BATAVIA – Through three quarters on Friday, it was tricky to tell which was the 2-6 football team and which was the conference champion-in-waiting, eyeing another serious postseason run.
Offensively, at least, neither team looked much prettier than the middle 20 yards of the field.
Then the fourth quarter rolled around and, as has become custom, Geneva reminded us that it has a pretty good idea how to win football games, scoring 20 unanswered points for a 23-0 win against Batavia.
The Vikings deserve to celebrate their share of the final Western Sun Conference championship, their fourth title in four tries. If other schools are going to fold your conference for being the big bully, you might as well grab their lunch money on the way out the door.
Once the thrill of that conference conquest rubs off – and this time of year, it won’t take long – Geneva has ample refining to do to prepare for the postseason, especially on offense.
Defense is the Bulldogs’ strength, but Geneva will have to do more against quality, playoff-caliber defenses to avoid an early postseason exit.
“I don’t make excuses but we’ve just kind of been in the muck for three weeks,” said Geneva coach Rob Wicinski, noting another week of woeful field conditions. “We went out to practice on Wednesday and it was sunny and I didn’t know what to do. We just kind of stood around staring at each other.
“Every Thursday practice has been like Groundhog Day. The same old song comes up, and here we are out in the middle of the rain again.”
It took a long while, but the Vikings finally showed an unusually modest crowd for the rivalry game they can put up points.
If you’re going to specialize in one half, the second half is definitely the way to go. Geneva would like to play crisper football from the get-go but the Vikings’ trademark offseason work ethic continues to pay massive dividends.
“I’d like to think it was weight room and conditioning,” Wicinski said. “We take a lot of pride in that and we talk about it quite a bit. In the second half, just stay patient. We tell them all the time ‘Just stay patient.’ ”
It’ll be an interesting postseason for the Vikings (8-1), who will enter the playoffs with their share of skeptics based on precious few comfortable wins this season.
The weekly mudpits have been a factor, but Geneva remains deeply reliant on the ground game. It’s never a great sign when your punter (Jack Delabar) has more passing yards than your quarterback (Brandon Beitzel).
Delabar, also a tight end, said Geneva was never worried about its offense, even with only three points entering the fourth quarter.
“All our plays were working – we just had to pop one,” Delabar said. “And once we popped that first one, we just kept on going.”
Are the Vikings playoff-ready? Their past three results have been a loss to Rochelle – made all the more glaring after the Hubs lost to lowly DeKalb on Friday – an overtime squeaker against Kaneland and a teeth-pull for most of the night against Batavia.
Senior running back Michael Santacaterina isn’t bothered by the lack of style points.
“If anything, that’s better for us,” Santacaterina said. “An overtime game, that’s kind of good for us, and that loss I think is going to end up being good for us. I think this is a great way to head into the postseason. We’ve got some momentum.”
And, thanks to another night of strong fourth quarter play, yet another championship to go with it.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or email@example.com.