Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 8/22/2014 2:55 PM

Batavia poised for more big things

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Batavia's football program is in full reload mode.

Coach Dennis Piron's Bulldogs come off the Class 6A state title, the school's first football title. Batavia has won the last three Upstate Eight Conference River division titles unbeaten at 6-0.

The 2014 squad has the pieces to again challenge for both.

"When you're behind a class that's historic you have a tendency to feel kind of in their shadow. I think this group of kids is ready to stake their claim to their own legacy and their own history," Piron said.

"I think no matter what we're an extremely difficult football team to deal with this year."

That "no matter what" clause includes players Batavia graduated. It's hard to replace tailback Anthony Scaccia and quarterback Micah Coffey -- who shared last season's All-Area honorary captain honor -- or linebacker Anthony Thielk and all-state receiver-defensive back Michael Moffatt.

Prep football deals with such adjustments. Batavia may operate a little differently and initially maybe not as fluidly particularly on offense, but opponents will have their hands full.

"It's all about confidence at this point," Piron said. "It's really, how do we perform on Friday night?"

The Bulldogs return five starters on each side of the ball, not counting returning place-kicker Howie Morgano. Returning experience is a somewhat vague concept here, since team depth allows numerous players to filter in and out with little to no reduction in talent.

A considerable difference over recent years is the quarterback position is not clearly a one-man deal. Junior Kyle Niemiec and senior Evan Acosta, last year's backup, both were vying for the job.

Piron said it's likely both will play, that the main difference is Niemic is right-handed and Acosta a lefty. Due to last year's squad averaging a program-record 42 points with about a 28-point victory margin, Acosta got in nine games on top of junior varsity action.

Scaccia owned a unique skill set of stops, starts, sidesteps and speed to set Batavia records for rushing yardage and total touchdowns. This year's backs start with similarly sized (5-foot-7) track sprinter Blake Crowder, who ran for 402 yards and 4 touchdowns. He'll be bolstered by defensive starter Jake Hlava and in what promises to thrill all but would-be tacklers, 220-pound defensive end and converted tight end Noah Frazier.

Canaan Coffey, coach's son Peyton Piron, Jon Schubert, Nick Stuttle and tight end Brandon Nutley help form basically an all-new receiver corps.

The best offensive news of all is on the line. Florida Atlantic commit Jack Breshears, All-Area center Patrick Gamble, Zach Tate and Mitch Krusz all started last season, Tate in for the injured Krusz. On a line that placed second overall at West Aurora's Battle of the Big Butts Lineman's Challenge, Dennis Piron has the luxury of bringing Krusz back slowly.

"I feel good about the offense, and there's nothing better than having younger skill guys than having a bunch of guys up front who can mash you," Piron said.

Defensively the quality starts with dual defensive ends Frazier and Josh Leonhard, who as juniors both eclipsed Batavia's sacks record, finishing with 13 and 12, respectively. Jon Wall heads what looks to be a rotating group of interior linemen.

Outside linebacker Hlava ranked fourth on last year's squad with 74 tackles, behind returning safety Nick Bernabei's 85 stops. Linebackers Jake Birkhaug and Joe Gross both played last season as did defensive backs Eddie Golden, an early season starter, and David Sharp.

When asked about the Bulldogs' weaknesses, Piron said things like picking up blitzes, improving receivers' blocking, handling trap blocks, recognizing opponents' offensive sets. In other words, details.

Repeating as champions is not Batavia's stated goal. Starting strong is more the message.

"We need to go out there and play like veterans," Piron said. "If we play like a veteran team I think it's going to be an awful lot of fun to watch us play."

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