Cheektowaga's athletic playmakers and Batavia's inability to convert a couple of scoring opportunities in the first half were the big difference in the Blue Devils' second consecutive try at a Far West Regional Championship.
A win would have propelled Batavia into the state championship Class B semifinal. Instead, as happened last year, the team traveling to Syracuse is the Warriors.
Batavia led from the opening drive until nine minutes left in the game, when Cheektowaga tied it up at 36-36. When Batavia couldn't sustain a drive on the following possession, the Warriors moved the ball downfield effectively and scored on a four-yard by Tyr Willingalea with 1:36 left on the clock. A turnover with less than 20 seconds left in the game, and the score 43-36 gave Cheektowaga the championship.
"They played so well and they've been such tough kids," said Head Coach Brennan Briggs. "My heart breaks for them. I mean, right now, my heart's broken, really. These guys, I love them. We've got 18 seniors and it's going to be very tough saying goodbye to them."
Briggs felt coming into the game his team would be able to run on the Warriors and Dom Mogavero put together a great game. He rushed for 125 yards on 33 carries. He carried the ball in twice and scored another touchdown on defense with a fumble recovery. QB Greg Mruczek had four carries for 76 yards, including a long of 61 yards. Ray Leach carried the ball six times for 29 yards, and Jonathan Barber had two carries for 19 yards and a TD.
Mruczek was 7-20 passing, including two interceptions.
Ryan Hogan caught four of those passes for 108 yards, including a long of 58 yards.
Batavia scored easily on its first drive and scored again less than a minute later on an Adonis Davis interception, making the score 14-0. Cheektowaga struck back quickly on its next position, but from then on until the fourth quarter, Batavia always managed to keep the game out of reach of the Warriors. Or, the Warriors used their athletic weapons to keep the Blue Devils in reach.
Cheektowaga had the last three scores of the game, a 27-yard run by Willingelea that put the Warriors within eight, a five-yard run by Eric Bartnik and a two-point conversion that tied the score, and then the final TD that sealed Batavia's fate.
"They're an athletic team," Briggs said. "They've been known for it all year. They've been down and they've come back. Even when we were up two scores, I said it to my guys, 'They are the comeback kids. They did it last year and they did it this year. They're a good football team.' "
Leach picking up a fumble that set up a Batavia TD.
Terren Lorrie was defensive player of the game.
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