Geneva football players might have been spared the coaching staff’s full wrath in the aftermath of Friday’s loss to Rochelle.
If the coaches couldn’t pinpoint mistakes on the field Friday night, there’s a decent shot they were never identified. For the second straight week, Geneva played in muddy conditions at Burgess Field, leaving the game film only minimally helpful to Vikings coaches.
Scrutinizing the finer points of plays – linemen’s footwork coming off the ball, whether players took the proper angles in their blocking assignments – was often impossible, much to Geneva coach Rob Wicinski’s chagrin.
“You want to keep making corrections and making improvement and it’s tough to tell whether kids are doing what they’re supposed to do when the mud’s in the way,” Wicinski said.
Then again, there was much in the 21-14 loss to Rochelle – especially from the first half – that Geneva would prefer not to relive. With a critical game at Kaneland next on the docket, the Vikings have only a few more days to rediscover the championship-caliber football to which they and their fans have become accustomed.
“The time’s now I guess,” Wicinski said. “We’re not looking toward the future, we’re not looking to improve [for later]. We need to improve now. We need to be there now. We’re kind of in the mode with a playoff-type game. We want to be in playoff-type spirits.”
Wicinski did his best to make sure the Vikings weren’t dragging after the mega-upset that ended Geneva’s 24-game regular season winning streak. None of the Vikings’ varsity players are accustomed to reporting for practice after losses, but Wicinski, whose early years were filled with defeats, has the muscle memory to know how to lick wounds on the fly.
“I’ve been here a lot of times and all I know how to do is go back to work,” Wicinski said. “We [practiced as usual], we went after it, and I told them probably 95 percent of the teams in the state would like to be 6-1 and have their season in front of them and be vying for a conference championship right now. They understood everyone can’t be perfect ... it’s interesting. It’ll be fun.”
Geneva, Kaneland and Glenbard South are tied for first in the Western Sun Conference at 4-1 in WSC play with two weeks to go. The winner of Friday’s game in Maple Park will be in superb shape to win at least a share of the conference, and stands a reasonable shot to win the title outright.
Both Geneva and Kaneland will be heavy favorites in their Week 9 matchups, while Glenbard South must prevail in a pair of road tests against Rochelle (5-2, 3-2 WSC) and Sycamore (5-2, 3-2 WSC) to remain in line for the title. Last season, Geneva clubbed Kaneland, 42-7, but this game shapes up to be drastically more competitive. The Vikings’ line play and pass defense has been vulnerable at times, and Kaneland, as usual, won’t be shy about airing it out. The Knights’ receivers are especially adept at making small plays into splashy ones by zipping away from defenders after the catch, making efficient tackling – typically a point of pride for Geneva – especially pressing against the Knights.
“They’re going to get a few first downs but we’ve got to really try hard to avoid them getting in the end zone, which is going to be a difficult task,” Wicinski said.
Wicinski joked that he “might kiss the defensive coordinator” if the Vikings’ defense plays as well against Kaneland as it did late in the Rochelle game; Geneva shut out the Hubs in the second half. Then again, after returning to the ranks of football mortality, Wicinski and the Vikings would be elated with any manner of victory on Friday. If it is captured clearly on film, that’d just be a bonus.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.