June 08, 2023
Sports - Kane County

Sports - Kane County

Vikings ‘just keep pushing’ in latest home football rout vs. Larkin

GENEVA – Geneva triggered the running clock with 9:48 remaining in the third quarter of Friday’s Upstate Eight Conference River Division football game against Larkin.

A few minutes of real time – and clock time – later, Vikings junior defensive lineman Collin Lee recovered a blooping Vikings kickoff. It wasn’t Geneva gloating, as the kick wasn’t onside. Just the kind of play that again illustrated the breeziness of the regular-season finale.

Geneva’s 42-6 victory against Larkin capped a 4-0 regular-season home stretch in which the Vikings won by an average of just under 30 points at Burgess Field. A 22-19 Week 2 victory against Richards was the outlier in that lopsided equation, but by then, the Vikings (8-1, 6-1 UEC River) felt confident their season was destined to extend past Week 9.

“We’re ready to work, ready to work hard,” junior running back Justin Taormina said. “I think we’re confident. I think we’re ready for this first-round playoff game.”

A limited supply of Vikings playoff T-shirts, ranging in size from S to 4XL, sold for $10 on Friday. The Vikings are all but a cinch to host a first-round game, likely in Class 7A, next weekend, when more shirts are promised to be available.

Geneva opened the 2013 playoffs at home and ended there, as well, with St. Patrick defeating the Vikings, 31-23.

The loss provided an impetus for change on defense. Geneva coach Rob Wicinski knew he needed more athletes on that side of the ball, so Jack McCloughan and Brock Perry switched from offense to defensive end and safety, respectively, adding to a veteran core.

Entering Friday, the Vikings’ 118 points allowed were the third-stingiest in the conference, trailing only St. Charles North (82) and Batavia (105). The Vikings yielded 301 points in 10 games last season.

“Well, I mean, it’s incredible, really,” McCloughan said. “Just the transition from last year to this year, we’ve really just been a powerhouse, this team.”

Larkin (0-9, 0-7) played just six seniors – contrasted with the 40 listed on Geneva’s roster.

In many respects, first-year Royals coach Dragan Teonic, only hired in June, derives perspective from Wicinski, who recovered from his own humble beginnings in the late 1990s and early 2000s to cultivate a solid program.

“Rob was 0-9, 1-8, 2-7, 2-7,” Teonic said, impeccably rattling off Wicinski’s first four season recaps without an almanac. “Today’s day and age, you’re gone. They stuck with him. The next year, they’re 5-4. The next year, they’re [in a state semifinal].”

Geneva visited the end zone on each of its first five possessions, collecting scoring drives of 41, 80, 80, 41 and 50 yards. Two drives lasted seven plays, with the rest falling short. The longest in duration took just 2:34 off the clock.

A veteran offensive line created ample room for the insert-senior-here backfield of Liam Burns, Justin Nebel and Parker Woodworth, who each rushed for touchdowns as they spelled Taormina on senior night. Woodworth scored twice, from 2 and 3 yards out.

Nebel paced the group with 105 yards on 11 carries.

“Just keep pushing. Don’t give up. Just keep going strong,” Vikings senior left tackle Ben Baker said.

Larkin moved the ball early in spots, drawing the Vikings in with minimal rushes up the gut before sneaking long gains over the top. Sophomore quarterback David Hibbler proved especially effective on play-action, connecting with junior wideout A.J. Hunter for a 38-yard gain on Larkin’s second possession that set the team up on the Vikings 22.

That drive ended with running back Cameron Tomlin’s fumble into the end zone, which Geneva’s Jason Croci recovered for a touchback. The Royals fumbled again two possessions later. Hibbler suffered a broken collarbone during the drive and left the game.

Sean Chambers relieved quarterback Daniel Santacaterina in the second quarter as Geneva rested several starters en route to a 35-0 halftime lead.

The Vikings recovered from last week’s loss at Batavia, and look forward to a clean slate in the postseason.

“We knew that we needed to get back to our fundamentals,” Taormina said. “We worked on it all week. And I feel like we established that tonight.”


HOW THEY SCORED FIRST QUARTER G – Woodworth 2 run (Browere kick), 9:41 G – Nebel 28 run (Browere kick), 5:17 SECOND QUARTER G – Burns 8 run (Browere kick), 11:29 G – Temple 26 pass from Santacaterina (Browere kick), 8:46 G – Woodworth 3 run (Browere kick), 4:29 THIRD QUARTER G – Burns 9 pass from Chambers (Browere kick), 9:48 FOURTH QUARTER L – Clements 1 run (pass failed), 4:18

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING – Larkin: Hibbler 4-30, Clements 11-17, Tomlin 10-16. Totals: 25-63. Geneva: Nebel 11-105, Burns 6-51, Woodworth 4-30, Burchard 3-19, Taormina 3-18, DeMeo 6-15, Radke 1-5, McAvoy 1-3. Totals: 35-246. PASSING – Larkin: Hibbler 6-11-62-1, Clements 4-6-42. Geneva: Santacaterina 5-8-112-0, Chambers 4-6, 46. RECEIVING – Larkin: Hunter 8-102, Tomlin 1-2. Geneva: Temple 3-91, Landi 2-23, Woodworth 2-18, Burns 1-15, Taormina 1-11. Total offense: Geneva 404, Larkin 167

Kevin Druley

Kevin Druley for Shaw Local News Network

Kevin Druley is a freelance writer for Shaw Local News Network who covered sports for the Kane County Chronicle from 2008-16