Six times during Saturday afternoon's regional championship match at Buffalo's All High Stadium the Blue Devils were on the brink of putting six on the scoreboard, and six times Batavia let the opportunity slip away.
The blown opportunities alone represent more points than Cheektowaga managed on their own in the Class B matchup.
"You can't win football games when you do that," Head Coach Brennan Briggs said after the 35-16 loss.
In five of the six times the Blue Devils reached the red zone but failed to score, Cheektowaga got the ball back on turnovers.
"It's disappointing turning the ball over so many times, but that's the game of football, Briggs said.
The other time Batavia came up short -- literally came up short -- was in the closing seconds of the half when Batavia had the ball inside the five with 1st and goal to go.
When fourth down rolled around and less than 10 seconds on the clock, the ball was two inches from the goal line. A Cheektowaga off sides put the ball on the one-inch line.
Batavia couldn't punch it in.
A score there would have made it 21-21 at the half.
Batavia's game plan called for the offensive to use the ground game, grind up precious minutes off the clock and keep Cheetowaga's quick-strike offense off the field as much as possible.
The fewer times the Warriors' Marshawn Gibson touches the ball, the better for any opponent.
Even though Gibson still carried the ball 12 times for 146 yards, plus an 81-yard reception, for four touchdowns, that part of the game plan worked.
On the first drive, Batavia learned that what film study revealed was true: Give the ball to Dominick Mogavero and let him chew up yards and the clock.
Time of possession tilted heavily in Batavia's favor, 33 minutes to 15 minutes, and Mogavero carried the ball 32 times for 160 yards.
"I feel a little bad for Anthony Gallo because he's such a good back, but our style of what we were doing, grinding it out, we saw how well that can work on that first drive, so we stuck with Dom because he's got a little bit more to him," Briggs said. "He just did a great job offensively and defensively."
Batavia made it look easy on the first drive of the game, scoring on a six-yard pass from Greg Mruczek to Gallo, but Cheektowaga struck quickly on its own first drive, as Gibson streaked 74 yards for a touchdown.
With the score 14-7, Briggs once again made a gutsy fourth-down play call. This time, a lateral to Trevor Sherwood who threw the ball cross field to a wide open Ryan Hogan for a 32-yard TD.
Then the wheels started to come off. A fumble, an interception, the failed goal line opportunity, and more fumbles and another interception in the second half just put Batavia in too deep of a hole.
Still, 2014 was an amazing season for the Batavia Devils, going 6-1 in the regular season and winning the program's first Section V title since 1991. The loss doesn't diminish a turnaround season.
"It still hasn't sunk in yet," Briggs said after the game. "We're very disappointed in the loss. We were hoping to keep moving on, but a Class B section V title is something for Batavia to be proud of and I think we can build off of this and do a lot of great things after this."
Mruczek, Gallo, Mogavero, along with Trevor Sherwood, Malachi Chenault, Noah Dobbertin and Danny Williams will all be back next year.
That's the core of any potential winning team right there, plus there are players in the pipeline, either from JV or varsity, ready to contribute.
"This (season) helped the underclassmen of Batavia football realize how important it is to be there in the off season," Briggs said. "Maybe we will get a little bit more commitment this off season from a kid who doesn't want to be there. We have a very good nucleus of kids coming back and I can't wait to get them going."
Top Photo: Gallo with the first score of the game.
Cheektowaga's Hakiem Black with a TD reception in the third quarter.
Mruczek hands off to Mogavero.
Mogavero looks for a hole with Cheektowaga's Dylan Romanczak in pursuit.
Gunner Rapone wraps up Gibson in the backfield in the fourth quarter for one of the star back's rare loss of yardage runs.
Sherwood alone on the bench with his thoughts in the closing minute of Batavia's 35-16 loss to Cheektowaga.