By Mark Maxwell
Coach Dennis Piron is leading the Batavia Bulldogs (10-1) to break multiple individual and team records while fighting their way through the IHSA Class 6A state playoffs.
The Bulldogs are lighting up the scoreboard at a clip of over 45 points per game, the highest pace in school history. Piron is working together with former coach and recently retired Mike Gaspari. Gaspari, 26-year veteran coach at Batavia, now calls the plays as the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator.
The Bulldogs have won nine straight games after splitting the first two games of the year. Piron credits this season’s success to an intensely focused offseason of training.
“We really scheduled carefully this year to pick two opponents that we felt would represent two of the better teams in the state of Illinois,” he said. “We knew how good Richards (10-1) was a year ago and felt that they were potentially a year from being a state championship team. Glenbard North (9-2), you know every single year how good they are. Preparing for those games throughout the offseason, knowing what you had in Weeks 1 and 2, really gave your summer programs — your offseason, your weight room, conditioning, big-boy stuff, all the lineman things — all gave it a sense of urgency. I would say that our kids were very well prepared to start the season.”
As a result, senior running back Anthony Scaccia (1,405 rush yards, 21 rushing touchdowns, six receiving touchdowns, 168.7 total YPG) has set Batavia’s single-season rushing record and total-touchdown record. Junior defensive duo Noah Frazier (10 sacks, 41 tackles) and Josh Leonhard (nine sacks, 36 tackles) are racing each other to set the school’s season sack record. If the Bulldogs manage to score another 25 points this season, they will have set the school’s all-time points record in a season.
However, leading Bulldogs receiver and defensive back Michael Moffatt claims that it’s a legacy — not just records — that they are pursuing.
“I don't think records really matter to us. We want to be known as the best team to come through Batavia,” Moffatt said. “We know in '06, that loss in the state championship, they only had one loss. Two years ago, they went undefeated through the regular season and lost in the semifinals. So we know that we have a lot more games to be played to be that best team.”
When Piron was asked what makes this team so special, he repeated his one-word answer twice. “Homegrown,” he said. “Homegrown.” Eighty of the 81 Bulldogs players attended elementary school in Batavia, and they all remain heavily involved in the youth community football programs. Every fall Saturday morning, varsity players can be found coaching hundreds of grade school football players on the middle school fields.
“These aren't move-ins. They're not transfers. We don't recruit,” Piron continued. “These are our boys. Our boys are playing for our town and for the Bulldogs. That is kind of special I think in this day and age. So when you come here to play us, when you play our team now in the playoffs, you got to beat our town. You got to beat our community. You’ve got to beat the Bulldogs.”
The Lake Forest Scouts (9-2) make the trip to Batavia and challenge the Bulldogs for a chance to play in the Class 6A semifinals on Saturday. The Scouts defeated the injury-riddled De La Salle Meteors in the second round of the playoffs by the score of 27-7.
“We know what is in store for us. We have seen them play. We've seen them on film,” said Piron. “We know their style of play. They're going to be physical. They're going to be fast. Well, that's what we like to do too. We think that we pose some big problems offensively. They're going to have to make some adjustments. (We’re) a complete offensive unit with weapons everywhere.”
While most teams’ sights are set on advancing to the state championship at DeKalb’s Huskie Stadium on Nov. 30, the Bulldogs’ primary goal is to continue playing the game they love with their childhood friends.
“Our theme since the playoffs begun is really 'one more week.' They haven't talked about state championships and stuff like that. Other people have,” Piron told CSNChicago.com.
“What they have talked about is the reward for the victory in a single game is we get one more week of this special team together. Because when it ends, it ends and we all go our separate ways. This group, these kids, this time that we have is so precious. Wow, what a reward. We haven't really been concerned about winning to advance through the playoffs or the brackets. It's one more week.”