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Moffatt's bounce-back year buoys Bulldogs

Published: Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Batavia's Michael Moffatt makes a catch during practice at Mooseheart on Wednesday afternoon.

BATAVIA – Michael Moffatt’s Batavia teammates were there for him during a difficult period of his life last year.

If putting up an all-state caliber senior season is a way he can show his gratitude, Moffatt is happy to oblige.

“Just to come out and play the way I did [this year], it was really pleasing for me, and saying a thank you for the team, almost,” Moffatt said.

The resurgence of Moffatt, a senior cornerback/receiver, has been one of the most uplifting storylines this season for Batavia, which will face Richards on Saturday in the IHSA Class 6A state championship game at Huskie Stadium.

Along with senior running back Anthony Scaccia, Moffatt is one of two Bulldogs all-state honorees this season, quite the turnaround after an adversity-filled junior year.

One of the team’s top athletes, Moffatt made a strong impression at the varsity level as a sophomore, signaling a big career could be ahead. But in the summer leading up to his junior year, Moffatt was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a startling development for the athletic teenager.

“The doctors actually asked if anyone in my family had it because usually people that do have it, it’s family-related, but I was the first one, so it was a big surprise for us,” Moffatt said. 

After initially thinking the chronic, inflammatory bowel disease wouldn’t set him back too much athletically, Moffatt saw his energy steadily diminish throughout his junior football season, and his role on the team followed suit.

“Toward the beginning of the year, [in the season opener against Glenbard North], I felt fine, but then week by week, I just felt myself decreasing more and more,” Moffatt said. “I don’t think I had any ups and downs, I just slowly decreased.”

Moffatt and his family worked with doctors to adjust his treatment and make dietary changes that eventually helped his body bounce back.

Batavia coach Dennis Piron – also the Bulldogs’ track and field coach – detected Moffatt’s return to form during the spring track season.

“It was like over a two-week span, he started to run like himself again,” Piron said. “Up until that point, he didn’t even look like himself as an athlete. … He goes ‘Coach, I think I’m turning the corner,’ and then summer hit and in 7-on-7s he looked like it, and his energy was back. And then all the sudden you’re like ‘Oh, this is so good.’ “

Moffatt’s been better than good this fall – on both sides of the ball.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has earned rave reviews throughout the season for his pass coverage skills as the Bulldogs typically deploy him on opponents’ go-to receiver.

Offensively, he leads Batavia in receptions (42), a few of which coming in the form of memorable, acrobatic grabs. He has seven touchdown catches and 600 receiving yards.

“All-state football player as a senior from being a kid that we weren’t even sure was going to play as a senior,” Piron said. “That’s a wonderful story, and there’s not a better kid. What a good young man.”

Batavia senior Rourke Mullins – who plays both of the same positions as Moffatt – said he’s noticed a “night-and-day” difference in Moffatt this year.

“He’s back to Michael,” Mullins said. “That is a dynamic, explosive, playmaking player. It’s great to have him back.”

While Moffatt is physically in much better shape this year, competing at a high level in a sport as punishing as football while battling Crohn’s is taxing.

Senior linebacker Anthony Thielk is among the Bulldogs who are bummed Moffatt is leaning toward not playing college football as a concession to the disease.

“I’m probably going to go to school to play football so it just kills me to see him not, but he’s obviously had one of the best years ever [at Batavia], all-state,” Thielk said. “I’m proud of him, honestly.”

Saturday projects as Moffatt’s final game, and what a way to go out.

His teammates are grateful to suit up alongside him one more time, knowing what a huge piece Moffatt has been in the Bulldogs’ run at a state title.

“This 14-week run has taken a lot out of him, but if it is his last game – it’s a lot of our last games,” Mullins said. “We’re all going to give everything we’ve got. If it is the end of the line, then it is, but I know we’re not going to have any regrets.”

The Bulldogs will take the field Saturday knowing one of their best players also might be their most resilient. Moffatt’s senior season has been a heck of a “thank you” to the Bulldogs for their moral support.

“He’s got such God-given talent, and it was so frustrating as somebody who’s a friend of his, as somebody who’s a teammate of his, to see him struggle through what he did last year,” Batavia quarterback Micah Coffey said. “ ... It’s hard to see a teammate struggle like that and go through those hard times, but seeing him work his butt off to see him get back to where he is, it’s so cool to see all of that come to fruition and really come to life.”

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