Batavia undone by key injury and great opposing QB in state championship game
What if Ethan Biscaro wasn't injured in the first quarter Saturday of Batavia's Class B state championship football game at the Carrier Dome?
Could Batavia have maintained its early lead, its early momentum, and held off Joseph Girard and the Glens Falls Indians, instead of losing 55-32?
We'll never know.
Biscaro's injury certainly isn't the only reason Batavia lost. The Blue Devils made their mistakes and missed their opportunities but, truth be told, Girard is one heck of a quarterback.
To whatever degree last week's game against Skaneateles and their athletic QB Patrick Hackler prepared the Blue Devils to face an athletic, strong-armed QB, it wasn't enough. Hackler was good but he wasn't Joseph Girard III good.
Experienced sportswriters in the press box were raving about Girard by the fourth quarter, the best high school quarterback they've ever seen, some of them said.
Girard showed arm strength, touch, accuracy, and savvy on the field, as well as strength and quickness that enabled to him to turn what looked like sacks for lost yards into gains, into first downs, and even into touchdowns.
For example, with Batavia leading 14-0 in the second quarter, Girard, from Batavia's 19-yard line, tries a keeper to his right and finds the path cutoff and he appears pinned in a corner near the sideline but he swings out wide into his own backfield and starts running toward the far side with Cam White in pursuit. Just as it appears White would snag his jersey, somehow Girard steps ahead of him and now has the entire defense beat on the far side of the field. He scores to give Glen Falls its first six points.
"He is a great football player, obviously a division one athlete," said Batavia Coach Brennan Briggs. "We had our opportunities, I think, and you know, he was very difficult to get a hold of. We simulated all we can in practice but at the end of the day, you have got to come up your make plays."
While officially, Girard gained only 15 yards on the ground on 15 carries, with two TDs, he was 10-18 passing for 314 yards and two TDs on passes.
All this and it was still a big game for Ray Leach, who for the third game in a row gained more than 400 yards, this time picking up 410 yards on 30 carries. He scored three touchdowns and he was clearly exhausted in the second half and playing on sheer determination.
"He's just a tough kid, he loves football," Briggs said. "He wanted to be out here so he did whatever it took to be out here."
With 1,645 yards over the final four games, Leach ends the year with 2,826 rushing yards, breaking the season Section V record of Hornell's Austin Dwyer, 2,826 yards, set in 2009.
A former Blue Devil who played for Batavia last year when the team opened the season in the Carrier Dome said a factor in that game was the heat on the field. As the game wears on the Dome warms up.
Ironically, the Carrier Dome is not air-conditioned.
Leach said he and his teammates were feeling the heat.
"The temperature was a little different than we've been playing and we had to get used to the heat," Leach said. "It's definitely a big adjustment. We're a little tired. I just had to rely on my line and keep on the ball hard."
Leach could be seen at one point in the third quarter with his hands on his knees. The sign of a winded athlete. Still, Leach went on to break off a couple of long runs in the second half, including an 80-yard touchdown run that avoided contact with every Glens Falls player on the field.
The turning point, if there was one, may have been Biscaro's injury. Batavia went on to score on that drive, thanks to a 46-yard pass from Leach to Taiyo Iburi-Bethel on the first play after Biscaro left the field. But that didn't reveal how unsettled the offense would become without Biscaro.
That score gave Batavia a 14-0 lead but it was clear how much things changed on the next Blue Devils' possession, which began with a successful onside kick. The play calling was slow and a combination of Leach and Alex Rood in the backfield lacked the tempo and organization of a Biscaro-led offense.
The Blue Devils were unable to convert that opportunity into points on the board and with Glens Falls scoring on its next possession, momentum seems to have shifted in the Indians favor.
Briggs said losing Biscaro hurt on both sides of the ball.
"He's a huge part of our offense and our defense so there's no question about it, that hurt a lot but, hey, I'm the football coach and you've got to figure out how to get it done and I didn't do that."
Biscaro did take the field to start the second half but Batavia was still unable to get back in rhythm, and after taking another hit that sent him to the turf in pain, Biscaro was once again lifted from the game.
Briggs tried a few different looks with the offense with Biscaro out -- Leach along in the backfield, Leach at QB with Rood at running back, Rood taking the snaps, along with reverses, flea-flickers, end-arounds, and the offense wasn't able to execute consistently.
One of Batavia's touchdowns in the fourth quarter came after a pass to Andrew Francis bounced off his hands, into the air and toward the end zone. Iburi-Bethel grabbed the pop-up fly, turn, ran and scored.
That and Leach's 80-yard run where among the few bright spots for the Batavia offense without Biscaro.
Briggs blamed himself, not the dropped passes, the fumbled snaps, the miscommunication on the field.
"We ran a lot of wildcat stuff with Ray but obviously everybody's keying on him," Briggs said. "He's not a pure passer back there so we tried to do a few different things. But you know, it didn't totally work out but again we've got to get some stops and you know maybe I should have been a little better prepared for that."
Iburi-Bethel finished with four catches for 82 yards and a TD. Leach had one reception for a 28-yard TD. Biscaro was 5-6 passing for 70 yards and TD.
Besides Girard's heroics for Glens Falls, Trent Girard, one of six Girard cousins in the game, caught seven passes for 183 yards and a TD. David Barclay had two catches for 93 yards and a TD. Aalijah Sampson carried the ball 23 times for 135 yards and four touchdowns.
Batavia had 538 yards and 25:37 time of possession while Glens Falls had 464 total yards and 19:25 time of possession.
For Batavia, Cam White, Joseph Martinucci and Alex Rood all recorded sacks.
Joshua Barber had eight tackles.
Photos by Jim Burns.
For more pictures, click here.
No mention is made in this report of the type of young man's injury, how serious it is, and how it might impact his ability to play and his future. Surely that information is at least as important as a play-by-play or an analysis of the game? I hope Mr Biscaro isn't permanently affected.
There are privacy issues involved with school officials releasing student medical information.
Thank you for the clarification, Howard. I hope you will report whatever information becomes available.
Leach (Who has Roots in Caledonia-Mumford) is the Best I have seen in New York State since Mike Hart from Onondoga. Mike has a Super Bowl Ring