The Batavia High Blue Devils, sparked by an incredible play by senior quarterback Jesse Reinhart and senior tight end Kaden Marucci, defeated rival Honeoye Falls-Lima, 22-14, tonight to capture the Section V Class B football championship.
Leading 14-7 early in the third quarter in the game played at Pittsford Sutherland High School, the Blue Devils were forced to punt from their own 33-yard line.
The center snap to Reinhart, the team’s punter, sailed high over his head. He managed to corral it about 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, avoided a tackle and lofted a pass to the left side of the field where Marucci was standing.
“It went over my head and I was chasing after the ball – I think it was at the 5 yard line or 10 yard line, whatever it was,” said Reinhart, who was voted the game’s most valuable player after passing for 163 yards and two touchdowns. “I could have dove on it and gave them the ball there, but I decided to pick it up and try to make a play. I threw it out to him (Marucci) and he did the rest; he took it all the way …”
Marucci, who earned the outstanding defense player award for his play at linebacker, caught the ball, found an open lane down the sideline and outraced the Cougars to the end zone to give Batavia a 20-7 advantage (see photo above).
Here’s what he had to say about the play:
“A guy got by me on the edge and I looked back to see if Jesse was good and saw the ball rolling toward the end zone. I looked around and saw no one around me, so I started screaming Jesse’s name. He tossed it over to me and I was just off to the races.”
As a result of a penalty on Batavia after the big play, the Blue Devils, 10-1, decided to go for two points, calling for a reverse/option pass. It worked as wide receiver/running back Javin McFollins hit Reinhart in the end zone to make it 22-7.
Batavia Coach Brennan Briggs pointed out the athleticism of Reinhart and Marucci that turned what could have been disaster into a moment that will go down in Batavia football history.
“A bad snap. Yeah, but we have athletes out here and that’s just them innovating and doing a great job,” he said. “Jesse’s a heck of an athlete and Mooch (Marucci) got open and they blocked downfield for him. Sometimes, you have to have plays like that to win big games.”
With about four minutes left in the period, HF-L took over on the Batavia 45 after a punt by Reinhart traveled just 12 yards, and put together a seven-play drive -- with senior back Zachary Meacham gaining 20 yards on three carries, senior quarterback Brody Young finding senior wide receiver J.T. Killenbec for 17 yards, and Young finishing it off with a three-yard touchdown run.
The point after touchdown kick by Zavier Carbonel was good and the Cougars, who finish at 10-1, had pulled within 22-14 with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
Batavia was in a similar position in early October, holding a 20-7 lead at halftime before falling 27-26 at Van Detta Stadium.
There was no meltdown this time, although HF-L did make it interesting in the final quarter.
After Young’s TD, the Blue Devils took over at their own 25, but two runs netted only six yards. An 18-yard pass from Reinhart to wide receiver Cole Grazioplene kept the drive alive, and the Blue Devils – behind junior halfback Aidan Anderson – were able to take five more minutes off the clock before turning the ball over on downs at the HF-L 21.
Anderson, who opened the scoring on a 6-yard run with 3:02 left in the first quarter, picked up 27 of his 101 yards rushing during that stretch. He was named the outstanding offensive player, and also came up with some key tackles and pass deflections on defense.
HF-L took possession with seven minutes to play and Young went to the air, finding Ben Carson for three yards and Killenbec for nine before connecting with Aidan Goold for 35 yards to the Batavia 37. Two runs by Meacham picked up 18 yards, but two incomplete passes resulted in a fourth-and-4 situation at the Blue Devils’ 19.
Young threw a pass into the end zone that was broken up by Reinhart, but pass interference was called – one of a few penalties that had the Batavia fans voicing their displeasure with the referees.
Now, it was first-and-goal at the 9 for the Cougars with 4:30 to play. Young handed off to junior Donnell Hall, who was jolted behind the line by linebacker Mathew McWethy for a three-yard loss. The Blue Devils got another break on the next play when Young’s pass was dropped in the end zone.
A third down pass to Carson gained eight yards, making it fourth-and-goal from the Batavia 4. On fourth down, Young threw another pass in the end zone but it was off the mark and Batavia took over with 3:16 remaining.
At this point, Briggs turned to Anderson, who came through with runs of four, six and 12 yards -- with a 12-yard scamper by Reinhart sandwiched in between. HF-L was forced to use its timeouts, but three final runs by Anderson served to run out the clock.
In the first half, following Anderson’s TD burst (and kicker Julia Petry’s first of two successful PATs), junior wide receiver Javin McFollins came up with a spectacular catch in the end zone to put Batavia up by two scores.
On a third-and-7 play from the HF-L 32, Reinhart passed the ball to McFollins who won a “jump ball” situation against the defender.
HF-L followed that with a 10-play, 63-yard drive with Meacham barreling into the end zone from four yards out to pull within 14-7. That drive was aided by a questionable roughing the passer call against Batavia, and was highlighted by a 38-yard pass from Young to Killenbec.
The Blue Devils controlled the first half and could have mounted a bigger lead but three drives stalled deep in HF-L territory.
Marucci recorded eight tackles on the defensive side of the ball while Carter McFollins recovered a fumble for the Blue Devils.
The Batavia victory breaks a three-game losing streak against the Cougars, including a loss about six months ago in the sectional finals (which were moved to the spring due to COVID-19). But tonight, it wasn’t about avenging those losses, Briggs said.
“I’m just happy for these guys. No redemption, no revenge – any of that stuff,” he said. “These guys have their own identity. Whoever we have to come play, we’re going to play. Obviously, there is a rivalry brewing with HF-L, which is a great thing, but I’m just happy for these guys.”
Anderson said the team showed “resilience through adversity” to prevail over an HF-L squad that defeated Batavia by one point earlier this season.
“We had a lot of down moments. We had a lot of penalties, and a lot of dumb mistakes,” he said. “But we bounced back. We never put our heads down, and that’s why we won.”
Batavia advances to the Far West Regionals against WNY Maritime Charter/Health Sciences (Section VI) at 3:15 p.m. Nov. 20 at Williamsville South High School.
WNY Maritime defeated Iroquois, 62-12, today for its third straight Section VI Class B title.
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Photos by Steve Ognibene
Batavia QB Jesse Reinhart gets off a pass early in the game.
Javin McFollinms with the reception for the Blue Devils.
Cam McClinic tries to get past HF-L's Aidan Goold.
The HF-L ball carrier is tackled for a loss.
Reinhart, middle, lets out a triumphant yell as the Batavia victory is secure.
Lineman Austyn Fernandez looks to give Coach Brennan Briggs a Gatorade shower.
Stars of the game, from left, Batavia's Aidan Anderson, Kaden Marucci and Jesse Reinhart, and HF-L's Mitchell Bulling and Zac Meacham.
The Section V "block" becomes the center of attention.
A moment to remember for the Batavia High Blue Devils football team.