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Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 11:56 am

Batavia can't overcome rash of red zone turnovers in Class B regional championship game

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, football, high school sports, sports

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.

Dom Mogavero

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.

Friday, November 14, 2014 at 3:34 pm

As the Blue Devils advance in the post season, captains help lead the way

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, football, high school sports, sports

Coaches preach it all the time: Do your 1/11th.

There are 11 men on the field and to execute any play correctly, each player must do his part -- plant his feet right, push in the right direction, make the right cut, run the right route, make the right read, find his man.

Winning football is a matter of dedication, detail and focus.

But on any team, there are guys who do a little more than their 1/11th. They are the captains.

"As a coach, you want to have people in the locker room whom you can use as other coaches," said Brennan Briggs, head coach of the Batavia Blue Devils. "They let you know what's going on. You want that kind of relationship. They need to be those guys who have a sense of leadership and want to make the team theirs so they can self regulate what's going on on the field, in the locker room and in practices to help keep guys on task."

For the Blue Devils, selecting captains is a multilevel process. Team members vote who among their peers should be captain. The assistant coaches give Briggs their input, and then the final decision rests with Briggs.

The captains for the Blue Devils this year  -- the three guys who helped lead Batavia to its first sectional title in 23 years and will suit up in those roles again tomorrow in a game to qualify for state playoff rounds -- are Gunner Rapone (lower left in the photo), James Cryer and Devon Koepp.

Gunner Rapone
Senior, Offensive and Defensive Line
6'4", 260 pounds

Rapone is a staple of the program, Briggs said. He's come up through the ranks and grown and matured as a player each step along the way. 

"He's passionate about the game of football and the kids like him," Briggs said. "He's done a good job of stepping up in the leadership role."

Rapone was born and raised in Batavia. He said his father got him started in youth football and was pretty persistent in seeing he stuck with it.

He's grown to love the game.

Leading this team (Cryer and Koepp said much the same thing) hasn't been difficult. Everybody gets along pretty well and there is a focus and confidence that hasn't existed before.

"There is a family mentality with all the guys," Rapone said. "In the past, we haven't really had a tight-knit group of guys to work with, developing as a team. This year, everyone hangs out with everyone and everyone knows each other. It's like a home away from home."

Rapone said he's enjoyed being a captain.

"I really like being one of those people that others can look up to and look to for guidance," Rapone said. "I like to help others. Being a captain is amazing. It's a fun experience. It's an interesting time."

As for his future, there are some decisions to make. He's interested in criminal justice and law and he's set his sights on the University at Buffalo. He would love to play for the Bulls, but realizes Division I football is a high level to reach. While he's looking at other schools, he said he's not daunted by the task of trying to make the team.

"I don't want my career playing this amazing game to end," Rapone said. "Regardless, I'm willing to put in the time and the effort in all the things I need to do to be able to play."

James Cryer
Senior, Wide Receiver, Defensive End
5' 11", 160 pounds

Cryer is not necessarily the most athletic player on the field, and among the captains, he's not even the most vocal, but what he is is invaluable to a winning team.

Cryer leads by example and contributes by coming up with the big players, whether it's the game-opening touchdown catch or the drive-stopping interception.

"James is very, very coachable," Briggs said. "He does an awesome job. He's not the most talented, but he makes up for that with hard work and a willingness to learn. He's generally on the field both offensively and defensively. He's that guy who kids look up to because he gets the job done."

For his part, Cryer said that, yes, he's not vocal. There are different kinds of leadership he said, and he realized early on that he was named a captain because he could lead by example.

"At first, I was surprised (to be named a captain)," Cryer said. "Then I realized, as I thought about it more, he saw that leadership potential in me and that came more into play when I was named captain."

He said he enjoys the role.

"It means a lot to me that the guys trust me," Cryer said.

Born in Buffalo, Cryer also leans toward UB. He's also looking at Alfred State. He wants to learn computer programming and Web development. He also wants to keep playing football and hockey.

Devon Koepp
Senior, Offensive and Defensive Line
6'3" 265 pounds.

Koepp makes no bones about it. He loves football because he loves being the big man on the gridiron.

"I like hitting," Koepp said. "I love it. I've always loved hitting kids. It's a great feeling when you lay somebody out."

Reading that in print might leave the impression that Koepp is a Dick Butkus in the making, but even as he says that it is a great feeling to "lay somebody out," his demeanor is that of a well-mannered teen. 

He'll knock you down, extend a hand and help you up, and on the next snap, lay you out again, just because that's what linemen do.

"He uses his size and strength to his advantage," Briggs said.

Koepp started playing football at a young age, but soon became too big to play in the youth programs. He had to wait until seventh grade to play modified football.

This is his fourth varsity season.

"He brings that experience," Briggs said. "He knows what it's like to be a varsity player. He's a big strong kid and he can be intimidating. We have our goofballs on the team and he knows how to get them quiet, and gets them focused."

As a four-year varsity player, being part of the Blue Devils team that brought home the first sectional title since 1991 is certainly something special, Koepp said.

"It feels amazing," Koepp said. "It really is awesome. All the work all season paid off. We finally showed something, Batavia, our hometown, we finally showed that we can play and win."

Koepp is drawing the interest of universities in the region for both football and track and field, including St. John Fisher, Hobart and Utica, among others.

"It's really awesome to see all that stuff coming in the mail," Koepp said. "It is a great experience. I'm not sure where I'll go yet, but I'll figure it out."

Batavia (9-1) takes on Cheektowaga (9-1) at 3 p.m., tomorrow, at All High Stadium in Buffalo.

Le Roy (10-0), now the #1 ranked Class C team in the state, takes on Maple Grove (10-0) at noon at the same location.

The winners of each game advance to the state semi-finals.

Both games can be heard on WBTA, on WBTAi.com and on WBTA's smartphone apps.

The Batavian will also cover both games.

Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 10:47 am

Batavia, the team that shouldn't be here, has shot at sectional title after 35-12 win in semi-final

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, football, high school sports, sports

By all rights, at the end of the first half Saturday night, Batavia should have been down to Penn Yan by a score more along the lines of 28-7.

The game should have been over in every manner except the time clock.

Three turnovers, a trio of 15-yard penalties, enemy receivers allowed to roam free and the repeated gifts of good field position didn't doom the Batavia effort.

It would be fair to say the Mustangs didn't cash in on all of these gold-plated errors, but that would be only half the story.

The Blue Devils hung tough. The line stepped up and stopped the run. Rushers put enough pressure on the passing game that completions were hard to come by.

With two minutes left in the first half, instead being down 20 or 28 to 7, Batavia trailed by only five points, 12-7.

Then the magic happened.

Greg Mruczek engineered a 70-yard drive in less than two minutes that ended with a five-yard pass in the end zone to a wide open -- open as in "alone on a Kansas prairie" open -- Malachi Chenault.

A two-point conversion later and Batavia headed into the locker room with a 15-12 lead and a level of confidence that makes Floyd Mayweather look shy.

"That was huge," said Head Coach Brennan Briggs. "I would like to say that was the game right there because that just gave us the momentum to get back into it. I think if we'd gone into half time down, I think our kids really would have been in a little bit of a hole. But they've been grinding and fighting all year and that's what they did."

Briggs said he went into the locker room at half and told the team it was their game to lose.

He told them, he said, " 'we've done everything we could do wrong and we're still leading this game by three points. That says something.' "

"I said," he added, " 'we've got 24 minutes left. All the time, all the effort you've put in come down to these final 24 minutes. Do you guys want to pack it in or do you guys want to go out and dominate like we can?' "

Batavia scored 20 unanswered points in the second half and never really allowed the Mustangs to get a drive going. The win, in the end, was a blowout, 35-12.

The unsung heroes of this semi-final game -- as they often are in football -- are the offensive and defensive lines. 

Against a team that featured two heavyweights tipping the scales at more than 320 pounds each, and with a degree of athleticism, the Batavia line on both sides of the ball simply outplayed the other team's big men.

The Blue Devils feature two young men up front who are pretty hefty themselves. Seniors Gunner Rapone and Devon Koepp, who are 6' 4", 260 pounds, and 6' 3", 265 pounds.

Rapone said the men up front for Batavia are not intimidated by anybody.

"We've faced big kids before," Rapone said. "An example is Bath. Bath has a lot of big guys. We knew what we were in for. We've been practicing all week about moving our feet and driving guys down the field and opening holes up for our backs and that's what we did the second half."

One of the beneficiaries of this offensive line largess was Anthony Gallo, a quick, slashing back with a knack for making defensive players miss.

"The linemen were making huge holes and I have good vision," said Gallo, who gained 110 yards on 14 carries. "I just see where I've gotta go and I just run."

It was another big game for junior QB Greg Mruczek, who was six for 13 for 161 yards, tossing three TDs and scoring one himself on the ground.

"Going into halftime, we thought we had the better team, you know," Mruczek said. "We came out and just played tough, despite the weather conditions. We've both got to play in it so you've got to keep playing tough. We thought we did a good job coming out in the second half and just playing hard."

If game balls were given out, surely one went to Jerrett Laskett, who had a 40-yard TD reception, but more importantly, snagged two key interceptions, including the pick just before the two-minute mark of the first half that set up Batavia's game-winning scoring drive.

It was Laskett's first game ever at corner back. 

"He did an unbelievable job," Briggs said. "You know, he's come a long ways this year and I can't say just how proud I am of the kid. We just put him at defensive back this week and he gets two picks."

Chenault had two receptions for 38 yards and the TD. Dominick Mogavero had 21 rushes for 84 yards and a TD. Ryan Hogan had two catches for 50 yards. Trevor Rittersback and Koepp had five tackles each.

The win gives Batavia a shot at a sectional title for the first time since 1998. The Blue Devils haven't won a title since 1991, the program's only title since sectional play began.

This is a program that was going nowhere before Briggs took it over four years ago and Briggs and the players have talked all year about how nobody gives the team the respect of a potential champion, that winning wasn't part of the pre-season projections of pundits.

There's a sense now that those critics, whomever they are, are proven wrong.

"It's crazy," Mruczek said. "It's an amazing feeling. It just turns some heads, you know. I don't think anyone would have thought we'd be in the sectional finals this year, honestly. It's just an incredible feeling and we're all happy to be here right now." 

Mruczek gives a lot of the credit to Briggs.

"He worked very hard with us all off season, with lifting and passing with me and the receivers," Mruczek said. "He's put in a lot of time and effort. He deserves to be in this position."

For players like Rapone, who has been dreaming of being part of a winning Blue Devils program since at least middle school, said it's an unbelievable feeling to get to this point in the season.

"It's unreal to me, to be honest with you," Rapone said. "It's a strange feeling because everyone is so used to looking down on this program and it being this year, my final year, and a lot of our guys final year, and we have the opportunity that we have this year, is unreal and unbelievable."

There's another Rapone, Max, coming up the sports ranks in Batavia and Gunner thinks he and his teammates have set an example of hard work and dedication for the next generation.

"I hope Max and all of his teammates look up to what we are and want to strive to be what we have done and know they can do it," Rapone said. "I've got a good feeling they can do it."

Now the focus shifts to Livonia, as if that isn't where the focus has been all along.

The Blue Devils are 8-1. That one loss was handed to Batavia in the final seconds of a thunder-interrupted game opening week when Livonia managed a last-ditch touchdown.

Players and coaches all seem to think it was a game Batavia should have won, could have won, but didn't. Hardly a week has gone buy since where the loss to Livonia didn't figure in the conversation at some point.

It's the game that has fueled Batavia's resilience and swagger, two words Briggs has attached to his players all season.

"After losing to a good team like that, we knew we had a good team and we could compete this year for a sectional title," Mruczek said. "We came out with some confidence after that game. We almost beat Livonia, supposedly the top of Class B."

Now, as one player said, it's time for revenge. 

"We're happy we're getting a shot at the sectional title, but there's really nobody else our guys would want to have it against," Briggs said. "If you wrote up a storybook ending, you know, you really couldn't write it up any better than that."

Well, it's not quite a storybook ending. Not yet. A win against Livonia would be a storybook ending.

Go get 'em, boys.

Top Photo: Malachi Chenault.celebrates his first-half touchdown that proved the turning point of the game.

Jerrett Laskett with a key first half interception.

Jerrett Laskett with a TD reception. 

Anthony Gallo finding another big hole.

Trevor Sherwood with a long reception just ahead of the goal line, setting up another Batavia score in the second half.

Dominick Mogavero got most of his 84 rushing in the 4th quarter as the Blue Devils chewed up the clock and kept the Mustangs' offense off the field.

Mogavero gets a handle on Mustangs' QB Austin Fingar. Fingar pulled free and gained another four or five yards.

At times during the game, the icy rain and sleet came down heavy.

Fans weathered the chill and the damp.

Gunner Rapone after the win.

Post-game celebration.

To purchase prints, click here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Batavia wins Section V Class B semi-final 35-12

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, football, high school sports, sports

The Batavia Blue Devils will get a chance to play for the school's first sectional title since 1991 in football next week after beating Penn Yan this evening, 35-12.

Above, Malachi Chenault in the end zone near the close of the first half. The score, making it 15-12, gave Batavia a lead it never relinquished.

The Blue Devils will face Livonia in the Class B final next week. Batavia's only defeat of the season came against Livonia on a last-second touchdown in the first game of the season.

We'll have complete coverage posted tomorrow.

Saturday, October 25, 2014 at 8:57 am

Blue Devils end postseason drought by crushing Pal-Mac 47-14

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, football, high school sports, sports

QB Greg Mruczek celebrated Batavia's first home sectional game in 18 years by tossing five touchdown passes, helping the Blue Devils crush Palmyra-Macedon 47-14.

It was pretty much a flawless performance for the junior who hit 13 receivers in 16 attempts for 227 yards without a reception.

Head Coach Brennan Briggs attributes Mruczek's success to hard work.

"He competes every single snap," Briggs said. "He wants to get better. It's not about any of the coaches or anything like that. It's about Greg wanting the ball in his hands and putting in that time and putting in that effort, asking to watch extra film, asking about the defensive coverages."

It helps that he's got some weapons on the wings and in the backfield.

Offensively, the Blue Devils feature three wideouts each with more than six feet in height -- Ryan Hogan, Malachi Chenault and James Cryer -- and speed with Dominick Mogavero, Jarrett Lasket and Anthony Gallo.

Mruczek said the height and athleticism of his receivers makes his job easier.

"I can throw with a lot of confidence with those guys," Mruczek said. "There's a lot of height. I can throw up the ball and they're great athletes. I've got a lot of confidence they're going to make plays."

Cryer led the receiving corps with four caches for 77 yards and three touchdowns.

Mogavero anchored the running game Friday night. He rushed for 124 yards on 24 carries.

"He's the back who has to get some tough yards, but he's also deceiving with the vision that he has," Briggs said. "He finds some holes and gets some big, hard yards for us. Defensively, his nose is always in there. He's a tough kid, a hard-nosed kid. That's how wrestlers are. He's a wrestler and that's how wrestlers are built. Not a big kid, but we have a lot of kids who aren't big or many not have a ton of mass to them, but their hearts are pretty strong."

The Blue Devils will need to call on those big hearts, hard work and focus as they take a big step in the recent history of Batavia's football program -- a second-round playoff game, something that hasn't happened in about 20 years.

Next Saturday they'll face #3 ranked Penn Yan (6-2), coming off a 24-0 victory over Waterloo. 

Even with a record of 7-1, Briggs said the Blue Devils have yet to put together a complete, well-balanced game, but they're getting closer.

That is what it will take to advance.

"We need to tighten up the defense," Briggs said. "We need to be able to run the ball and throw the ball on a given night. We can't just rely on just the passing game or just the running game. We still have to put that all together for us to take that next step."

Top Photo: Cryer with a TD reception.

Trevor Sherwood, another of Batavia's tall receivers, uses his height for a reception in the third quarter.

Malachi Chenault goes up for the ball to haul in a TD reception in the first quarter.

Cryer with a long run after a reception for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Danny Williams scores on a running play.

The Batavia Cheerleaders introduced a new routine at halftime.

To purchase prints, click here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 11:44 am

BHS officials share concerns, raise awareness about vaping at school

post by Howard B. Owens in Batavia HS, education, schools

There have been four incidents at Batavia High School so far this school year involving students, vaporizers and synthetic drugs, Principal Scott Wilson said.

That isn't an epidemic by any means, but it is a cause for concern and he thinks the local community, and particularly parents and students, should be more aware of some of the possible negative consequences of vaporizers, also known as e-cigarettes.

Wilson organized a community forum in the school's library Wednesday night to help raise awareness.

"It's a concern right now, but I don't want to be a Chicken Little and say the sky is falling," Wilson said. "I also don't want to say the problem is not there, and bury my head in the sand and cross my fingers and hope it all blows away. We have to find the right balance."

Wilson assembled a panel for the forum that included Nancy Haitz, school nurse, Nate Korzelius, teacher, Nick Burk, a teacher and coach, Jennifer Zambito, from GCASA, Rich Schauf, Batavia PD, and Tom Douglas, from the fire department.

Each shared some of their experiences or research into issues surrounding vaping and synthetic drugs.

E-cigarettes were developed as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes. They were designed to be nicotine delivery devices, but without the health consequences of cigarettes, and give smokers a device to smoke in public that is largely unregulated.

The devices were barely available a couple of years ago, and now are commonly sold in retail shops and convenience stores throughout the area.

Not much bigger than a nice ball-point pen, the devices are easy for students to conceal. They've supposedly been hidden by students in bras and spandex undergarments.  

If it were just a matter of students smoking flavored liquid with a little nicotine, that would still be a violation of school rules and not allowed, but the problem is a bit more serious than that, Wilson said.

"We have to assume at this point that the liquid contains a substance that could cause a medical emergency and I have to take a firm stand," Wilson said.

EMTs have been summoned to the school once this year after a medical emergency involving a student who reportedly inhaled synthetic marijuana through a vaporizer.

They way e-cigs entered society, there's a common misperception that they're harmless, Wilson said. 

Both he and Schauf shared stories of talking to parents who bought vaporizers for their children, as young as 13 years old, because they saw them as a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes.

What parents don't realize is that these devices can be used to deliver other chemicals, from ground up prescription pills to a plethora of synthetic drugs that are easily obtained online.

These are often the same drugs or closely related cousins to bath salts -- the drugs that were much in the news two years ago when the country -- and our local community -- were concerned about their health effects.

Zambito described many of the same behaviors and consequences -- paranoia, hallucinations, rapid heart rates, rapid breathing, even seizures.

"Students can experience symptoms that even they themselves are scared of," Zambito said.

One of the biggest concerns, several panelists said, is the possibility of students who think taking a hit from another student's vape is no big deal, without really knowing what chemical is in the e-cigarette.

It could contain a synthetic drug and there's no way to tell from merely looking at it.

"Let that sink in for a moment," Wilson said. "They don't know what is in it because it's in a liquid. That's the real concern. We want to help kids make better choices and never just blindly take that risk."

The difficulty in finding out what chemical might have caused a medical emergency is also a problem for EMTs, said Douglas.

Too much nicotine can cause an elevated heart rate, but so can other chemicals, and that can be an important distinction, Douglas said, as just an example of what EMTs must deal with in these situations.

"We've got them grinding up prescription drugs, THC, to whatever it is they find on the Internet, Douglas said. "From the EMT end, that's what we're dealing with. We can be kind of stymied. What do we treat?"

Korzelius and Burk said they now regularly inspect bathrooms, lifting up ceiling tiles, looking for hidden vaporizers.

In the days of "smoking in the boys' room," there was always a residual odor that would help teachers track down the smokers, but that isn't the case with vaping, and teachers and administrators are struggling to keep a tab on the devices.

Wilson hopes through a public discussion of the issue parents become more aware and more vigilant, but he said teens at BHS are already starting to take the issue seriously.  

"I think most of the kids want to have a healthy, clean and positive school environment," Wilson said. "I totally believe that with all my heart, and students are stepping up and reporting, because they want, not necessarily to get kids in trouble, but keep the school free from these devices. I love that cooperation and even that peer pressure. "

Saturday, October 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Blue Devils battle for narrow victory over Geneva to go to 4-1 on season

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, football, high school sports, sports

This is where teams fold. Down 7-0 after a 90-yard unmolested half-back sprint down the near sideline, after a fumble and two interceptions, including one when your 60-yard offensive drive has taken you to the vestibule of the end zone, only to see the ball fall into the hands of a defensive back.

That's when the enemy scores. That's when you're down 7-0 deep into the third quarter on a night when all previous offensive drives failed to produce points.

Perhaps, it just isn't your night.

After all, you're a team that hasn't gotten to four wins in a season in more than a decade.

It could be fate, a jinx or just the way it's supposed to be.

Except, you don't believe it. Not for a moment.

"I don't think we ever really skipped a beat," said Dom Mogavero, junior running back and line backer. "We went out there thinking we're going to win this football game. We never really lost our composure. We just kept fighting because we knew we could break that scoreboard eventually."

Everything went from going bad to going good on one play.

Before the play, Geneva recovered a fumble on Batavia's 40 and was moving toward the goal line once again when Panthers QB Alex Joll handed the ball to running back Mark Suchewski on a sweep.

There's nobody Joll would rather give the ball to than Mark Suchewski, who came into the game approaching 1,000 yards on the ground for the season and twice led his team with four-touchdown performances.

As Suchewski sprinted left and searched for a corner to turn, Batavia's James Cryer stayed with him step-for-step, catching him near the hash marks and stripping the ball.

Mogavero pounced on that precious gem of a ball just before it rolled out of bounds. The Blue Devils' bench exploded.

"The momentum shift was huge," Head Coach Brennan Briggs said. "I sensed it right there. It could have gone either way. If they punch it in, now you've really got to dig yourself out of a hole pretty late in the game. When we got that ball I heard one of the kids on our team say, 'now it's our time. We're going to win this game coach.' "

The Blue Devils didn't score on that drive, but the defense came up with a big stop on Geneva's next possession.

Anthony Gallo returned a punt deep into Panthers territory to once again put the Blue Devils on the doorstep of six points.

Taking a path similar to Suchewski's minutes before, QB Greg Mruczek found that corner to turn and with a Panther's defensive back closing in fast, dove for the pylon, giving the Blue Devils their first points on the night early in the 4th quarter.

In a bold move, Briggs called for a two-point conversion and on a spread offense Mogavero just barely nosed the ball over the goal line.

From there, it was ball control and a good game plan for the Blue Devils.

From watching film, Briggs said the coaches knew if they could spread Geneva's defense with receivers on the outside, it would open some up holes in the middle.

Wind gusts made passing a little more treacherous. Mruczek completed only six of his 19 tosses (for 85 yards), and twice balls intended for wideouts wound up in the hands of corner backs, but Briggs stuck with the game plan.

"Greg was struggling a little bit early on getting the ball out there, so even though it was there, we couldn't take advantage of it," Briggs said. "Eventually, they saw 'OK that's what they're trying to do', and eventually they're going to connect on it, so they widened out and we started going to one-back running with Dom and quarterback keepers."

Mogavero rushed for 110 yards on 23 carries.

"I give a lot of credit to our coaches," Mosgavero said. "We came in with a great game plan."

Stopping Suchewski was a big part of that game plan.

The plan was to stack the box, stop the run and let a strong-armed Joll, a fearless pocket passer, heave the ball down field as often as he liked.

"We went into the game saying we're going to gamble with the pass and we're going to shut down their run," Briggs said. "We're going to commit to stopping that run and we're going to put pressure on him if he's passing. We're going to say hey we've got athletes out there and you guys have got to have a great snap, great throw and great catch."

To be sure, Joll connected on a couple of those bombs, but tight coverage contained the yardage after reception. With a running game all but shut down, the Panthers couldn't sustain a drive.

With a lead in the 4th, a defense that could contain the Panthers, Briggs kept the ball on the ground and ran down the clock. With runs of three or four yards at a time, the Blue Devils were able to control the ball through most of the fourth quarter.

"We knew we had to fight," Mruczek said' "We have a lot better team than them, I thought. Man-to-man up front. We just had to grind and fight, grind and fight and get the W."

This year's Blue Devils team is a confident bunch of guys, Briggs said.

"That can sometimes be a bad thing," said the head coach, "but I love the swag of these kids."

It's all about the team, Mogavero said.

"I give a lot of credit to our guys every day," Mogavero said. "They play out their hearts every single game, every snap, every practice. We just give it and keep giving it. I feel like that's definitely going to propel us to the front, because you know, some people don't believe that we can be the team that beats good teams and I feel like we really turned the corner as a program.

"We love each other," he added. "It's the biggest team. We're not the biggest team size-wise, the biggest team in numbers, but we're close. That makes our hearts big."

Mogavero pointed to his chest, just below "Batavia," and said "We're big here."

Top Photo: Mruczek dives for the pylon for a TD. A two-point conversion would give Batavia the go-ahead and stay-ahead points.

James Cryer forces Geneva's star running back Mark Suchewski as the Panther's seemed to be on the verge of another score.

Batavia's bench celebrates Mogavero's fumble recovery.

Mogavero hits Joll just as he attempts another long pass. The play was ruled an incomplete forward pass.

Mogavero gets his helment buried in the turf at the end of a run.

This play was ruled an interception. Check the sequence in the slideshow below. It appears the defensive player trapped the ball on the ground before he had control. On the second play after the turnover, Mark Suchewski ran 90 yards for a Geneva touchdown.

Geneva's Marquan Ross with an interception on a pass intended for Malachi Chenault.

Mruczek hands off to Mogevero in the 4th quarter.

Danny Williams, who also had 10 tackles on the night, sacks Alex Joll in the 4th quarter.

Jarrett Laskett and Trevor Sherwood celebrate the Blue Devils victory after the final whistle.

To purchase prints from this game and ensure you have copies for years to come, click here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 11:58 am

Serious high school basketball players invited to mini camp at Batavia HS

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, Batavia HS, sports

Batavia varsity basketball coach Buddy Brasky hosts his annual mini-camp starting Monday at Batavia HS.

The camp is for experienced and serious basketball players only in grades 7 through 12.

The program will emphasize offensive skill development.

The cost is $125.

It is sponsored by the Basketball Booster Club.

The sessions are two nights a week starting from 7 to 9 p.m., Sept. 29. Additional sessions are Oct. 2, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27 and 30.

For more information and to sign up, contact Coach Brasky at (585) 356-4050 or [email protected]

Monday, September 22, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Blue Devils to honor hall of famers at dinner Saturday

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, blue devils, sports

The Batavia Boosters host their annual Hall of Fame dinner Saturday at Terry Hills.

Here are the images of the plaques for each honoree.

For more on the dinner and ticket information, click here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Football Preview: Blue Devils hunting more Ws in 2014

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, football, high school sports, sports

Coming into his third year as Batavia's head football coach, Brennan Briggs said both he and his players approach the 2014 season with some optimism.

There are seven returning starters on both sides of the ball, QB comes into his junior season as a second-year starter and there should be some other weapons on offense to help put points on the board.

"Overall the kids' attitude is very good," Briggs said. "They're excited coming into this season. They know they can win some ball games."

Joining Mruczek in the backfield will be a "committee" of runners.

"We've got some thunder and we've got some lightning back there," Briggs said.

During the off season, Mruczek has put the time in to make himself better, according to Briggs. He's studied film and schemes and really picked his brain to understand what it takes to run the offense.

"He's really been doing a great job for us. Great attitude, great commitment."

The coach said returning players who also seem ready to step up their game include Devon Koepp, Gunner Rapone and James Cryer.

Several sophomores who were part of the varsity last year are ready to assume bigger roles in 2014.

The Blue Devils are coming off of two consecutive 3-5 seasons.

Overall, the Briggs era continues to move forward as he works to shape the program according to his vision. 

"One of biggest things, coming into a program and kind of making it your own is setting that bar, setting the expectations of where you want it to be, so the kids understand exactly what you want  from them," Briggs said. "I think we're getting to that point where the kids understand what's expected of them every single day. They understand what kind of effort I'm asking from them."

The first game is Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m., at Livonia. The first home game is Sept. 12, 7 p.m., against Wellsville.

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