DeKALB – Plenty of teams roll into state football championship games fronted by present and future Division I recruits.
Richards is one of those teams with a few elite athletes on its side.
The Class 6A state champion Batavia football team might not end up producing any marquee, Football Bowl Subdivison football players, so Batavia's 34-14 thumping of Richards in Saturday's state championship game makes a compelling case for football being the ultimate team sport.
"This team has heart and a work ethic that demonstrates what it takes to win state," Batavia senior receiver/cornerback Rourke Mullins said. "It shows you don't need a bunch of D-I talent on your team to win a state title. If you all work as hard as you can and you all put the work in, you're going to be rewarded."
Batavia won its first state championship in program history with a whole bunch of very good high school football players.
Yes, senior linebacker Anthony Thielk has received some D-I attention, and the Bulldogs have numerous players that will compete collegiately at some level. But there are no four-or-five-star recruits being bombarded by recruiting pitches from colleges in prestigious conferences.
Batavia had two all-staters, Anthony Scaccia and Michael Moffatt. The 150-pound Scaccia has received most of his looks from smaller programs such as Butler and Drake, while Moffatt, who has battled Crohn's disease, is unlikely to play college football.
With a roster off the radars of big-time colleges, coach Dennis Piron and his coaching staff nonetheless managed to mold a true juggernaut, a team that closed the season winning 11 of its last 12 games by 20 points or more, with several high-caliber opponents among those victims.
Preparing a game plan against Batavia must have been exasperating for coaches hard-wired to identify and exploit weakness in the opposition. The Bulldogs were stout across the board, and had quality backups to boot.
"You could win a lot of football with a lot of really good players, and that's what we have," Piron said. "We've got a lot of good players. We don't really have a position where we don't have a good player. What I will tell you is we've got a lot of college football players. There are a lot of guys in this program that can play college football. I mean we might have as many as 10, 11, 12 guys who could leave here this year and go play college football.
"They love football. These guys love the game of football, and that's something special. They don't just play and they're done. They think about it, they live, taste, breathe it. I mean, it's a big, big thing for them."
Batavia has more than its share of talent, but that was only going to take the Bulldogs so far. Factor in the deep playbook employed by offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari and executed so crisply by the offense, and a healthier defense that tackled dramatically better than in the Week 2 loss to Richards, and you had a team that proved to be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the 6A field.
"I think it's hard for defenses to exploit us just because we have so many formations and sets, and we can run so many different things out of it," Moffatt said. "And then on the defensive side of the ball, we're always around to tackle – if there's a broken tackle, we're there."
Scaccia called the Bulldogs more brotherhood than team, and now this bunch will have the program's first state championship to bind them together even tighter for decades to come.
"Truthfully, I think we just have more heart than anyone, more ambition than anyone, any other team in the state," Scaccia said. "I think that's what separates us from everyone else."
Batavia doesn't have a bunch of guys who will be playing football on TV in the years to come.
But the Bulldogs were on TV Saturday in DeKalb, playing together one last time.
Man, did they put on a show.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.