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Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Notre Dame beats Batavia in hockey, 3-0

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, hockey, Notre Dame, sports

In hockey today at Faletti Ice Arena, Notre Dame beat Batavia 3-0.

It's the first of three meetings this season between the two rivals.

Goals were scored by Peter Madafferi and Spencer Misiak, who scored twice.

Top photo: Notre Dame's first goal in the net.

To purchase prints, click here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 10:13 am

Blue Devils turn up defensive heat, hold Brighton to 27 points

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

The normally stingy Batavia Blue Devils defense got scorched for 62 points earlier this week by Pittsford-Mendon, so over the past couple of days, Head Coach Buddy Braskey has drilled his team on defensive fundamentals.

The Brighton Barons paid the price Friday night.

Coming off a 58-point game against Greece-Odyssey, the Barons found it much harder to score against the Blue Devils.

In fact, they were held scoreless for the first six minutes of the game and managed only two points in the first quarter.

By the end of the game, Brighton was only 8 for 51 from the field (a 16 percent field goal percentage) and lost 47-27.

"I thought against Pittsford-Mendon on Tuesday, our defense really wasn't up to par," Braskey said. "We made a lot of fundamental mistakes with our principles.  We showed it to them on field, worked on it in practice, and I thought today, we took what we learned in practice and transferred it to the game."

Right from the tip-off, Batavia employed a press to pressure ball handlers, create turnovers and limit shot attempts. 

Even when Brighton appeared to get open looks, the shots weren't falling, and Brasky said that even with those seemingly open shots, looks can be deceiving.

"I think we rushed them," Brasky said. "We never let them get comfortable. ... Even when they were getting open shots, they really never could get their feet set because we were closing out really hard on their shooters."

With only 47 points, though, Batavia still needs to find away to get some scoring help for senior standout Jeff Redband.

Redband scored 21 points Friday, coming off a 32-point performance Tuesday.

In both games, only Malachi Chenault got into double-digits scoring, with 10 points each night.

None of the guards have yet stepped up and shouldered some of the load.

"It's not happening yet (getting help for Redband)," Brasky said. "We're searching. (Jerrett) Laskett, (Tee Sean),  Ayala, (Alex) Canty are three guys that are all good shooters, but they haven't found their rhythm yet. Malachi is contributing inside, but we've got to find some more scoring from the guard position, for sure."

Brasky is pleased with the progress Chenault is making under the boards.

"We're working hard with him to get the ball and go strong and not hesitate," Brasky said. "Malachi tends to think when he gets the ball. We're trying to get him to get the ball, make a quicker decision and just go strong.  I thought he did a much better job of that tonight."

It would also help Blue Devils scoring to take better care of the ball. Batavia turned the ball over 23 times against Pittsford-Mendon and 19 times last night. Brasky said that number needs to get down to eight or nine.

Overall, Brasky said his team is responding well in practice, working hard and getting better and better.

Next up, Bishop-Timon, a private school in Section 6, at home Tuesday. Game time is 7:45 p.m.

Top photo: Greg Mruzcek.

Trevor Sherwood

Jeff Redband

Malachi Chenault

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Batavia's Brennan Briggs named a Buffalo Bills/National Guard Coach of the Week

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

The Batavia Blue Devils Head Football Coach Brennan Briggs will be recognized on the field Sunday before the Buffalo Bills game against the Green Bay Packers as the Buffalo Bills/National Guard Coach of the Week for week 11.

The school will receive a $1,000 contribution to the football program as a result of the award.

During the game, Briggs will be seated inside the Red Zone section, complements of the Buffalo Bills.

File photo.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Turnovers swamp Lady Blue Devils in home opener

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

Turnovers bedeviled the Lady Blue Devils in their home-game debut for the 2014-15 season as they suffered their first defeat of the campaign, losing to Mendon 54-33.

This is a better team than they they showed Tuesday night with the four returning starters, Essence Williams, Tiara Filbert, Sam Cecere and Madison McCulley.

"We've got a great group of girls," Head Coach Marty Hein said. "They're all returners. We lost one senior. Our bench is stepping into their jobs. We'll be there. It just wasn't a good night tonight."

It was a sloppy first quarter for both Mendon and Batavia, with both teams struggling to retain possession. Batavia (1-1) took a 15-10 lead. But Mendon started to find its rhythm in the second quarter, scoring 18 points and holding Batavia to nine points.

The game became lopsided in the third quarter, with Mendon scoring 15 while the Lady Blue Devils didn't knock down a single field goal and scoring its lone point on a free throw.

Batavia needs to be more aggressive on offense, Hein said, pushing the ball up the court faster on inbounds and transitions.

"When we push the ball, we're a much better team," Hein said. "In the last five minutes, we were looking ahead, running the floor and we did better. It was the same thing in Albion. We waltzed the ball up the floor, and if you're meeting good pressure, you're not getting into your offense. When we're actually running the floor, at least we're getting their defense below the foul line."

Filbert, a junior, remains the team's offensive fire power. She scored 16 points Tuesday and has 25 on the season along with 13 rebounds and nine steals. 

McCully had seven points and Williams had four.

Now, Hein said, the team knows what it needs to work on.

"There's nothing wrong with a loss as long as we learn something from it," Hein said.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 11:58 am

Batavia falls to Mendon 62-58 in OT

post by Steve Ognibene in basketball, batavia, Batavia HS, high school sports, sports

Blue Devils got off to a heartbreaking loss in their first game last night versus the Pittsford Mendon Knights.  Senior Jeff Redband led the devils with a game high 32 points and added 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks.  The 1st qtr Mendon sunk three from 3pt. range and led 19-14.  

2nd quarter Batavia was down by 10 and rallied back to cut Mendon’s lead to 4 leading at halftime 32-28.  Batavia went on a run where Freshman Tee Sean Alayla and Jeff Redband added a couple 3 pt. plays to take the lead after 3 quarters 45-42. 

Batavia was down by 2 and Jeff Redband sunk a key basket and both teams ended tied 56 each sending the game into overtime.  However Batavia’s turnovers got them in trouble where Mendon capitalized by adding 6 points versus Batavia’s 2 and won the game 62-58 in overtime.  

Mendon’s Zuril Hendrick and Daniel Jacob each scored 17 points on the night.  Batavia’s Junior Malachi Chenault tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds giving him a double, double and Senior Jerrett Laskett added 9 points for Batavia. 

Batavia hosts Brighton this Friday at 7:45pm for their first home game.

(photo above) Batavia #24 Junior forward Malachi Chenault going for 2.  

(photo below) Batavia #3 Junior guard Greg Mruczek getting ready for a pass.

(photo above) Batavia #14 Junior guard Trevor Sherwood jumpshot 

(photo below) Batavia's freshman #0 Tee Sean Alaya shooting for 3 points.

Batavia #40 Senior forward Jeff Redband layup for 2 points in the 4th quarter to tie the game:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 7:05 am

Batavia drama club marks 100th year of theater at school with Shakespeare

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, batavia, Batavia HS, theater

Theater-in-the-round, Shakespeare, celebrating 100 years of live stage performances at your school. These are all heady things to take on for a group of young thespians, but the Batavia High School Drama Club is pulling it all together nicely, says advisor Caryn Burke.

It was actually a student who suggested the club perform Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" this year after noticing the comedy was the first public stage performance by BHS students in 1914. Though none of the students had much experience with Shakespeare, they've all taken to it like sprites to pixie dust.

Burke admits she was a little apprehensive once it was settled that they would perform "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

The first step was for them just to get through a reading of the play.

"A lot of them had no idea how to read or even comprehend Shakespeare," Burke said. "Once they got it, they just ran with it. Once they understood what the show was and what all the dialogue meant and they had a good understanding of it they just took it from there."

The version the students will perform this Friday and Saturday is an adaption suitable for a high school performance by Ken Womble. None of the language is changed and the plot and themes remain the same, Burke said. It's just a slightly abridged version.

Even so, taking on Shakespeare, especially in the theater-in-the-round format Burke prefers for the winter show could be a bit daunting. She says the club has been able to remain focused on its primary goals.

"It's supposed to be fun," Burke said. "It's supposed to be educational, but there's a time and place for Shakespeare and that's not always necessarily in a high school drama club. The kids rose to the challenge."

The lead cast is Ross Chua, Andrea Gilebarto, Chelsea Jensen, Evan Bellavia, Lauren Dunn, Cara Ranalli, Alex Mott and Nick Piedmont.

Show times Friday and Saturday 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 each and only available at the door. Seating is limited to 100 patrons.

Friday, November 28, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Hoops Preview: Blue Devils looking to players with buckets of potential help score points

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

The Blue Devils will be a team in search of points when the squad hits the hardwood Dec. 10.

We know senior Jeff Redband can hit buckets full of baskets, but we'll have to see who is going to help him out.

It could be Jerrett Laskett, who showed a deft touch at times coming off the bench last season as a sixth man. Or Malachi Chenault, a big man in the front court who has been working on his offense. There's also Alex Canty, who was MVP of the JV team last year. Jake Schrider is developing well as a young big man. Ryan Hogan returns from a sojourn in Brockport and has shown potential. Trevor Sherwood is athletic and will compete for time at point guard. Greg Mruczek is a returning starter. Freshman TeeSean Ayala seems unstoppable from three-point range in practices and scrimmage, but he's yet unproven in a varsity game that counts.

"We've got a lot of returners," said Head Coach Buddy Brasky. "We've got experience and good leadership.  We'll be a pretty good defensive team, but time will tell how good we are offensively."

The team is getting a bit of a late start following the football team's team run in the post season. Among the starters, only Redband didn't play a fall sport and is in "good basketball shape," Brasky said.  There's some rust to scrape off with some of the other players, but "they're working hard at it," the coach said.

The team will look foremost to Laskett to replace the points of graduate Justice Fagan, but he showed flashes last year of scoring ability.

"When he gets it going, he can really get it going," Brasky said.

Chenault is a junior who is looking more athletic coming into the season and Brasky said he worked reallly hard at developing his offensive post presence over the summer.

Then there is Ayala (top photo with Brasky in the background), who can hit 10 or 12 three pointers in a row in practice and scored six times from beyond the arch in a scrimmage the other day.  He's just a freshman. He seems to have the touch, but there's still a lot he needs to learn about basketball, especially in Brasky's defensive scheme.

"We're trying to bring him along slowly, but he's got a skill that's hard to teach and hard to find," Brasky said. "He can really shoot the three."

Even with this looming question mark -- who will the consistent scorers be -- Brasky is feeling good enough about his squad to think a league title or even sectional title isn't out of the question.

"I'm pretty optimistic, but it's going to take some hard work and we're going to have to find some kids who can score a little bit to help Jeff out with the scoring load," Brasky said. "You know, last year everybody boxed-and-oned him and triangle-and-twoed with him and Justice. We need other guys to put the ball in the basket so it doesn't have to do it all himself."

Jeff Redband shooting.

Malachi Chenault with a slam.

Jerrett Laskett.

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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.

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