Anthony Scaccia carried the weight of Batavia’s state championship expectations on his 150-pound frame.
Michael Moffatt overcame a disease that dogged him throughout his junior year to deliver a scintillating senior season on both sides of the ball.
Even on an IHSA Class 6A state champion team loaded with high-caliber players, the consistent brilliance of the Bulldogs’ two All-State selections was unmatched, earning them Kane County Chronicle Football Co-Player of the Year honors.
The yards, touchdowns and gutsy runs piled high for Scaccia, but perhaps an underappreciated slice of his season is what he didn’t do – fumble the football.
Scaccia said he was “devastated” by a Week 2 fumble against Richards that was returned for a touchdown and contributed to the 13-1 Bulldogs’ lone defeat. It was his second fumble in two weeks. There would be no more.
Scaccia hung on for dear life throughout Batavia’s 12-game winning streak to close the season, fending off several of the elite defenses in all of Class 6A. That included a 41-carry performance in freezing weather at previously unbeaten Rockford Boylan in the state semifinal.
Twelve straight games without a fumble for a featured back?
“Doesn’t happen,” Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron said.
“Not when you get tackled and hit that many times, and not the way he slinks and jukes, and comes popping out of a pile of guys for five more yards,” Piron said. “How does he do that? It’s like a magic trick.”
Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari said he’ll never forget a regular-season practice during which Jarrett Payton – son of former Bears great Walter Payton – visited the Bulldogs, and teasingly asked the team what happened to Batavia in its one loss.
Amid a quiet pack of Bulldogs, Scaccia piped up, telling Payton, “I fumbled.”
“I think that says so much about him as as person, that that was his perception [of why Batavia lost],” Gaspari said. “So many of us, regardless of our age, don’t want to take that kind of responsibility.”
Scaccia rushed for 1,913 yards on 279 carries and added 313 receiving yards. He scored 35 touchdowns – 28 rushing, seven receiving – and rushed for three touchdowns apiece in Batavia’s state semifinal win at Boylan and state championship triumph in the Richards rematch.
Listed at 5-foot-7, 150 pounds, Scaccia tapped into his former-wrestler toughness, proving equally willing to chew up bruising yardage to move the chains as he was darting to the outside. His focus and intensity in practice set the standard for the team.
“He didn’t want to let anybody down, he really didn’t,” Piron said. “He played that way all the time.”
Like Scaccia, Moffatt said early this week he’s beaten up from the 14-game slate, and would have difficulty envisioning playing another week.
Moffatt’s ability to withstand the road to Huskie Stadium was all the more remarkable considering he’s a two-way standout and is affected by Crohn’s disease, which limited Moffatt as a junior.
“I’m so proud of Moffatt,” Scaccia said. “We’re best friends, and to see him come back from his disease this year and just have a monster year was pretty insane. And to play both sides of the ball, I think I played maybe three downs of defense this year, and I was just gassed. I don’t know how Moffatt can do that for a whole year.”
There was a glut of “How can Moffatt do that?” moments throughout the fall, regardless of which team had the ball.
Defensively, Moffatt played a superb cornerback, frustrating opponents’ top receivers on a weekly basis. He had five interceptions, a fumble recovered and caused and reliably stopped receivers in their tracks on the rare occasions they caught one in front of him.
“He never missed a tackle,” Piron said. “He’d drop you, right now. Just a really unique player.”
Piron recalled anecdotes of Moffatt becoming despondent as a youth baseball player if he made one out after a multi-home run game, calling him a ferocious competitor.
His footwork and athleticism allowed him to further rise to the occasion against a collection of outstanding receivers.
“There were a couple times they’d make a cut here or there and beat me by a yard or two but I felt I could always catch up with them, and when the ball was thrown, I was competing,” Moffatt said.
Moffatt also benefited from his advanced understanding of receivers’ moves considering he’s a receiver himself. A terrific one, at that.
Moffatt led Batavia in receptions (48) and receiving yards (727). In Batavia’s 34-14 state championship win over Richards, he put the finishing touches on his three-year varsity career with six receptions for 127 yards, highlighted by a 96-yard touchdown reception from Micah Coffey that became the longest TD pass in Class 6A state championship game history. Moffatt also ended Richards’ first offensive possession with an interception.
Scaccia is scheduled to visit Drake this weekend and is considering several other smaller college programs, while Moffatt’s football days are likely over.
That’s a decision Moffatt made before this season started, and while his dynamic senior year surely would open some college possibilities, the sport takes a toll on his health. He said he’s at peace with leaving college football to many of his teammates.
“I think the year that I had just made it easier,” Moffatt said. “Knowing I went out the way I did, it was pretty cool knowing this is my least year, and this is how I went out, as a state champion.”