Batavia's Coffey-Scaccia a combo that can't be beat
Glenbard North football coach Ryan Wilkens stood alone in an open practice field more than an hour before the 2012 season opener against Batavia. He considered the task at hand.
Wilkens was asked the difficulties Batavia's spread offense presented. He said that unlike teams that use a variety of formations yet run the same plays out of them, with players showing similar tendencies depending on where they line up, Batavia's blur of formations and the different ways the positions themselves are used create an array of unpredictable possibilities.
Featuring a junior quarterback and a junior running back, Batavia beat the eventual 2012 Class 8A runner-up 42-41.
A bright future had dawned.
It takes a creative, dedicated coaching staff to devise a diverse and high-powered scheme that keeps opponents off-balance defending both run and pass. From there it takes skilled players precisely executing their roles to pull it off at a championship level.
In quarterback Micah Coffey and running back Anthony Scaccia, the 2013 Bulldogs fielded that perfect balance of yin and yang. Avenging its sole loss in 14 games with a dominant 34-14 win over Richards in DeKalb to win the Class 6A state championship, Batavia's 628 total points blew away the prior record from 2011 by 100 points despite several lopsided contests in which the outcome was sealed by halftime.
Like two sides of the same coin -- a third side would be a downright scary defense -- the commanding Coffey owned the skies with 2,466 yards and 29 touchdown passes. Diminutive yet slippery to stop as a greased pig, Scaccia zigged and zagged for school records of 1,913 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns. Throw in his receiving totals and Scaccia scored 35 times.
Without one, or the other, it's doubtful Batavia would have won that title. That is why Anthony Scaccia and Micah Coffey are the honorary co-captains of the Daily Herald 2013 Tri-Cities All-Area Football Team.
"Both of us definitely feel the same way. I make his job easier and he makes my job easier," Coffey said on Sunday, the night after Batavia's first state football championship. Earlier that night the team rode flatbed trucks bound for the Riverwalk to highlight a community celebration. Excited junior lineman Jack Breshears was drafted to flip the switch and light the town Christmas tree.
It was a bright finish by a team that kept opponents in the dark.
"Teams are indecisive whether to be blitz-heavy or coverage-heavy, how we're going to do against those things," Coffey said. "Even if they do certain things, Scaccia is so good he can find ways to beat guys. I wouldn't want to be in a film session trying to game plan for how he can run the ball and for how we as a team can throw the ball."
Due to the diversity of Batavia's scheme under offensive coordinator and Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Mike Gaspari, 14 different Bulldogs ran the ball at least once, for a total of 3,221 yards, just 17 yards off the 1993 program record of 3,248. Thirteen players caught at least one pass, for 2,602 yards.
"While there's times you know what they're going to do, you just can't stop it. I really couldn't be happier for what they did, it's a really great thing," said St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak, who despite having a decent team himself, lost 44-7 to Batavia in Week 7.
"The way that they (Scaccia and Coffey) complemented one another, and with the addition of (receiver-cornerback) Michael Moffatt, those kind of athletes come around once every ten years, if you're lucky," Pomazak said.
How would Scaccia stop the Bulldogs?
"I really don't know," said the 5-foot-7, 150-pound senior, who shifted to running back from cornerback when he arrived at Batavia because, he said, "I thought I could help the team out."
"We're very well rounded, we have a big offensive line, we have a lot of playmakers at wide receiver and there's a fantastic quarterback, so I don't know," said Scaccia, making his first official visit this weekend, to Drake.
"I'd say Richards was probably the best defense we've faced this year, or Lake Forest, and I guess they didn't stop us but they definitely contained us. I think my longest run of the night was 11 yards."
Scaccia still gained 132 yards on 32 carries in that 19-14 quarterfinal win over Lake Forest, played in probably the coldest, windiest weather and sloppiest conditions of the season.
"That was the only way against us," Bulldogs head coach Dennis Piron said only partly in jest. "You had to find a way to have the elements go against us somehow."
It never really happened.
After Week 2 -- the first Richards game, in which Coffey completed 21 of 37 passes for 226 yards with a touchdown pass and the first of his 6 touchdown runs on the season -- Scaccia was never truly contained. Only twice over the next 12 games did he fail to break 100 yards and those were easy wins over St Charles North and Elgin. After fumbling late in the game against Richards, Piron said Scaccia tearfully vowed never to fumble again and he never did.
Scaccia, whose water bug running style is reminiscent of Barry Sanders ("but I'd like to be Anthony Scaccia," he said), ran for 177 yards against Geneva, 186 against Larkin and 195 against DeKalb in the 6A playoff opener.
The Bulldogs pounded the ball against Rockford Boylan in the semifinals, Scaccia running 41 times while Coffey completed a clean 7 of 11 passes for 194 yards.
In the title game against Richards Scaccia ran 33 times for 189 yards while Coffey completed 15 of 18 passes (an unconscious 83 percent) for 229 yards and 2 touchdowns. Coffey and Moffatt connected on a 96-yard touchdown strike that set a record for longest touchdown pass in a 6A championship.
Coffey said the first time this season he and Scaccia truly "both kind of had things rolling" was the 49-20 win at Geneva in Week 3. Coffey completed 10 of 16 passes for 165 yards, threw for a touchdown and ran for 3; Scaccia ran for 177 yards and a touchdown and caught 3 passes for 33 yards and another score.
Offensive coordinator Gaspari said it'd be easy to have Coffey hand the ball off to Scaccia 40 times every game, but that's not his bag. Obviously, with Batavia going 34-3 the last three seasons with a 2011 6A semifinal appearance and a championship, it's a system that works.
"We want to spread the ball around and get as many kids involved as we can," Gaspari said. "It's high school football. That's always been my focus -- to try to get as many kids involved. Their experience here, once it's over, you're never going to get it back."
Yes, but anyone connected with Batavia's first high school football title in a program dating to 1909 will never have to buy a pop in this town again.
"We're treated like celebrities," said Scaccia, an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 6A All-State pick as was Moffatt. Coffey, a three-sport athlete who signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Minnesota, received 6A honorable mention.
They're treated like celebrities. They work like dogs. Piron said Coffey will sprint from drill to drill, from water break to drill. Both Piron and Gaspari noted Scaccia goes 100 percent on every play in practice, even if he's a decoy.
"The team chose me to be a captain, so I have to act like one," said Scaccia, a co-captain along with Coffey and fellow seniors Rourke Mullins, Forrest Gilbertson and Ryan Minniti.
Leadership is big with this duo, be it Coffey's calming, positive confidence or the determination and example of Scaccia.
Coffey's parents Brian and Lorene, who sent older sons Jordan and Jesse through Batavia and have a sophomore there now, Canaan, are missionaries. Brian Coffey is pastor at First Baptist Church of Geneva, which holds a youth group attended by about 10 Batavia players, Micah said. Scaccia has attended for the past couple years.
"That's been really helpful for us kind of growing together," Coffey said.
It's the kind of trust that leads to success, on and off the football field.
"He's made a huge impact on my life," Scaccia said. "He's always there for me. We're real good buddies and I hope we stay close in college."
Regarding Batavia football, they'll by joined forever.