes” category in the Class 4A poll.