George H. Scheetz
Director, Batavia Public Library
“The Biggest Game of the Season” is dedicated to Dennis J. Piron, Jr., head football coach, Batavia High School, in the 106th year of the rivalry (1913–2018), in grateful appreciation for his help with and support of this project. Coach Piron holds the distinction of being the first coach in Batavia football history to compile undefeated regular-season records in his first two years as head coach (2011–2012) and, even more remarkable, undefeated conference records and championships in his first five years as head coach (2011–2015). In 2013, Batavia won its first-ever Illinois State Football Championship (Class 6A) and its second (Class 7A) just four years later, in 2017.
“My Reminiscence of the Batavia – Geneva Football Rivalry” by Michael J. Gaspari
I would like to begin by thanking George H. Scheetz, director of the Batavia Public Library, for his dedication to this project over many years, and most importantly, for his professionalism and kindness. “The Biggest Game of the Season” is an amazing recap of this legendary series.
I would also like to acknowledge the six men (and their coaching staff) with whom I had the opportunity to match wits throughout my tenure as a coach in this storied rivalry—Jerry Auchstetter, Don Sebestyen, Larry Davis, Mark Gould, Mike Ellberg, and Rob Wicinski.
Further, I am very humbled to have both coached and coached against so many tremendous young men who have made great contributions to our society—former athletes who continue to contribute to our world as fathers, doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, lawyers, contractors, business executives, and more. Most importantly, these young men have moved forward with their lives to accomplish great things.
In my estimation the Batavia – Geneva rivalry brings out the absolute best in each community. There is motivation for, pressure on, and of course great focus within both programs. When I think of what makes a great rivalry, I think of three very important components: —
When these three ingredients combine, the outcome is energy! Simply put, the very best is brought out in each school and community. We definitely do not thank each other enough for bringing out the best in one another. The rivalry has significant meaning and is among the most storied in the history of football in Illinois. As an example, many local residents viewed the 2006 state semifinal game as “The biggest sporting event in the history of Kane County.” This legendary series is simply the best!
Throughout the many years that I was fortunate to be involved in the rivalry, I witnessed great sportsmanship and integrity both on the field and off. This is the result of the leadership of both programs, school districts, and communities. Despite the fact that the outcome of the contest means so much to each town, I believe that we have always kept the rivalry in perspective.
I had the great joy of coaching with dedicated men who have accomplished extraordinary success. Dennis Piron, Matt Holm, Bill Kettering, and PJ White have been fixtures of Bulldogs football for nearly three decades. Their leadership was instrumental, resulting in two state titles and one state runner-up finish for the Batavia program—a monumental accomplishment given where we started in 1985.
The memories of this incredible rivalry take one on an historical journey filled with pageantry. The game involves huge crowds, intense pressures, adolescent showmanship, parental support, coaching strategy, and intense civic pride. The Batavia – Geneva rivalry is the embodiment of the true “American Hometown Experience.”
Congratulations to both communities on 100 games—a milestone marked by pride and loyalty!
I moved to Batavia in late December 2004, and it did not take long for me to discover that the annual Batavia–Geneva football game was a really big deal in both communities. I caught the fever, and the 2006 season (and Batavia’s championship run) made the condition chronic.
This particular project was inspired by the work of Leslie G. “Les” Hodge (1924–1999), who is remembered for his coverage of Batavia High School athletics as a sportswriter for the Batavia Herald and Kane County Chronicle.
Hodge was elected to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1989 for his writing and devotion to high school athletics. Batavia’s Les Hodge Invitational, a track & field and cross country tournament—at which no team scores are kept and schools can enter as many athletes in as many events as they want—was named in his honor.
I spotted Hodge’s “Batavia vs. Geneva” chart in the Daily Herald on Friday, 23 September 2005, and observed several gaps in the all-time record. My research instincts were intrigued—frankly, the reference librarian in me cannot abide such a mystery—and “so began a fascinating yet often frustrating journey through ancient yearbooks, microfilm, and yellowed newspaper clips.”
The lack of historical resources made the task more daunting than anticipated. For example, Superintendent H. C. Storm discontinued publication of the Batavia High School annual for the 1917–1918 school year—a move for which he later expressed regret—so there are no Batavia yearbooks from 1918 to 1944.
Newspaper coverage was often spotty. Prior to the 1930s, the local weekly (or occasionally semi-weekly) newspapers—the Batavia Herald and the Geneva Republican—often did not cover high school sports with any consistency. However, the Aurora Daily Beacon (now the Beacon News), a daily newspaper, provided relatively good coverage of high school (and community) athletics in the Tri-City area back to the late 19th century.
Ultimately, I found a printed source contemporary to each game for every Batavia–Geneva football score in The Record Book. I am now working on compiling a complete record of interscholastic football in Batavia from its beginnings (ca. 1894) to date.
As a side note, I found no evidence that any game was played—or even scheduled—in 1918, even though one later secondary source listed Batavia as the winner in 1918, while another listed Geneva as the winner.
It is my honor (and pleasure) to acknowledge some of the many people who have supported this project (listed alphabetically):—
Long, “For Sheetz [sic], history comes one score at a time.”
East Batavia and West Batavia high schools united in athletics in 1909, but did not play Geneva Community High School in football (except in a practice game) until 1913. 2017 marked the 104th anniversary—but the 105th year—of the rivalry.
Batavia and Geneva did not meet every year—in fact, they did not play in 1914–1915, 1918, 1934–1936 (when Batavia dropped football for three years), and 1996 (when the schools were in different divisions of the Suburban Prairie Conference)—and the teams met twice in 2006 (both games won by Batavia), so Game 99 in the series took place in 2017.
The high schools fielded teams prior to 1913—Batavia as early as 1894, when there were two high schools in two different school districts. Geneva reportedly played a game against East Batavia High School in 1903, and East Batavia regularly met West Batavia on the gridiron.
The latter rivalry probably would have grown in significance—not unlike the annual East Aurora and West Aurora game, which dates to 1893, the second oldest, but logest-running series in Illinois3 —had the two Batavia districts not merged in 1911.
Except for an unprecedented 19-year win-streak by Geneva (1967–1985) under legendary Coach Jerry Auchstetter, the series has been remarkably even. Batavia has won 43 games, lost 51, and tied 5. (The Illinois High School Association implemented tie-breaker rules in 1975, so ties are now a thing of the past.)
As noted in the 1924 Gecohi (Geneva’s yearbook), the rivalry is the “Biggest game of the season,” and strange things happen now and again. The 1960 game, won by Geneva, 13–12, had “probably the most bizarre TD in the history of the Little 7.” The 1981 game was won by Geneva, 6–0, on a “wild interception-fumble-touchdown play” in the fourth quarter. The 1958 game, a 6–6 tie, “featured … a total of 12 fumbles.”
A total of 10 games were won by 3 points or fewer. The lowest score (other than two scoreless ties) was 2–0, won by Geneva in 1950. The most lopsided score was 64–0, won by Batavia in 1916. The most combined points in a game (80) occurred in 2011, won by Batavia, 46–34.
These facts and others are found in The Record Book and the Supplementary Material, the latter of which runs the gamut from statistical highlights (such as “most lopsided scores”) to playing fields, and from athletic conferences to school traditions (school colors and nicknames).
Finally, for those readers who want to read further, a list of “Sources Consulted” appears at the end of this document.
The oldest rivalry (1889) is between Englewood and Hyde Park (Pruter, “The Greatest High School Football Rivalry in Illinois”).The longest-running series in Illinois is between East Aurora and West Aurora (Solarz, Aurora’s East–West Football Rivalry). See also: Schmidt, “A Century-Plus of Gridiron Thrills.”
The Record Book, 1913–2016
Slåss, Pojke, Slåss! [“Fight, boys, fight!” in Swedish]
—Batavia yell, ca. 1940s
Strawberry shortcake, Huckleberry pie,
Are we in it? Well I guess,
Batavia High School, Yes yes yes!
—Batavia yell, ca. 2010s
Most Combined Points in a game
Least Combined Points in a game
Most Lopsided Scores
Longest Winning Streak
|Playing Fields, 1913—
Batavia East Batavia High School and West Batavia High School united in athletics in 1909. There are references to early playing fields on the east side—including the “east side grounds” (1907)—and west side of Batavia—including the “west side grounds on McKee street” (1909) and the “west end of Houston street” (1910)—as well as “on the Island” (1896), all of which were used by the community as well as the high schools for a variety of sports. The playing field “on the Island” was located on the site of the present Batavia Government Center (the former Appleton Manufacturing Company factory).
There are references to early playing fields—such as “Mann’s field north of town” (1896), “the Wheeler grounds” (1897), “Richard’s pasture on South First Street” (1898), “field west of city” (1901), a new athletic field on a “portion of the Herrington farm, just north of the O’Brien place, on Anderson boulevard” (1902), and “the Batavia avenue grounds” (1908)—which were used by the community as well as the high school for a variety of sports.
The first student band at Batavia High School was started in 1927, under the direction of Paul C. Shelly, a student at North Central College (in Naperville, Illinois). The band first played at a football game in 1929.
Earliest known references to school colors
Harold “Red” Grange was still in high school at Wheaton when the Little Seven Conference was organized. In his autobiography, he noted, “The winter of my senior year [1921–1922] a Little Seven Conference was organized. … At our first annual track competition in St. Charles I won six events and made several marks that were to stand for almost twenty years.”
The Little Seven Conference was organized during the 1921–1922 school year; however, more information is needed to confirm which teams participated in football in 1921, as newspaper reports vary.
According to Illinois sports historian, Robert Pruter, there once existed a Kane County Conference, which included Batavia, Dundee, Geneva, and St. Charles, and which merged with Naperville, West Chicago, and Wheaton of the DuPage County League to form the Bi-County League (1917–1919), which broke up after two seasons.—Pruder, “West Suburban Leagues”
The name may have derived from that of the Big Seven Conference, which was organized in 1916 as the Northern Illinois High School Conference (a short-lived name), and included East Aurora, West Aurora, DeKalb, Elgin, Freeport, Rockford, and Joliet. The Little Seven Conference—Batavia, Dundee, Geneva, Naperville, St. Charles, Sycamore, and Wheaton—included smaller high schools (“lights”), while the Big Seven Conference included larger high schools (“heavies”). In comparison, the Little Eight Conference was organized in 1919 and included Plano, Hinckley, Paw Paw, Waterman, Rollo, Leland, Somonauk, and Sandwich—the “light schools in Kendall, DeKalb, and LaSalle counties” (Geneva Republican, Friday, 17 October 1919).
According to Illinois sports historian, Robert Pruter, two founding members of the Little Seven Conference—Naperville and Wheaton—were part of the DuPage County League from 1919–1921, then left in 1922 “to join the newly formed Little Seven Conference.”
[Abernethy, Edith N.] “What Made Batavia Famous?” [poem] by E.N.A. [Edith N. Abernethy]. Batavia School and Home Bulletin, Wednesday, 15 March 1911, p. 1.
Arbizzani, Dick. “From the Pressbox." Geneva Republican, Thursday, 3 October 1963.—List of scores, 1920–1962 (several discrepancies in comparison to the chart in “The Biggest Game of the Season”)
Atlas of Kane County, Illinois. Chicago: D. W. Ensign & Co., 1892.
Bales, Beth. “Geneva: Geneva High School resurrects ‘Loyalty Song.’” Daily Herald: Tri-Cities & Kaneland, Sunday, 4 September 2005, Section 5, p. 1.
“Batavia Banter: The Monicker ‘Vikings.’” Batavia Herald, Friday, 11 November 1938, p. 8.
“Capacity Crowd Sees Batavia Defeat Geneva: Gecohi Lights Nose Out Viking Ponies in Whirlwind Finish 20–19.” Geneva Republican Friday, 10 February 1933, p. 6. Reference to Batavia Vikings: “Geneva heavyweights lost their seventh straight conference game last Friday night to Batavia before a capacity crowd after the lightweights had nosed out the Viking Ponies by one point [in] a whirlwind finish. | The heavyweight game following the usual custom in Geneva–Batavia battles was exceedingly rough.”
Geneva, Illinois: A History of Its Times and Places. Edited by Julia M. Ehresmann. Geneva, Ill.: Geneva Public Library District, 1977.—Note: This edition was not indexed; however, an index was added to the “Sesquicentennial Commemorative Edition” (Geneva, Ill.: Geneva Sesquicentennial Commission, 1985).
“Geneva H. S. Took Fourth Place in Holiday Tourney.” Geneva Republican, Friday, 6 January 1933, p. 1.
Reference to Batavia Vikings: “… Thursday afternoon Geneva made it two in a row by taking her old rival Batavia into camp with a great second half rally. Batavia started swiftly and by the end of the half the Vikings were leading by a 15–6 score. … ‘Nels’ Kluberg who won the individual scoring honors in the tournament led the Blue and White attack with twelve points.”
Grange, Harold Edward, and Ira Morton. The Red Grange Story: An Autobiography. Foreword by Robert C. Zuppke. New Introduction and afterword by Ira Morton. (Illini Books.) Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1993. Reprint; previously published; New York: Putnam, 1953. ISBN 0-252-06329-5 (alk. paper).
Hesse, E. W. “Local, Area Nicknames Shrouded in Mystery.” The News-Gazette [Champaign, Ill.], Sunday, 23 January 1983.
Heun, Dave. "40 years of Bulldog Basketball." Daily Herald, Tuesday, 30 November 2010
———. “Batavia–Geneva an oldie … and still very much a goodie.” Daily Herald: Tri-Cities & Kaneland, Friday, 20 October 2006, Section 4 (Sports Extra), p. 1—List of scores, 1955–2005 (“Batavia vs. Geneva”—“Courtesy of Les Hodge”) (one discrepancy)
———. “Talk of the Town: What’s the score? Man gets to bottom of rivalry’s history.” Daily Herald: Tri-Cities & Kaneland, Sunday, 9 October 2005, Section 1, p. 3.
Hodge, Les. “Batavia vs. Geneva.”—List of scores (several discrepancies)—Posted on World Wide Web (no longer available online)
———.“Batavia vs. Geneva.” Daily Herald: Tri-Cities & Kaneland, Friday, 23 September 2005, Section 4, p. 1.—List of scores (several discrepancies)
Little Seven Conference. “Day Book” [Financial Records], Spring 1922–Fall 1958 and Fall 1965–Spring 1966. [Location: Sycamore High School, Athletic Archives]—Note: The first leaf (pp. 1–2), covering most of the 1921–1922 school year, is missing.
———. Handbook for 1960–1961. [Location: Geneva History Center, Archives, Box 179.1]
———. Minutes, 30 November 1942–9 September 1958. [Location: Sycamore High School, Athletic Archives]
———. Minutes, 9 September 1958. [Location: Geneva History Center, Archives Box 179.1]
Long, Jeff. “For Sheetz [sic], history comes one score at a time.” Daily Herald: Tri-Cities & Kaneland, Sunday, 4 November 2007, Section 2, pp. 14, 13.
Mamminga, Marnie O. “The final season.” Chicago Tribune, Sunday, 28 May 1995, Section 18 (“TempoDuPage”), pp. 1, 7.—Note: A history of the Little Seven Conference; some of the historical information reported in the article is anecdotal in nature and differs from the official records. Mamminga, who lives in Batavia, reported (in 2007) that her research consisted primarily of interviews with Les Hodge and coaches. Hodge, a journalist and local sports historian, now deceased, covered the Little Seven Conference beat for 41 years for a variety of newspapers.
Nelson, Arthur S. “The 1927 Geneva High School Football Team” [reminiscence]. Geneva: n.d. Nelson was president of The State Bank of Geneva. (Location: Geneva History Center, Archives.)
“New Burgess Field Dedicated: Vikings Have Night Football.” The Herald, Wednesday, 24 September 1975, p. 1.
Pruter, Robert. “The Greatest High School Football Rivalry in Illinois: Englewood vs. Hyde Park.” In Illinois H.S.toric. Bloomington, Ill.: Illinois High School Association, n.d. [http://www.ihsa.org/NewsMedia/IllinoisHStoric.aspx]
———. West Suburban Leagues. Working paper, n.d.
Sarkauskas, Susan. “Batavia High to get fake-turf field” [online version].(Daily Herald, Wednesday, 27 January 2016).
———. “Ready to Play” Batavia High’s first football game on new turf is Sept. 16.” Daily Herald: Fox Valley, Friday, 2 September 2016, Section 1, p. 3. Alternate Title (online version): “Batavia High ready to play on new field.” (Thursday, 1 September 2016).
Schory, Brenda. “Coultrap demolition begins: ‘I have to accept that.’” Kane County Chronicle, Tuesday, 4 June 2013, p. 2. Alternate Title (online version): “‘The building can’t continue to stand’: Coultrap demolition begins in Geneva.” (Tuesday, 4 June 2013).
Schmidt, Ray. “A Century-Plus of Gridiron Thrills: A History of Illinois High School Football.” In Illinois H.S.toric. Bloomington, Ill.: Illinois High School Association, n.d. [http://www.ihsa.org/NewsMedia/IllinoisHStoric.aspx]
Solarz, Steve. Aurora's East–West Football Rivalry: The Longest-Running Series in Illinois. Charleston, S.C.; London: The History Press, 2014.
“Vikings vs. Bulldogs, the series record.” Kane County Chronicle, Friday, 13 October 1995, p. B5.—List of scores, 1916–1994 (several discrepancies)
Willman, Fred. Why Mascots Have Tales: The Illinois High School Mascot Manual from Appleknockers to Zippers. Batavia, Ill.: Mascot Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-9767701-0-5
The Batavia Spectator, Senior Issue [Batavia High School newspaper], 1928–1933, 1936–1937.—Note: The “Senior Issue” of the school newspaper served as a de facto yearbook. Issues probably were published for other years.
Bee Aitch Ess [Batavia High School yearbook], 1912–1917.—No yearbook was published in Batavia, 1918–1944; see also The Batavia Spectator, Senior Issue
[The] Echo [Batavia High School yearbook], 1945—
Gecohi [Geneva Community High School yearbook], 1921–1925; 1940–1947.—No yearbook was published in Geneva, 1926–1939; see also GeCoHi Life, Senior Issue
GeCoHi Life, Senior Issue [Geneva Community High School newspaper], 1926–1939.—Note: The “Senior Issue” of the school newspaper served as a de facto yearbook.
[The] Viking [Geneva Community High School yearbook], 1948—
Note: Other newspapers, including but not limited to the Daily Herald, Batavia Republican, and Batavia Sun, were consulted as needed. Particular articles are cited in “Books, Manuscripts, and Articles” (above).
Aurora Beacon-News [succeeded Aurora Daily Beacon] [title varies]
Aurora Daily Beacon [acquired Aurora News] [continued by Aurora Beacon-News]
Batavia Chronicle, 7 July 1976–2 March 1990 [succeeded Batavia Herald] [continued by Kane County Chronicle]
Batavia Community and Home Bulletin, 1916 [succeeded Batavia School and Home Bulletin]
Batavia Herald, 23 February 1893–30 June 1976 [other titles include The Herald and The Kane County Herald, the latter of which may have been a separate edition of The Herald] [continued by Batavia Chronicle]
Batavia School and Home Bulletin, 1910–1913 [continued by Batavia Community and Home Bulletin]
The Batavia Spectator, [Batavia High School], 1926— [title varies]
GeCoHi Life [Geneva Community High School], 5 Nov 1925–ca. 1970s [continued by Insight-Out]Geneva Chronicle, 13 June 1973–1990 [continued by Kane County Chronicle]
Geneva Republican (also known as Twice-a-Week Republican for a time)
The Genevette [Junior Class, Geneva Community High School], 1924
Insight-Out [Geneva Community High School], ca. 1970s–mid-1990s [succeeded GeCoHi Life] [continued by Viking View]
Kane County Chronicle, 2 March 1990— [succeeded Batavia Chronicle, Elburn Chronicle, Geneva Chronicle, and St. Charles Chronicle]
The Moonet [Geneva Community High School], 1894–1895
The Spectator [Geneva Community High School], 1914
Viking View [Geneva Community High School], mid-1990s— [succeeded Insight-Out]
Illinois High School Association [http://www.ihsa.org/]—and, in particular, the following pages:—
• “Records & History” section for “Boys Football” [http://www.ihsa.org/SportsActivities/BoysFootball/RecordsHistory.aspx]
• “Illinois H.S.toric” [http://www.ihsa.org/NewsMedia/IllinoisHStoric.aspx]
Illinois High School Glory Days [http://www.illinoishsglorydays.com/]
Batavia Depot Museum, Gustafson Research Center
Geneva History Center, Historical Archives
Sycamore High School, Athletic Archives
A Note on Nicknames
The phenomenon of athletic team nicknames (sometimes called “mascots”) for high schools probably started in the 1920s, though most high schools did not adopt nicknames until the 1930s and ’40s. Naperville and Wheaton, for example, became known as the Redskins and the Tigers, respectively, about 1939, while Freeport and DeKalb became known as the Pretzels and Barbs, respectively, in the early to mid-1920s, if not earlier.
There are many stories in Illinois about sportswriters whose newspaper columns inspired high school nicknames, such as the Hoopeston Cornjerkers, the Centralia Orphans, the Monmouth Zippers, the Canton Little Giants, and the Fairfield Mules.
One of the more famous examples of this phenomenon was Edwin N. “Eddie” Jacquin, sports editor of The News-Gazette [Champaign, Ill.], 1925–1942, who inspired such names as the Atwood-Hammond Rajahs, the Fisher Bunnies, and the Arcola Purple Riders. Jacquin was “said to have supplied most member schools of the old Okaw Valley Conference with their nicknames.”
In the absence of formal nicknames, sportswriters often described high school teams by their colors—for example, “the blue and white” for Geneva (1919), or the Crimson for Batavia (1939–1944).Batavia
Batavia’s famous bulldog first appeared in the mid-1940s, but Batavia High School had other nicknames as early as 1932.
Long before Batavia’s athletic teams were called the Bulldogs, they were the Vikings. (Yes: It’s true!) There is little doubt that the predominance of boys of Swedish descent on the football field and basketball court led to the Vikings nickname. The alliteration of the V in Batavia probably helped, as well, and the name may have been inspired by a Swedish fraternal organization that was (and still is) active in Batavia, the Independent Order of Vikings. The lodge in Batavia (Ring #18) was established on 6 March 1904.
The Vikings name was prevalent in the Batavia Herald and Geneva Republican beginning with the 1932–1933 school year. In a special edition of the East High Auroran (Thursday, 9 March 1933), which served as a program for the district basketball tournament, Batavia was the only team with a nickname: Vikings.
The Vikings name appeared less frequently after Batavia dropped football in 1934 (for three seasons) and, by the late 1930s, the Batavia Herald regularly referred to the team as the Crimson (1938–1944)—occasionally in combination with other monikers, such as Crimson tiger, Crimson tribe, and Crimson tide. The Batavia sportswriters clearly were trying out different names on their readers, an idea for which there is significant precedent (as noted in the Introduction to this section).
We can only speculate as to why the Vikings name fell out of favor. Alvin C. Sager, a 1937 Batavia graduate, suggested two possible reasons: East Siders—mostly not Swedish—probably disliked the name, and the lack of a yearbook, 1918–1944, probably hurt the cause.
Perhaps the last reference to the Batavia Vikings in the Batavia Herald occurred in 1938: “The monicker [sic] ‘Vikings,’ which for many years has been the label used by sportswriters when identifying Batavia athletic teams, is about as appropriate this year as the ‘Fighting Irish’ title is to Notre Dame …. Most of this year’s high school heavyweight football eleven was composed of students claiming German and English descent …. Arnie Stenman was the only ‘Viking’ to play a major role.” Ironically, the team was called the “Crimson tide” in the sports section of the same edition.
Why Bulldogs? Paul W. “Peeler” Bergeson, Jr., a 1945 Batavia graduate—as well as football captain and class president—noted that Coach Howard J. Lester (1944–1948) had arrived in Batavia and desired a nickname. The Vikings name had fallen into disuse and was picked up by Geneva (circa 1942–1943). Peeler recalled that the Bulldogs name was chosen by a student vote, though no such records survive.
The first known reference to “Batavia bulldogs” occurred in the Batavia Herald on Friday, 16 February 1945. The name appeared for the first time in the 1946 Echo (for the 1945–1946 school year).
In November 1967, the bulldog was officially named Brutus in a contest won by Diane Schroeder, then a junior at Batavia High School.
The early history of nicknames in Geneva is not yet complete.
For further reading on this and related topics, please see Willman, Why Mascots Have Tales: The Illinois High School Mascot Manual from Appleknockers to Zippers.
Hesse, “Local, Area Nicknames Shrouded in Mystery.”
Batavia Herald, Friday, 11 November 1938, p. 9.
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