GENEVA – All those unglamorous gains of five, six yards a pop by the Geneva football team did more than move the chains – they gradually eroded the confidence on the St. Charles North sidelines that the North Stars could come up with a crucial stop.
So with St. Charles North needing just a point-after to tie the score with three minutes left on Friday, North coach Mark Gould instead opted for trickery, trying an unsuccessful fake PAT that loomed large late in Geneva’s 35-34, Upstate Eight Conference River homecoming win against the North Stars.
The fake afforded North quarterback Matt Shiltz passing and running options as he rolled to his right, but the Vikings had the play smothered. Gould said the play “didn’t look as pretty as it could look.”
“The thinking behind it was we were having a hard time stopping them, let’s put the pressure on them for the last three minutes, let’s make them have to go down the field a little bit faster,” Gould said. “And I don’t know if I really wanted to get in an overtime game with them anyway, because there were just going four, five yards at a crack at us.”
After Geneva (3-2, 3-0 UEC River) dominated possession in the first half, it was North’s turn to keep the Vikings’ offense off the field in the second half. Unfortunately for North, that was aided by an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Geneva senior Doug Berthold, in which Berthold’s biggest challenge might have been prying the ball from teammate Parker Woodworth.
The kickoff return made it 28-21 Geneva midway through the third quarter.
“I guess I didn’t call it out loud enough – he didn’t really hear me,” Berthold said. “I was like, ‘Me, me, me,’ and we kind of ran into each other, and I just ripped it away.”
North answered back on its second marathon drive of the second half, highlighted by a tenacious reception by junior Oshay Hodges, in which Hodges tied up Geneva defensive back Ryan Landrum, who originally seemed to have an interception. Instead, the referees awarded Hodges a 36-yard reception that have North the ball at Geneva’s 3.
Moments later, Ben Hodges scored from a yard out, and the extra point tied it at 28-all with 10:38 to go in the game.
When Geneva’s offense finally returned to the field for its first possession of the second half, the Vikings made it count. A 74-yard drive that spanned five minutes was reminiscent of how the game unfolded in the first half, and culminated in Connor Quinn’s second rushing TD of the night, this one a 1-yarder with 5:30 to go.
Quinn rushed for 155 yards on 29 carries, and ultimately allowed his team to run out the clock to polish off North (2-3, 1-1 UEC River).
“We felt that if we could just go the distance, 10 plays, 11 plays, we’ve done that before,” said Geneva coach Rob Wicinski, whose team did not punt on the night. “We take a lot of pride in going the distance on multiple plays. I would have loved to had a big play, but it wasn’t happening on the offensive side of the ball.”
But on a night when both offenses outplayed their colleagues on defense, North wasn’t through chewing up yards. Shiltz (8 for 17 passing for 159 yards, two TD passes to Josh Mikes) broke off a 54-yard TD run with three minutes left to play, leading to Gould’s gamble that backfired.
The Vikings led 21-14 after a first half in which their steady, workmanlike rushing attack trumped North’s more highlight reel-friendly offense.
It looked like the Vikings would tote a commanding 21-7 lead into the break when Quinn powered in for a 2-yard touchdown run with just 25 seconds left in the half.
North seemingly needed a miracle to score when it took over at its own 32 with 20 seconds left in the half, but a pass interference penalty helped move the North Stars toward midfield, and on the final play of the half, Shiltz hit Mikes up the sideline on a 54-yard strike to give the visitors a giant jolt of momentum.
“We were trying to get a quick score in before half, and coach saw the outside option there, so he called the post wheel with me and Andrew [Elliott] over there, and it worked out,” Mikes said. “The corner bit just enough on that out route, and then I was able to beat him down the sideline, luckily.”
For most of the first half, senior Dirk Schmitt almost singled-handedly kept North competitive via kick returns.
Schmitt scored on a return for the second straight week, this one a 92-yard scamper, to tie the game at 7-all late in the first quarter, and Schmitt returned a second-quarter kickoff to Geneva’s 25 yard-line.
The North Stars couldn’t convert that one into points, missing a 23-yard field goal attempt that kept Geneva in front, 14-7.
Geneva rushed for 220 yards in the first half alone. Quinn played a leading role in allowing the Vikings to hog possession, rushing for 112 of those yards.
Quarterback Matt Williams scored Geneva’s first TD on a 3-yard boot leg run, and he threw for another score, an 11-yard toss to a wide-open Joe Cella.
GENEVA 35, ST. CHARLES NORTH 34
St. Charles North 7 7 7 13 – 34
Geneva 7 14 7 7 – 35
First quarter G – Williams 3 run (Moore kick), 2:19 STCN – Schmitt 92 yard kick return (Pohl kick), 2:03 Second quarter G – Cella 11 pass from Williams (Moore kick), 8:41 G – Quinn 2 run (Moore kick), 0:25 STCN – Mikes 54 pass from Shiltz (Pohl kick), 0:00 Third quarter STCN – Mikes 4 pass from Shiltz (Pohl kick), 6:02 G – Berthold 85 kick return (Moore kick), 5:47 Fourth quarter STCN – Hodges 1 run (Pohl kick), 10:38 G – Quinn 1 run (Moore kick), 5:30 STCN – Shiltz 54 run (pass failed), 3:00
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING – St. Charles North: Schmitt 10-45, B. Hodges 9-41, Shiltz 5-65, Bergren 2-11. Totals: 26-162. Geneva: Quinn 29-155, Williams 5-37, Cella 10-46, Woodworth 6-45, Berthold 1-15, Favis 2-1. Totals: 53-299. PASSING – St. Charles North: Shiltz 8-17-0-159, Bergren 0-1-0-0. Totals: 8-18-0-159. Geneva: Williams 3-7-1-42. RECEIVING – St. Charles North: Mikes 3-97, Schmitt 2-4, Elliott 1-21, Bergren 1-1, O. Hodges 1-36. Totals: 8-159. Geneva: Acton 1-8, Cella 2-34. Totals: 3-42. TOTAL YARDS – St. Charles North 321, Geneva 341
SOPHOMORE GAME: Geneva 34, St. Charles North 0