HONEOYE FALLS — With its sights set on a second consecutive sectional championship, Batavia knew it would have to go through rival HF-L if it hoped to fulfill the high expectations it set for itself this season.
Using an explosive first-half effort, the Blue Devils powered past the host Cougars, 35-20, to improve to 7-0 with one game remaining until the postseason. Batavia led HF-L 21-0 at the half and outlasted the Cougars, who used a number of big plays to work their way back in the second half to make it a game.
“It’s a huge win,” said Batavia’s Carter McFollins. “We’ve been looking forward to it since the first game of the season. We’re just looking forward to getting better for sectionals and making a run again.”
Ja’Vin McFollins helped propel Batavia to an early 21-point advantage, running for a touchdown and throwing for a score. McFollins opened the scoring on a three-yard touchdown run, which was set up by a long opening kickoff return from his brother, Carter McFollins, to help make the score 7-0 with 7:38 remaining in the first quarter. Ja’Vin McFollins then connected with Vincent Arroyo on a 64-yard catch and run which found the end zone with 11:43 remaining in the second quarter, which helped push the score to 14-0. To close the first half, Aidan Anderson scored on a two-yard TD run to help increase Batavia’s advantage to 21-0. Julia Petry made all three of her PATs during the first half and finished the game a perfect five-for-five.
The Batavia defense was stifling throughout the first half. The Blue Devils allowed the Cougars to drive down the field on their opening drive, but on a fourth-and-goal, HF-L quarterback Matt Meacham missed a wide open receiver in the end zone to thwart what appeared to be a drive destined for the end zone. Batavia didn’t allow HF-L much throughout the remainder of the first half.
“We’ve prepared all week,” said Batavia’s Garrett Schmidt of his team’s defensive effort. “We’ve prepared all year for games like this. We just play tough defense. We hit hard and that’s how we play.”
The second half was a different story, with HF-L connecting on 24-yard and 74-yard passing touchdowns, both of which were caught by Andrew Wanzenried, which helped cut its deficit to 21-12 with 4:05 remaining in the third. Batavia responded after the second Cougars’ touchdown with a long drive which ended in a two-yard TD run from Anderson, which put the score at 28-12 with 11:23 remaining in the fourth quarter.
HF-L responded in kind with a lengthy touchdown drive of their own, which ended in a two-yard touchdown pass from Meacham to Nolan Smith, with Meacham throwing across his body and finding his open target in stride in the back of the end zone. It was a phenomenal play from Meacham and following a successful two-point try, it was an eight-point game, 28-20, with 7:27 remaining.
Batavia took over following the latest HF-L touchdown and worked over 7:00 off the clock, and on a fourth down play, Ja’Vin McFollins dropped back and launched a deep ball for Cole Grazioplene, who came down with a nice catch in stride for a 43-yard touchdown reception. It being fourth down, Batavia kept its offense on the field in order to avoid a potential blocked punt scenario, instead electing to go deep, without the fear that the ball would be intercepted. If the ball had been picked off, HF-L would have been forced to go about 90 yards in :07 of game time for the tie. In any event, Grazioplene beat a Cougars defender and ran open behind the secondary before McFollins connected with him on a well-thrown ball for the score.
“These guys are a resilient bunch,” said Batavia head coach Brennan Briggs. “They’re tough and im super proud of the effort they put in. Obviously the first half was great for us. We knew they had quick-strike ability, which is what happened in the second half. But we tip our hat to these guys who bent but didn’t break. I’ve got a lot of faith in these guys. They’re a great group.”
Batavia remains unbeaten with one game remaining on its regular season schedule, a matchup with Newark/Marion next Friday night. The Blue Devils will enter the Class B postseason as the No. 1 seed.
“We know we have a great football team,” said Briggs. “At the end of the day, it’s about maxmizing the potential that they have. So we still have to work on blocking and tackling and individual drills and group drills and then the scheme comes later. We’re trying to get better every single day. I know this is cliche, but it’s a faceless opponent. If we’re playing our best when the time matters, then I think we’ll be in a good position.”
Anderson carried the load for the Batavia offense, taking 29 carries and totaling 124 rushing yards and the two scores. Carter McFollins rushed nine times for 35 yards, while Ja’Vin Mcfollins finished 6-of-8 passing for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Grazioplene made three catches for 61 yards and the score.
“We’ve got a lot of skill players and a lot of people who can do the same thing,” said Carter McFollins. “We can all get the job done, so it’s easy for coach. It doesn’t matter who he gives the ball to. We can all get the job done. We all can do something with it.”
Aavion Bethel led the defensive effort with seven tacles, one of which came for a loss, while Jagger Owens made a couple of tackles for loss, as did Brendan Burgess.