The Batavia Blue Devils, 2016 edition, quietly took apart Greece Olympia/Odyssey on Woodward Field on Friday night to the point that the Spartans seems to have lost their fight by the third quarter.
It's as if the team that has won two consecutive Section V titles hasn't missed a beat. In fact, the win was the 20th straight for the program against a Section V opponent.
The final score was 39-0.
"I'm very pleased because going into the game I wasn't sure what we had," said Head Coach Brennan Briggs. "I wasn't sure how we would respond to things and how we were going to go when we got hit in the mouth. But these guys came out and proved that they bought in and they’re a tough group of kids and we’ve got some playmakers out there. I’m very excited for what they can do from here."
This edition slots Jerry Reinhart and QB1 and, Ray Leach and Codie Dioguardi in the backfield, Chandler Baker, Andrew Mruczek and Eric Davis at wideouts and a defense that includes Baker, Mruczek, Taiyo Iburi-Bethel, Anthony Ray and Jzon Richardson.
Those are not names that popped up in many headlines over the past two championship seasons, but they're all players poised to make an impact, if one game is any indication, in 2016.
Reinhart certainly has a lot of confidence in his teammates.
"Everybody asked me, they all asked me, 'how are you guys going to be this year?' and I was like, 'come to the first game and find out,' " Reinhart said. "I was very positive about our team. In the off-season, I thought we were going do great."
Briggs is impressed with the quiet leadership Reinhart has brought to the team, replacing Andrew Mruczek's older brother, Greg, at quarterback.
"Greg was more rah-rah and everything and great about it," Briggs said. "Jerry is more reserved, but he goes out there and gets the job done. He's a leader. He's a great leader. You saw, he made some big plays. He's not afraid to tuck it and run and he kept us together. I'm proud of him. He did a great job."
Friday was also a chance for Andrew to move out from under the shadow of his older brother, and in a big way, and significantly with a key interception in the first quarter.
"I think the biggest turning point in that game was Andrew Mruczek's interception," Briggs said. "They had a drive going, I think 10-plus plays, and we always say a nine-plus play drive is devastating for a defense and we were starting to feel it and all the sudden, number 21 comes in and makes a huge play for us. I’m happy for him because he’s been a trooper and he’s been working his butt off and he’s just silently been doing it."
Mruczek exemplifies the quiet confidence that characterizes the team.
"I think people are going to realize, Batavia football is here to stay and we're going to keep working hard every day," Mruczek said.
The offense was good, the defense was good, but special teams really stepped it up Friday night.
Richardson, a linebacker on defense, handles kickoffs, extra points and field goals. On kickoffs Friday, he consistently put the ball past the 10-yard line, and with defenders hustling down the field, the Spartans were routinely starting drives with their backs to the wall.
"That is so big for our team," Briggs said. "From the standpoint of having just great energy and momentum, they did a fantastic job for us and special teams cannot be overlooked because field position is huge in football games."
Briggs praised the work of special teams coach Ben Buchholz in motivating the players and getting each to do their part to plug holes and cut lanes, and John Garlock has been applying those lessons well, Briggs said.
"Johnny Garlock has been doing it for us for three years and he goes down like a missile," Briggs said. "He’s long snapper on punts and the first guy down there and on kickoff coverage, he makes the plays."
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