The watchword for the Batavia Blue Devils this football season has been relentless. Coach Brennan Briggs has it stenciled on the back of his game day windbreaker. But there's another word that can apply to the 2015 edition of the team: dominating.
Over the past six games, no opponent has been able to finish a game within three touchdowns of the Blue Devils. Whether on the ground or through the air, the Batavia offense has scorched every defense they've faced and the defense has been, well, relentless.
The Blue Devils started the year ranked #1 in a coaches' poll, but Briggs wouldn't discuss on the record how much confidence he had in his team. After today's win over Livonia by a score of 52-20 for the team's second straight Class B Section V title, Briggs admitted he believed this team was that good all along.
"It's what I expected," Briggs said. "I downplayed it all year because there was a lot of hype. I don't like the high expectations. I just like to out there and get the job done. The kids have answered the bell every single week."
Briggs (top photo with the trophy) is in his fourth season as head coach and he becomes the first head coach in school history with back-to-back sectional titles in football to his credit.
A lot of credit for today's win goes to the ground game led by Dom Mogavero and Ray Leach, and senior QB Greg Mruczek's performance was certainly title worthy, but what it really comes down to, the players say, is the play of the offensive and defensive lines.
"They've been incredible all season for us," said Mruczek, who was 9-11 passing for 158 yards and two TDs. "They work hard every single day at practice. They work hard. The trenches are where football games are won and I think people overlook that sometimes."
Mogavero put together another stellar performance, rushing for 177 yards on 14 carries, scoring twice, and he gave all the credit to the linemen.
"Those guys work hard in the trenches," Mogavero said. "They played their tails off."
Danny Williams, who has been a team leader on defense all season and had eight tackles today, said it's an amazing feeling to be part of a winning team that works so hard together.
"We're such a family," Williams said. "I've never been on team that's got my back more than this team does. However I play, they've got my back. If I mess up, there's somebody right there to make the tackle. If I don't mess up, I make the tackle or they make the tackle. It's so easy to get down, but they just help me pick up. It's great."
Batavia came ready to play a tough, physical game, Briggs said.
"The nice thing is, they're (Livonia) a smashmouth team and we wanted to show that 'hey, we can beat people up in the trenches and we can do a great job,' " Briggs said. "Our kids just played relentless football all day long. They wanted it and nobody was going to take it from them."
Trevor Sherwood had three catches for 32 yards and a TD, Malachi Chenault had two grabs for 15 yards and Anthony Gallo scored on a 60-yard TD reception, which was the second play of the game and set the tone for the day.
"It was definitely huge," Mogavero said. "It definitely gave us a little kickstart."
That well-balanced game is part of what makes Batavia hard to beat, Briggs said.
"We have athletes all over the field and we also have tough guys in the trenches, and if we want to run the ball we can run it," Briggs said. "If we want to throw it, we can throw it. A lot of it comes down to what we're seeing, what we think we can do and what we can do to open other things up. Our line, our receivers and our running backs -- all of them together just make a great football team."
Next week, we get to find out if Batavia is indeed that good. They will play Cheektowaga for the Far West Regional Championship, a stepping-stone to a shot at a state championship game. The Blue Devils went into last season's regional with high expectations, only to bump into the reality of the Warriors, losing 35-18. The 2015 edition of the Warriors are 12-0 and have as many dominating wins as Batavia.
They players are eager to go against the Warriors, they said, with some thoughts of avenging last year's loss and some just out to prove they deserve the victory.
"We're going to want some revenge, but we've got play hard just like we played today and then we'll see what that score, what that outcome, is," Williams said.
Mruczek is excited at the prospect of matching up with Cheektowaga again.
That's definitely going to be a fun game," Mruczek said. "We're all looking forward to the opportunity to play them again for sure."
Asked if the team was looking for a chance for revenge, Mogavero wouldn't go there, not quite.
"We're definitely grateful for the opportunity to play them again this year," Mogavero said.
Briggs downplayed any talk of revenge, even after saying, "we feel like we owe it to them."
"They're a great football team," Briggs said. "We're going to have to come prepared and I know they're going to come prepared."
Game time for the regional is 1 p.m., Sunday, at Sahlen's Stadium.
Anthony Gallo made a 60-yard TD reception on the second play of the game, and after that, there was no more looking back for the Blue Devils.
Dom Mogavero scores on a two-point conversion after Gallo's TD reception.
Ray Leach on the carry.
Ray Leach headed for the end zone.
To purchase prints of game photos by Howard Owens, click here.
Slide show of photos by Howard Owens:
Slide show of photos by Jim Burns: