Batavia in middle of another dream season
Moments after watching his team hold on for a 19-14 Class 6A quarterfinal victory over Lake Forest, Batavia head football coach Dennis Piron fielded questions from reporters.
How does it feel to reach the 6A state semifinals for the second time in 3 seasons?
"We've got a lot of talent in Batavia," said Piron. "Not much coaching though."
Piron was laughing when he said it but I would not believe him anyway even if he were serious.
Not when you have guided the Bulldogs to a record of 32-3 in 3 years as head coach and have the 2013 team a victory away from a trip to the 6A state championship game in DeKalb.
Not when you have a Hall of Fame coach in Mike Gaspari calling plays as your offensive coordinator or when you have a hard-nosed former Bulldog linebacker in Matt Holm on the coaching staff as your defensive coordinator.
There is little doubt that Piron may need to pinch himself occasionally though just to make sure this is all really happening.
"It's a dream season again," said Piron, whose teams have suffered just 1 regular-season defeat over the last 3 years (26-1 mark).
"It's a perfect storm," he added. "We've got veteran coaches throughout our program and we've got wonderful facilities. Plus, we've got as much community support as anybody."
That was evident during last Saturday's windblown, rain-soaked, mud-caked victory over a Lake Forest team that had not lost to a 6A school (previous losses were to 7A Lake Zurich and 8A Stevenson) until last weekend.
"On a day like this as nasty as it was and it was packed on our side (of the bleachers) … as usual," said an appreciative Piron.
"The people are all in this together."
Even down to the ones who made sure the footballs were as dry as possible last weekend.
"Hats off to our sideline crew," said Piron. "Our guys care so much about dry footballs, they spent all night (Friday) planning it out. It is a system that two of our coaches have.
"It's all the little stuff that guys care so much about," added the coach. "It's almost embarrassing how much effort everybody puts into this but in the end it's so worth it."
Piron also realizes he has many talented players on his side.
"It's a special group of kids," Piron said of a team headed by seniors Micah Coffey, Forrest Gilbertson, Ryan Minniti, Michael Moffatt, Rourke Mullins, Anthony Scaccia and Anthony Thielk.
"This is a group of kids that were very successful when they were younger."
"We've been playing football together since we were in eighth grade," Coffey said of his senior group.
"We were 10-0 as eighth graders. We had several guys (including Coffey himself) up on the sophomore team as freshmen and the sophomores finished 8-0-1 and tied St. Charles North for the conference title while the freshmen were 8-1."
Coffey's sophomore team enjoyed an unblemished 9-0 mark while Moffatt and Thielk were contributing players as sophomores for the Bulldogs' varsity squad that won 12 consecutive games before a 33-22 state semifinal loss to Prairie Ridge.
"I learned a lot from watching that (2011) team," said Coffey, who joined the varsity roster as a reserve quarterback behind Noel Gaspari for the playoffs 2 years ago.
"After that Prairie Ridge game, I saw how much it (losing) hurt those guys. We've really tried to follow their example."
Coffey has helped continue the Bulldogs' winning ways the past 2 seasons.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder owns a 21-2 record as the varsity starting quarterback.
One of the losses -- last year's 38-26 Class 7A first-round playoff defeat at the hands of a then 5-4 Downers Grove North team stung a little more than the 31-25 Week 2 loss to a Richards team that is still alive in the 6A title hunt.
"It (the loss) showed us that our intensity always has to be up," said Coffey, who topped the 2,000-yard passing mark (2,043) last weekend and has now thrown 25 TD passes this season.
"It showed us that an 8 seed can beat a 1 seed and it showed us that we've got to keep getting better."
Surrounded by offensive weapons like ever-elusive tailback Scaccia (1,541 rushing yards, 22 TDs), receivers Moffatt (40 catches, 563 yards, 6 TDs), Mullins (17 catches, 318 yards, 4 TDs), Jordan Zwart (32 catches, 537 yards, 4 TDs) and Tucker Knox (11 catches, 99 yards), tight end Noah Frazier (6 catches, 98 yards, 1 TD), and fullback Kevin Green (4 rushing TDs, 2 receiving TDs), the Bulldogs have gotten better.
"Last year, we let some teams hang with us in some of our games," said Coffey. "This year, we're mowing people over."
The scores are proof of that -- 49-20 over Geneva, 44-7 over St. Charles North, 47-14 over St. Charles East, 48-6 over DeKalb, 48-13 over Rolling Meadows.
Last weekend, the Bulldogs earned a hard-fought, 5-point victory as Coffey finished 10-of-20 for 222 yards and a pair of TDs.
He overcame a fumble and 2 interceptions, including a pick-6 that enabled Lake Forest to take a 7-6 first-quarter lead.
He also enjoyed the benefit of turning and handing off to the 5-7, 150-pound Scaccia, who somehow kept his feet in the sloppy conditions to rush for 136 yards and a TD on 32 carries.
"There are laws of science that don't apply to him," Coffey said of Scaccia, who also caught 3 passes for 36 yards and another score. "He makes my job easier and adds to my passing totals."
Coffey is not the first member of his family to play postseason football for the Bulldogs.
His older brother, Jordan, threw a pair of TD passes as a sophomore during Batavia's 30-20 6A state championship loss to Normal Community High in 2006.
"Jordan has been super encouraging," said Micah. "We'll text each other during the week but it's less about football stuff. He may ask what I am seeing from defenses, things like that.
"He loves being a spectator and I love having him around."
Since Coffey has elected to play college baseball at the University of Minnesota next year, he realizes every football game could be his last.
"I recognize this is the last season I'm going to be playing football alongside some of my best friends I have grown up with," said Coffey.
"There's nothing like high school football."
Coffey will have plenty of memories to look back upon no matter the outcome of Saturday's state semifinal clash against Rockford Boylan (12-0).
"My mom takes tons of photos during and after our games," said Coffey. "She loves scrapbooking."
With two more victories, she may need another scrapbook.
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org