Senior quarterback Will Vaske was going to play Friday night for St. Charles North.
That much was certain.
Sidelined due to an injury since early in the North Stars’ Sept. 16 game against Wheaton North, Vaske was cleared and ready to contribute against heralded host Batavia.
With the outright DuKane Conference title on the line, St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak knew he would somehow find a way to use Vaske to close out the regular season.
“I don’t believe a guy should lose his job because of an injury,” Pomazak said. “We gave Ethan (Plumb) the start and we said we’re going to use both of you.
“We’re going to go with how the flow of the game is going.”
On his team’s first drive of the second quarter, Pomazak made the call and Vaske delivered, scoring four touchdowns as the North Stars pulled out a dramatic 32-31 victory.
Three of those TDs were passing for St. Charles North (8-1, 7-0), including the game-winner from Vaske to junior tight end Jake Furtney in the second overtime.
“I just had to prepare as much as possible, be ready to go whenever I can,” Vaske said “It was frustrating, but I always kept my head up. I knew I was going to get back out there.
“I was working so hard to get on the field as fast as possible, going to physical therapy twice a day every day. It paid off.”
Vaske got the North Stars going on his first drive with an 11-yard TD pass to Zach Priami. Batavia (6-3, 5-2) answered as Wisconsin recruit Tyler Jansey got involved on offense.
The senior linebacker, who entered with only 15 carries all season, broke a 93-yard TD run in the second quarter. He ended up rushing for 234 yards on 21 carries for the Bulldogs.
Batavia led 14-10 until one of the wildest plays anyone could remember. With 5:34 left in the fourth and North sputtering, Vaske was on verge of being sacked for a big loss.
Vaske was hit as he was trying to throw, the ball popping into the air. Drew Surges grabbed the ball out of midair, wove through traffic and scored from 51 yards for a 17-14 lead.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. “To have the presence of mind to catch it, and it wasn’t that he ran with no one there. He broke tackles.
“The craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”
It didn’t surprise Pomazak that Surges was in the middle of such a play.
“Drew Surges is another level,” Pomazak said. “He’s just a different category of player. You can’t draw that up.”
Both quarterbacks — Vaske on a 10-yard run and Batavia’s Ryan Boe on a 5-yard run — scored in the first OT. The Bulldogs opted to kick the PAT instead of going for the win.
“We were talking about it,” Piron said. “Looking at it now, it might have been the right thing to do.”
Ryan Whitwell scored on a 6-yard run in the second OT for Batavia. Vaske then found Furtney for a 10-yard TD, and Pomazak didn’t hesitate going for the win.
“It was about 365 days to the day when we did not go for two and we said that was not going to happen,” Pomazak said. “If we’re not going to win this game, it’s going to be because we gave the ball to our best player and they were just better than us for a play.”
Surges took the snap in the Wildcat formation and raced in to convert the 2-point conversion for the win — and the outright conference title.
“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments,” Surges said. “We didn’t want to share this one. This one was special. Our revenge tour complete and a conference championship.”
Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.