DeKALB – The Batavia football team's excellence grew more striking each week.
By Thanksgiving weekend, in the IHSA Class 6A state championship game, that was mighty bad news for Richards.
The enormous momentum the Bulldogs generated in recent weeks bubbled over Saturday at Huskie Stadium, overwhelming Richards as Batavia won its first football state championship in program history, 34-14, in front of thousands of delirious B-Town backers.
Batavia's leaders rose to the occasion of the championship game, and the rest of the team followed suit, burying Richards early and never letting up.
"I'm so proud of everyone who took it upon themselves and took such great pride in this community," Batavia senior quarterback Micah Coffey said. "You know, we wanted to bring this championship home. It's an amazing feeling to know that we did."
Batavia led 14-0 by the end of the first quarter and 28-7 by halftime. The outcome never was in much doubt from then as Batavia (13-1) avenged its only loss of the season, a Week 2 setback to Richards in Batavia.
"We're just a really good team," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "We're a lot better than everybody realized, I guess. Even maybe us coaches at times, too. These guys, when they got to this level, they had another level to their game. This group of kids could raise their level above where they were week by week, minute by minute.
"I will tell you, when they could taste it, which was [last week at Rockford Boylan], they were going to get it. They knew it. They could feel it. You could see it in their eyes."
Any championship-game butterflies for Batavia vanished swiftly thanks to a sizzling start.
Richards' first drive ended with an interception from Batavia all-state cornerback Michael Moffatt on a deep ball by Richards QB Hasan Muhammad Rogers. Batavia then rode its other all-stater, fellow senior Anthony Scaccia, extensively during a 79-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard Scaccia TD plunge, one of his three rushing TDs.
Scaccia ran it 33 times for 189 yards and did not fumble against Richards' vaunted defense.
"I know they have a big linebacker crew, and they're very fast – I give them so much credit, a lot of respect – but we have a lot of big linemen, too, so when we can get to that next level and start hitting them, too, it really creates some big holes for us, and that's what we did today," Scaccia said.
Coffey and Moffatt made history of their own late in the first quarter. Batavia started its second possession at its own 2-yard line, and faced a third-and-8 from the 4. That's when Coffey connected with Moffatt on a flag route for a 96-yard touchdown connection, the longest TD pass in 6A title game history. After Howie Morgano's extra point, it was 14-0 Batavia with 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
"I saw that Moffatt had a little bit of separation, and I knew that I wasn't going to have a whole lot more of time in the pocket because obviously being down in our goal line, you don't have a whole ton of time, and those [linebackers] are really good, they were getting to me," Coffey said. "So I took a chance, and their safety made a bad decision. For Moffatt to be able to pull that in and then kick it into high gear and take it into the end zone was something really special."
Moffatt said he almost stumbled while tracking the ball.
"I was hoping I could keep my feet because I knew if I did, then we could turn it into big yardage," Moffatt said.
Richards (12-2) came within 14-7 after a 9-yard TD pass from Rogers to Dedrick Shannon early in the second quarter, but Batavia added two more TDs – a 25-yard pass from Coffey to a wide-open Rourke Mullins, and another 1-yard Scaccia run – to go ahead 28-7.
Batavia's defense stoned Richards on four plays, beginning at the Batavia 3-yard line, in the final minute of the second quarter to add another layer of luster to a dynamite first-half performance.
Batavia's lead swelled to 34-7 at the 8:16 mark of the third quarter on Scaccia's final TD run – giving him 28 on the season – and Batavia mostly was in clock-milking mode from there throughout a workmanlike, bruising second half.
Coffey finished 15 for 18 for 229 yards passing with one interception. Batavia picked off Rogers three times, with senior linebacker Anthony Thielk and Mullins following Moffatt's early interception.
Piron said the main difference between Batavia now and in the 31-25, Week 2 loss to Richards was a healthier defense and a team that embraced the need to improve as the season unfolded. In its season-closing 12-game winning streak, 11 of the wins came by 20 points or more.
"We really got better every week so I think what you saw near the end of the season, kind of what we did here in the playoffs, was a testament to the whole program, all those kids, coaches, and then these guys for every single week trying to raise their game and get better," Piron said.
Saturday marked Batavia's second state championship game appearance; the Bulldogs lost to Normal, 30-20, in the 2006 6A final, contested in Champaign. Batavia's championship is the first football state title for a Tri-Cities school and first for an area public school since Kaneland claimed consecutive titles in the late 1990s.
Batavia planned a host of celebratory gatherings throughout the weekend, including being hailed at halftime of the Batavia boys basketball team's home game Saturday night. Players relished the chance to bask with the community, though hugging and laughing with one another was gratifying in its own right.
"Just sharing this with them, the guys that I grew up, is just so special," Coffey said.
BATAVIA 34, RICHARDS 14
Richards 0 7 7 0 – 14
Batavia 14 14 6 0 – 34
HOW THEY SCORED
B – Scaccia 1 run (Morgano kick), 4:11
B – Moffatt 96 pass from Coffey (Morgano kick), 0:57
R – Shannon 9 pass from Rogers (Chiaramon kick), 10:49
B – Mullins 25 pass from Coffey (Morgano kick), 5:12
B – Scaccia 1 run (Morgano kick), 1:29
B – Scaccia 12 run (kick failed), 8:16
R – Rogers 4 run (Chiaramon kick), 6:56
RUSHING – Richards: Johnson 7-97, Rogers 16-65, Carpenter 1-1. Totals: 24-163. Batavia: Scaccia 33-189, Coffey 8-20, Green 5-13, Moneghini 1-0. Totals: 47-222.
PASSING – Richards: Rogers 18-41-3-226. Batavia: Coffey 15-18-1-229.
RECEIVING – Richards: Shannon 8-112, Willett 4-27, Tears 4-21, Carpenter 2-66. Totals: 18-226. Batavia: Moffatt 6-127, Scaccia 4-33, Zwart 2-28, Green 2-16, Mullins 1-25. Totals: 15-229.
TOTAL OFFENSE – Richards 389, Batavia 451