LIVONIA — Bath and Livonia football.
Old School LCAA football.
For all the marbles.
And a Section V block.
Second-seeded Bath will travel to Saunders Field to take on No. 1 Livonia in the Section V Class C title game with kick-off set for 7 p.m.
Both teams are 7-0 going into their match-up.
Bath has outscored their opponents 207-73, including regular season victories over Whitman/Bloomfield (22-0), ER/Gananda (30-6), Wayland-Cohocton (30-0), Penn Yan/Dundee (38-35),Waterloo (36-26) and Mynderse (35-0), and a sectional semifinal win over Le Roy (16-6).
Livonia, meanwhile, has outscored their seven opponents 263-56, including regular season wins over Penn Yan/Dundee (36-18), Hornell (47-6), Dansville (32-6), Attica (36-14), Wellsville (56-6) and Le Roy (6-0). They crushed Waterloo 52-6 in last week’s semifinals.
Livonia has been tested just once all season while Bath has been challenged three times.
These two teams are no strangers to playing each other as up until last year, when the Federation came in and took over, they met each year playing in the LCAA D-I standings.
The rivalry wasn’t much of a rivalry since the 2015 season, however.
In 2015, Michael Rice, Patrick Brewer, Tyler Finch, Matt Machuga,Casey Demming, Jake Taggart and company came into Livonia and blasted the Bulldogs 37-6 on their way to their program’s fifth sectional title and a berth in the state semifinals that season.
In 2016, Livonia repaid that favor when Brody Metcalf’s six touchdowns led the Bulldogs to the 42-6 win in Bath.
Livonia would also win games in 2017 (36-0) and 2018 (48-0) both by blowout scores.
That was the last time these two teams have met however.
While the past five meetings have been mostly blowouts — either way — this has been an intense rivalry stretching back to the late 90’s when then-head coach Wayne Carroll’s Rams began playing in the LCAA.
Carroll, who stepped away after the 2018 season, led the Rams to five Section V titles, and four NYS semifinal appearances (2001, 2002, 2008, 2015).
They also made the state quarters in 2003.
Livonia, under head coach Steve Girolmo, won three sectional titles in the early 90s but the Bulldogs’ next title didn’t come until last year when John Gammon’s squad captured the Class B title over an HF-L team that is still searching for their first.
During the early 2000s, sectional titles in Class B would come from either one of two places, Bath or Hornell.
Current Rams’ head coach Matt Ford started as an assistant on some of those great Bath teams.
And he got familiar with the Bulldogs right away.
Ford is well aware of Livonia’s strong tradition and he knows Friday night will be another physical match up between the old foes.
“When I first came into the program in 2011 I remember not knowing much about Livonia, and that’s no knock on Livonia, I’m a Section Four (Binghamton) guy that stayed in that bubble. I quickly learned in my first few years that Livonia is a program that simply shoves the ball down your throat and punishes you every play — on both sides of the ball. It seems like yesterday we were all still playing in the Livingston One league. I vividly remember Livonia week as being a no-nonsense, business like practice week. They always come to play and they play hard. We expect the same level of play from our guys- no plays off, everything you’ve got, 48 minutes- be ready for the battle of a lifetime.”
Livonia has been the odds on favor to win the sectional title after dropping down from Class B to Class C during the off-season.
But, the Bulldogs had to replace some talented players, and leaders, from last year’s squad and most of their offensive line including top linemen AJ Davin (Brockport) and Brendan Mayo, who is a senior but played high school football in the state of Florida during the fall campaign.
Livonia is led by this year’s seniors including a strong backfield in QB Alex Minnehan and RB’s Jake Smith, Kevin Travis and Trevor Allen.
Minnehan has rushed for 1,065 yards on 110 carries with 13 TD’s while passing for 300 yards and three other scores.
Smith, who has had huge back-to-back games including his career-high 211 yards on 15 carries and two TD’s in Livonia’s semifinal win over Waterloo, has gained 619 yards on 83 carries with nine TD’s.
Travis has added 257 yards on 42 touches while Allen, who is more of a power blocker, has pounded his way for 140 yards on just 15 carries.
Impressively, Livonia’s ground game averages over 440 yards per game and has produced 43 TD’s.
Livonia averages 7.6 yards every time they have ran the ball this season, the highest amongst all Section V teams.
As effective as the offensive production has been this year, the Bulldogs’ defense has been just as stout limiting opponents to just a single touchdown per game.
Allen, the team’s defensive leader, along with senior Steffan Gwyn, leads the Bulldogs with 40 tackles, three sacks, and two fumble recoveries.
Senior Shawn Wetterings plugs the middle of the interior line and has posted 31 tackles with three sacks of his own.
Gwyn, an absolute beast on defense when he wants to be, has added 30 tackles with a team-high six sacks and two fumble recoveries for the Bulldogs.
Sophomore Jack Kearney (28 tackles) and Minnehan (27 tackles) both have one INT on the season while Travis and Jake Smith lead the team with two picks each.
Travis had both of his INT’s in last week’s win.
Bath will play their second straight game without the services of sophomore QB Justin Yehl, who broke his collarbone on the first play from scrimmage in last week’s win over Le Roy.
His replacement, senior Ian DiDomineck managed the Le Roy game well when he took over and will be the Rams’ signal caller Friday.
The Bath offense will be counting heavy on a pair of underclassmen in juniors Damien Hall and AJ Brotz.
Hall will get most of the touches for the Rams’ ground attack while Brotz will get his share as well mostly on the edge.
Brotz, who plays soccer for Bath in the fall, had four INT’s last week on defense.
Coach Ford knows full well the challenge his Rams have in store Friday night, on both sides of the ball.
“Livonia, offensively, they are a balanced attack,” Ford said. “They’ve perfected the double wing — I think they can run it with their eyes closed — they will outman you in their unbalanced attack and they can also throw at will. Minnehan is a phenomenal dual threat QB. They are also a stingy defense — they are well-coached on both sides of the ball. Watching them on film, I see no weaknesses, which explains their successes this season.”
Ford, who has done an outstanding job in his short stint as head coach, has gone from 3-6 to 7-0 in just one season — says Friday’s game is a testament of the hard work his kids put in during what has been a challenging, pandemic stricken run. But his kids have persevered to get to one final showdown.
“All season long we’ve been telling our players never take anything for granted,” coach Ford said. “Sectional championship games are not easy to come by, no matter what sport you play. We’re blessed to have a season, and to be able to play the defending Class B sectional champs on their home field is a challenge of a lifetime. Our young men are going to leave it all on the field Friday night. In terms of playing at Livonia, on their home field, the grass field also adds to the nostalgia. We’ve been practicing on our grass all week to get our guys back used to the original grass gridiron. This is going to be a special night for all players. They are going to make memories that will last a lifetime. I tell our guys that often, they’re probably sick of me saying it, but sometimes high school kids just don’t understand how precious these years are. I always say you can only be a kid once, then you’re stuck being an adult the rest of your life. I’m beyond proud of our players. 7-0 is remarkable. Now we gotta empty the tank.”
While Livonia first-year head coach Chris Genthner has spent many seasons on the Bulldogs’ sidelines, both as a player and an assistant coach, both under Girolmo, in just his first year as head coach, Genthner has the Bulldogs right where they wanted to be — playing in the sectional finals for their second straight block.
But he knows that opponent on the other sideline isn’t coming up just to show up, they have the same goals in mind.
“We are expecting a very competitive team against a tough Bath football team,” Genthner, who will be staying on as head coach moving forward, said. “I told my guys last week after the Waterloo game that we are playing a team that is very similar to our team, a mirror image is the phrase I used with them. We run a very similar offense to Bath and we have similar kinds of kids. We both try and be very physical on both offense and defense. I think it’s going to be a Livingston County, traditional, physical football game on Friday night.”