Several Cary-Grove fans howled at Saturday’s pregame announcement publicizing the burst pipes in the outdoor restroom facilities at Al Bohrer Field.
Turns out the Trojans' basic navy and white uniforms and triple-option offense provide only a peek into the program's penchant for old-school football. Cheering adverse effects of the elements registers several notches above.
For much of a frigid afternoon, Geneva responded to Cary-Grove’s physicality in a 7A quarterfinal. The Vikings scored the first points on the Trojans’ starting defense since Week 6 and by halftime were within six points of a team that still hasn’t trailed in 2014.
An eventual 44-26 loss ended Geneva's season. It didn't sap the Vikings' spirits.
"I thought everybody played a [heck] of a season," senior defensive back Sean Chambers said. "We had something special out here, and it's a bummer we couldn't finish it off."
Geneva reached the program's first quarterfinal since 2008, when the Vikings finished as 7A runners-up. Entering this fall, the program was just 2-4 in the postseason since, but an improved defense and big-play offense sparked a 2014 turnaround.
Warmed by postgame handshakes, hugs and on-the-spot reflections, 16th-year Vikings coach Rob Wicinski wasn't shy to lump a superlative on his latest batch of Vikings.
"I enjoyed probably this run better than any of the other ones," Wicinski said. "I was too stupid to know any better years ago. So now I'm appreciating a little bit more. I didn't realize it's been six years since we've been this far. That's kind of depressing. But, you know, you just don't see the trees because of the forest. That's where I've been. Just trying to grow it back to this level."
An MRI on Monday confirmed Saturday’s initial suspicion that Geneva senior wide receiver/defensive back Pace Temple suffered an MCL tear in Saturday’s loss. It is a grade 3 tear that will sideline him for 6 to 8 weeks of the basketball season, according to Temple.
Also the holder for the Vikings' extra-point attempts, Temple was injured early in the second quarter when he hauled in a high snap and was drilled on the sideline trying to run the ball in for a two-point conversion.
"Not good," said Temple, the top returning guard for the basketball team, on Saturday. "But better than an ACL."
Temple spent the second half on crutches and wearing a knee brace, but was hardly limited in his new role as sideline supporter.
"Pace is the best athlete out here. Without a doubt, he's the heart of this team and I really feel bad for him," Chambers said. "But he was with us. The whole game, he was out there, pretty much. I could just feel his presence. It was great. He's a great kid."
Spartans brace for Nazareth
With every 6A playoff victory, St. Francis secures a new signature win.
Saturday’s 41-14 quarterfinal romp against Hinsdale South became the latest while sharing common ground with the Spartans’ biggest ‘W’ of the regular season, a 31-7 rout of 5A semifinalist Montini in Week 7.
"You could tell right away, from the very get-go, we were ready to play," said St. Francis senior left guard/middle linebacker John Vargyas of St. Charles.
Slow starters at various points this fall – including a second-round win at Lakes, in which they overcame a 14-0 deficit after one quarter to win, 39-36 – the Spartans fused the energies of their own huddle and the last home crowd at Kuhn Memorial Stadium in 2014.
Sixth-seeded St. Francis (10-2) knew a win would likely send it on the road for this week’s semifinal, and top-seeded Nazareth (12-0) made that premonition stand with a 54-24 victory against Lake Forest.
"Yeah, I mean it was a little sad knowing that it's your last home game, but we wanted to go out with a bang, and we were glad we were able to give the fans a good show," Spartans quarterback Clint Bobowski said. "It's great to have them cheer us on and leave our last game at Kuhn Memorial Stadium with a win."
Nazareth eclipsed the 50-point mark for the fifth time this season. The Roadrunners feature a handful of players receiving heavy NCAA Division I recruiting attention, including 6-foot-6, 290-pound left tackle Jack Shutack.
Word-of-mouth about St. Francis' next foe spread quickly Saturday evening.
"Just from hearing from other teams and some guys that I know that went to Lake Forest said they're a great team," Vargyas said. "So just looking forward to playing them and seeing what we can do."
St. Francis and Geneva both are fueled by similarly named student sections. The Spartans’ have the Blue Crew, while the Vikings’ Blue Crue rolls behind a motley, heavy-metal influence.
"They were really the 12th man behind our back [Saturday]," Geneva right guard T.K. Hood said.
St. Francis' supporters felt the call of duty in Wheaton and downstate, as the girls volleyball team played for – and earned – a Class 3A state championship three-peat at Illinois State in Normal on Saturday.
“Yeah, the Blue Crew is great,” Bobowski said. “We always thank them after the games, and we love those guys. They’re really rowdy. It always helps us. It always gives us a little extra edge, a little extra motivation.”