Photo by Mark Gutman/Daily News
Livonia's Derek Bishopp eludes a pair of Batavia defenders during first half action Friday night.
Livonia football stays unbeaten
BATAVIA — After two solid road wins to start the season, Friday night didn’t turn out to be the home opener that the Batavia football team was hoping for.
And it didn’t help that the injury bug struck the Blue Devils hard, while Livonia took full advantage of its only game of the regular season against a Class B opponent.
Josh Wester ran for 130 yards and a touchdown, quarterback Connor Pierce added 154 yards through the air and a score and the Bulldogs defense held Batavia to just 133 yards of total offense in a 30-12 win at Van Detta Stadium.
With running back Brandon Stevenson already injured and out of the game for Batavia, play maker Justin Washington injured his ankle on the first play from scrimmage but kept playing, running back Andrew Budlong injured his knee later on — among others — and the Blue Devils offense appeared out of sync all evening.
“No excuses but it definitely made a big impact,” said Batavia head coach Brennan Briggs. “We’re not a deep team as it is. It’s obviously a big loss when you lose anybody, especially out of the starting lineup.”
Batavia (2-1) went three-and-out on its first two possessions, didn’t manage a first down until midway through the second quarter and could not take advantage of a Livonia turnover in its own territory.
Blue Devils quarterback Brett Scheuerlein was out of rhythm all night as he went just 1-for-9 through the air for four yards and a crucial second-quarter interception.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were opportunistic from the start. Following a miscue on Batavia’s first punt attempt, Livonia took over at the Blue Devils 27 and — with the help of a pair of Blue Devils offside calls — scored six plays later when Wester took a pitch right and cut it up field for a 15-yard score and a 7-0 advantage.
After a Batavia punt, Livonia (3-0) used 14 plays that spanned into the second quarter to drive inside the Blue Devils 20 when Dustin Ayers connected on a 31-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
“I think it was more of a personnel thing and we just made a few more plays here and there than they did,” said Livonia head coach Steve Girolmo. “I truly believe that they’re a good football team and they’re going to bounce back from this.”
Yet the Batavia defense was holding strong and finally came up with the big play with just under eight minutes left in the half when Scheuerlein picked off Pierce and returned it to the Livonia 23-yard line.
However, on the very next play a Scheuerlein pass intended for Dameon Reeves was tipped at the line and intercepted by Wester to quickly quell any momentum the Blue Devils had mustered and the score would remain at 10-0 when Ayers missed a 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in the first half.
Batavia managed just 20 total yards and one first down in the first half but came out in the third quarter still very much in the game.
“On the first play of the game Justin Washington hurt his ankle and he was a big part of our game plan this week,” said Briggs. “Then we just had trouble establishing that balanced attack that we like to go with each week.”
Blue Devils defense, though, immediately pounced in the third quarter.
On a third-and-10 from its own 32, Pierce was pressured as he dropped back to pass and fumbled the ball right into the hands of Reeves, who returned it untouched 20 yards for the touchdown. The extra point failed and it was 10-6.
But Livonia would make a statement on its next possession.
The Bulldogs went 70 yards on just five plays — helped out by a 50-yard dart by Wester — and culminated it with a four-yard Derek Bishopp run. The drive took just over two minutes and it was 17-6.
“I told them ‘we made a bad play there but we’re going to take this kick and we’re going to drive the ball right back down the field and score,” said Girolmo. “I told them to just believe in themselves and go and we did.”
Batavia would then drive deep into Livonia territory — aided by a 41-yard James Soggs rumble — but eventually sputtered and turned the ball over on downs.
Seven plays later, Pierce found Bishopp wide open and he did the rest as he went 46 yards for the score to essentially put the game away at 23-6.
Soggs and Nick Canzoneri would later key a nice, 13-play drive that ended with a Canzoneri three-yard score with 8:40 left but that was all the Blue Devils could manage. Canzoneri finished with 38 yards on the ground and the big man Soggs was outstanding with 84 yards on 12 carries in his first game back from injury, but the Batavia offense was limited without its regulars.
“It was good to see him run hard and get some carries,” said Briggs of Soggs. “Hopefully we can get him a few more carries and balance the attack.”
Next up for Batavia is a home matchup with Albion next Friday at Van Detta Stadium before a big matchup with powerhouse Hornell in two weeks.
“We just have to forget about today and stay together as a football team,” said Briggs.
— Story by Nate Rider (Batavia Daily News Sportswriter)