Fans packed the parking lot and made a few new parking spaces of their own at Williamsburg High School on Friday, August 24 to witness the Wildcats battle Batavia in the first-ever football game at Abrams Stadium.
A pre-game flyover honoring former Williamsburg head coach and Batavia assistant coach Ken Osborne jump-started the festivities, but it took a bit longer for the action to get going on the field.
The opening kickoff bounced over the Wildcats’ returner, pinning the team deep to start their opening drive. The teams traded punts and failed fourth down conversions until just before the end of the first period, when a muffed punt by Batavia gave Williamsburg another chance. The Wildcats moved inside the 10 yard line and attempted a field goal, but the try by Willow Kenneda was blocked and the game remained scoreless.
Both teams punted again before Batavia broke into the scoring column. Quarterback Kaleb Moell threw a pass to running back Jason Griffin, who out-ran the defense for a 59-yard touchdown reception. Batavia carried that 7-0 lead into halftime.
Williamsburg opened the second half with a surprise onside kick, which they promptly recovered. The team marched down the field and scored on a five-yard touchdown run by Max Boland at the 4:28 mark of the period. The extra point was missed, and Batavia kept the lead.
The Bulldogs added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Moell kept the ball and scored on a seven-yard touchdown run, giving Batavia their winning margin.
Williamsburg had chances late, recovering a pair of Batavia fumbles, but the Wildcats turned the ball back over to the Bulldogs both times on interceptions by Deven Williams.
The Wildcats recorded four turnovers in the game, which head coach Chad Ward said was simply too much to overcome.
“Too many turnovers, too many penalties,” Ward said. “That kills you. We kept giving the ball away and making silly penalties. A couple kids got hurt…it’s hard to fill in sometimes if the right guy gets hurt. We had our chances, we just can’t turn the ball over like that.”
Bulldogs’ head coach Scott Donaldson said the team’s defense helped make up for the mistakes made by the Batavia offense.
“The defense bailed us out of a lot of hard situations,” Donaldson said. “Offensively, we just kept hurting ourselves [with] fumbles…It was mistake after mistake. Our defense stepped up and bailed us out quite a few times.”
Williamsburg limited Batavia to 290 yards of total offense. Roughly half those yards came on two big plays by Griffin: the touchdown reception and a long run that set up Moell’s score. Ward said the team’s defense played well in the game.
“They did a really good job,” Ward said. “The one play was just a really good run. The kid’s a really good running back. The other one we just blew the coverage a little, and they tossed it out to the right spot at the wrong time. Sometimes you roll the dice on coverage and stuff, and you hope things don’t happen. It was just the wrong play at the wrong time.”
Griffin finished the game with 139 yards on 13 carries and two catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, drawing praise from Donaldson.
“I nicknamed him ‘The Franchise’ because that’s what he is,” Donaldson said. “He’s definitely our go-to guy.”
Boland led Williamsburg with 17 carries for 74 yards and a score. Drew McKibben tallied 14 attempts and 99 yards.
Defensively, Adam Donohoo and Dakota Roberts each collected seven tackles for Williamsburg. Ward credited his defense for giving the offense chances to make plays.
“They played hard,” Ward said. “They got us plenty of chances on offense, that’s for sure. I don’t know how many turnovers they had, but they had quite a few. We just have to punch it in when we get inside their 15, 20 yard line. You can’t make turnovers and you can’t do penalties. We’re going to have to clean that up for sure.”
Moell led Batavia’s defense, recording a team-high 21 tackles. He also forced and recovered a fumble. Batavia turned the ball over five times in the game, with some of those turnovers coming on muffed punts.
“Very sloppy,” Donaldson said. “We’ll definitely be working on special teams. It got to the point where I was like, ‘Get away,’ we just want the ball back.”
Ward finished by talking about the atmosphere in the new stadium.
“I know most coaches, you don’t hear or see anything,” Ward said. “Tonight, I heard it a couple times.”
Batavia opens their home slate of games against Gamble Montessori on Friday, August 31 at 7 p.m. Williamsburg travels to Paint Valley.