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Micah Coffey looked like such a natural running free down the sideline for the game-clinching touchdown against St. Charles North Friday night in Batavia you'd have thought the Batavia quarterback had run the play all season.
Except most of the year Coffey has been winning games with his arm. This time it was his legs with a play Coffey said they had called exactly one time in the previous six weeks.
Coffey's 46-yard touchdown down the right sideline gave Batavia a two-score lead in its 35-20 victory over a gritty North Star squad.
"It was a blast," Coffey said. "My freshman year when I was on the sophomore team I was able to run a little bit. On a big play like that it makes all the hard work in practice and the weight room worthwhile."
While Batavia (7-0, 4-0) stayed unbeaten heading into next week's Upstate Eight River showdown at St. Charles East, Friday was quite a change from last year's game with the North Stars (3-4, 3-2) -- a 42-0 Bulldog romp.
This time, the North Stars had the ball twice in the second half with a chance to drive for the tying touchdown. Both times the Bulldogs forced a three-and-out, and then Coffey capped the drive to give Batavia its breathing room with his long touchdown one play after his quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1 gained a critical first down.
After the game Batavia coach Dennis Piron stressed to his team they need to play better football the rest of the way, a message Coffey took to heart.
"We all realize we're playing good football, not great football, we want to play great football come next week and throughout the rest of the season," Coffey said. "That's something we have to take care of. We have to look inside personally. That's something coach can address but it's something we have to take care of. This weekend the guys have to think about what they want to do and we have to clean that up. East is going to play well and we have to go get them."
Friday's game started with a bang, the teams combining for three touchdowns in the first four minutes and two seconds.
Marquise Jenkins blocked a punt to set Batavia up with 1st-and-goal at the 2, and Anthony Scaccia dove into the end zone for a quick score.
A 44-yard kickoff return by Nicholas McCullough gave the North Stars a short field, and Ryan Fischbach's 40-yard pass to Zach Kirby led to George Edlund's 1-yard TD run.
But Scaccia ripped off a 50-yard kickoff return, and on the next play Coffey found a wide-open Rourke Mullins for a 30-yard touchdown and a 14-6 lead with 7:58 still left in the opening quarter.
The frantic pace slowed from there, with the teams trading second quarter touchdowns -- a 1-yard dive from Batavia's Anthony Thielk matched by Edlund's second short TD run -- to leave Batavia up 21-13 at halftime.
Scaccia opened the third quarter with an 8-yard touchdown run only to see the North Stars execute a perfect slip screen to Kirby who wove his way for a 59-yard touchdown bringing the North Stars within 28-20 with 4:58 left in the third quarter.
That play energized the North Stars sideline, and the defense held twice to give the offense a chance to score the tying touchdown. Both times Batavia's defense came up with a quick stop.
"St. Charles North is well coached, they have won some big games, they have some good talent over there," Piron said. "I thought from the very beginning it would be a good game, they have been on a winning steak, they have gained confidence in those kids.
"At times we showed we were superior but at other times in the game we let them make plays and hang around and we've got to play a lot better the next couple weeks or these kids are going to be really disappointed down the stretch."
The North Stars played without two starting offensive linemen -- Wes Pasholk and Eric Giers, both expected back next week -- but got a big lift from backups Stephen Bancroft and Matt Smith. They helped Edlund run for 116 yards on 27 carries and gave Fischbach time to go 8 of 15 for 166 yards.
"Stephen and Matt did a great job coming in," Edlund said. "We were hitting leads in the middle. We never thought we could run in the middle but we were getting good gains, I was running hard. Slip screen has been a good play all season.
"We have to win the next two games for sure but if you can hang with one of the best teams in conference and state that's a positive."
That was the attitude his coach Mark Gould said especially enjoying how the North Stars matched Batavia's toughness. Now he wants to see the same thing the last two weeks against Larkin and South Elgin to get to five wins and playoff eligibility.
"Two games left, you got to win them both," Gould said. "I thought the kids battled real well. I definitely see progress (from the 2011 Batavia loss). Part of it is just playing physical ball. That's probably where we've seen the most progress. Keep it up these last two weeks and hopefully good things will happen."
Coffey added 142 yards passing going 12 of 19 to go with his 57 yards on the ground. Scaccia ran for 140 yards and his two scores while Dean Simoncelli, Vincent Cerezo, James Millette and Ryan Minniti (twice) all had sacks.
"Against Batavia, you make a mistake and are out of position and they are going to take advantage of it and that's what happened with their second touchdown," Gould said. "You have to play a perfect game against them."