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The Dennis Piron era couldn't have began in better fashion for the coach who bleeds Batavia Crimson and Gold.
The Bulldogs jumped on defending Class 6A runners-up Marmion early and didn't let up, ending with a convincing 36-7 victory in a lively atmosphere in front of packed stands on both sides of the field.
Piron, a Batavia grad and the team's longtime defensive coordinator, took over this year for Mike Gaspari, whose son Noel threw for a pair of touchdowns in Piron's first win.
"It took my dad I think 17 games to get his first win and Piron gets one in his first game," smiled Noel Gaspari. "It feels great. I've known him my whole life."
Noel Gaspari was just as glad to write a different ending to last year's season-opener, which the Cadets rallied to win in the final minutes.
There was no such drama this time. When Batavia started its sixth possession of the game on its own 41-yard line, that represented its worst field position of the game.
Seven of Batavia's 10 first-half drives began in Marmion territory -- the 21, 15, 43, 19, 5, 38 and 44. The Bulldogs and their shotgun, 5-receiver look didn't take advantage of the short field every time, but they did often enough to take leads of 14-0 after one quarter and 30-0 at halftime.
"It was incredibly important," Piron said of the field position. "It also helped calm the nerves down. I think that got us off on the right foot."
It certainly wasn't the pretties first half. The teams combined for 8 turnovers, and that doesn't included a pair of bad snaps on Marmion punts that forced A.J. Friedman to run for his life.
After the first bad snap gave Batavia the ball at Marmion's 21, Friedman got the ball back for the Cadets with the first of his two interceptions.
But Marmion's rotating quarterbacks never got the offense going, and Batavia answered with the first of its 4 interceptions, this one by sophomore Mike Moffatt. Noel Gaspari connected twice with Evan Zeddies to get Batavia out of a 3rd-and-23 (the Bulldogs were penalized 10 times for 115 yards), setting up Alec Lyons for a 1-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
Batavia made it 14-0 with 3:43 left in the first quarter when Jon Gray turned a short pass from Gaspari into a 39-yard touchdown down the right sideline.
Brandon Clabough kicked the first of his 3 field goals, a 23-yard for a 17-0 lead. Batavia's defense got in the act when Austin Higgins, who also had 3 tackles for loss, returned an interception 36 yards for a 24-0 lead.
Gray nearly followed with another interception return for a touchdown only to be brought down at the 5-yard line. That set up Gaspari's second touchdown pass, this time to Zeddies.
By halftime, Marmion quarterbacks Dan DiBartolo and Charlie Faunce had both thrown a pair of interceptions. The two rotated much of the first half and finished it with those 4 picks and 2 completions.
"I didn't see this coming," Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said. "We had some excellent practices.
"They (Batavia) have had this game on the calendar. They are a very good football team. You can't give them a short field. They smelled some blood and went after it. They played very well and obviously we didn't play very well."
Batavia settled for 40- and 31-yard field goals by Clabough in the second half while Marmion got on the scoreboard when Garret Becker broke free for a 77-yard run up the middle with 4:53 left after Batavia had taken its starters out.
That run pushed Becker to 115 yards on 14 carries, but for most of the night Batavia's starters dominated. Piron credited Lyons' play in the middle against Marmion's best lineman Ryan Glasgow, while Batavia defnsive linemen Austin Lewis, Higgins, Mac Brown, Marquise Jenkins and company all made life miserable for Marmion's offense.
Even better news for Batavia? They will soon have Cole Gardner back in mix. Piron said his 2010 all-conference defensive end and tight end was cleared by doctors to play Friday as he recovers from a knee injury.
"We are such a hard-hitting team," Piron said. "We have a high intensity and speed level on our defense. And our skill guys are all game-breakers so you can't double cover them."
Gaspari finished 13 of 25 for 197 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, both by Friedman who nearly had one more.
He spread his passes around to six receivers, with Gray leading in yards at 63.