ST. CHARLES – St. Charles North drove into the red zone in the final minute of the first half Friday against Batavia, desperate for a touchdown to keep contact with the Bulldogs.
Instead, Bulldogs senior Michael Moffatt made the play of the night, ripping the ball from North receiver Jon Merriweather and racing 95 yards upfield for a touchdown just a few feet from his exultant teammates on the sideline with 8 seconds to go before halftime.
“I heard Anthony Thielk coming down my side, and I slowed down a little bit because I knew he was going to make a big block for me, which he did,” Moffatt said after Batavia’s 44-7 Upstate Eight Conference River road win. “He laid that kid out, which set up a free path to the end zone, which was huge for us.”
Moffatt’s interception return yielded a 25-0 Bulldogs lead at halftime, and made a comeback difficult to fathom for a ground game-oriented North offense.
It punctuated a first half in which Batavia’s patented offensive versatility was on full display. Quarterback Micah Coffey completed passes to six different receivers and running back Anthony Scaccia was up to his usual tricks, scoring two rushing touchdowns to go with 81 first-half rushing yards.
The win keeps Batavia (6-1, 4-0 UEC River) alone in first place while the North Stars (3-4, 2-3 UEC River) suffered a potentially crippling loss to their postseason hopes under first-year coach Rob Pomazak.
Aside from the interception, Moffatt was at the heart of another huge momentum-swinger in the opening half.
On fourth-and-16 from the North 35 in the first quarter, Moffatt was credited with a 34-yard reception from Coffey down to the North Stars’ 1. The ball popped out, but officials ruled Moffatt maintained possession long enough, to the chagrin of the home crowd.
North’s defense then held for three straight plays before Scaccia scored from the 2 on a fourth-down sweep. The two-point try failed, but Batavia led, 12-0, late in the first quarter.
“They made the call that they saw,” Pomazak said of Moffatt’s catch. “I might have saw things differently.”
“I definitely knew I had possession of it,” Moffatt said. “I pulled it down and had it against my chest for a while, and then when it popped out is when I reached out and tried to score. … It was fourth down and I knew I had to pull that in for my team because at that point we were only up six, so that was huge for us.”
Given the way the game unfolded, one controversial call quickly became a footnote.
“They took advantage of us on the seams, and we worked on that all week,” Pomazak said. “Offensively we couldn’t really get much going. You fall in the hole, turn the ball over, short field position, their defense is putting up points at half. It’s killer. You can’t do it. You’re not going to win very many games.”
Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron forecast his defense would be a force now that several key players are back healthy, and that proved to be the case Friday.
The Bulldogs’ defense allowed no points; North’s Nick Drawant scored on an interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to bring North within 38-7 after Kat Stutesman’s PAT.
North standout running back Evan Kurtz was contained to 71 yards on 15 rushes.
“It was great,” Batavia linebacker Jake Hlava said of the Bulldogs’ defensive showing. “You could definitely tell all sides – D-line, linebackers, secondary, all together it was just a really great unit.”
Thielk gave Batavia its second pick-6 interception of the night late in the third quarter, picking off backup North QB Nathan Didier, who relieved starter Erik Miller earlier in the quarter.
The downside of the night for Batavia was a knee injury to junior offensive guard Mitch Krusz. Krusz was on crutches after the game, and Piron expressed concern about the prognosis.
“We’re deep [on the offensive line], that’s one of the strengths of our team, but Mitchell is our best player on the O-line, I think,” Piron said. “I think he’s an all-conference football player. It’s tough to have a kid like that go down like that.”
BATAVIA 44, ST. CHARLES NORTH 7 Batavia 12 13 13 6 – 44 STCN 0 0 0 7 – 7
HOW THEY SCORED
First quarter B – Scaccia 4 run (kick failed), 8:44 B – Scaccia 2 run (pass failed), 1:38Second quarter B – Green 20 pass from Coffey (Morgano kick), 3:46 B – Moffatt 95 interception return (kick failed), 0:08Third quarter B – Mullins 34 pass from Coffey (kick failed), 10:17 B – Thielk 54 interception (Morgano kick), 0:02Fourth quarter STCN – Drawant 69 interception (Stutesman kick), 7:50 B – Moneghini 18 run (kick failed), 4:19
RUSHING – Batavia: Scaccia 11-81, Green 4-20, Moneghini 4-31, Coffey 3-minus 1, Crowder 7-48. Totals: 29-179. St. Charles North: Kurtz 15-71, Sidari 4-25, Miller 3-21, Conroyd 1-1, Hunter 1-5, Didier 1-minus 5, Edlund 2-3, Page 1-minus 1. Totals: 28-120.PASSING – Batavia: Coffey 11-22-0-164, Acosta 1-4-1-5. Totals: 12-26-1-169. St. Charles North: Miller 8-17-1-65, Didier 2-8-1-10. Totals: 10-27-2-75.RECEIVING – Batavia: Moffatt 2-37, Zwart 4-22, Mullins 2-45, Berry 1-13, Knox 1-13, Green 1-20, Scaccia 1-19. Totals: 12-169. St. Charles North: Johnson 4-30, Kurtz 2-19, Edlund 1-6, Merriweather 2-18, Hunter 1-2. Totals: 10-75.