December 10, 2023
Sports - Kane County

Sports - Kane County

Geneva Vikes exhale after Saints’ scare

Geneva's Luke Swanson runs for the ball as Bobby Ariss keeps St. Charles East's Michael Gutierrez from making the tackle on Friday in Geneva.

GENEVA – St. Charles East freshman running back Justin Jett matched the Geneva football team’s total of ineligible receiver downfield penalties in Friday’s first half.

Other than Jett’s 96 rushing yards to accompany his two scores in that span, no statistic better illustrated the early role reversal in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division game.

Bidding to upset the unbeaten Vikings, the Saints ultimately succumbed to three turnovers before intermission. Geneva owed each of its first-half touchdowns to Saints miscues, and the momentum forged from that resilience helped turn a five-point halftime deficit into a 27-26 win after a nail-biting second half.

Geneva (6-0, 4-0 UEC River) took its only lead on a 27-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Sean Chambers to classmate Ryan Skibinski with 2:12 remaining. It was the only score of the second half.

“It was just maintaining composure the entire time, not letting our heads go down,” Vikings senior left tackle Matt Pawlak said. “Coach [Rob Wicinski], he always says that he’s won more games being down at half than up at half. You just need to keep your head up. This game, like St. Charles North, all you need to do is win by one.”

Yup, a full-throat homecoming crowd witnessed another one-point game of the same vein as Geneva’s 42-41 home win against North in Week 4.

East (2-4, 2-2 UEC River) overwhelmed Geneva with its triple-option attack on the game’s opening drive, rushing three times for 76 yards in 1:06. Jett, who was promoted to varsity last week, punctuated the possession with a 39-yard scoring run, and visited the end zone on a 2-yard plunge 7:40 later.

“He’s a freshman; he’s going to make some freshman mistakes,” Saints coach Bryce Farquhar said. “But he runs hard. He’s a great back. He’s got a great attitude. He’ll learn from this game.”

A 23-yard touchdown pass from Zach Mitchell to Dante Macaluso gave the Saints a 26-14 edge with 1:05 to go before halftime, but that’s when the game began to turn toward Geneva.

Saints placekicker Nick Candre was injured on an apparent late hit on a fake point-after attempt following the Macaluso touchdown. Trainers and officials tended to Candre, who was loaded onto a stretcher and left the field in an ambulance. After the game, Farquhar said the CT scans on Candre’s head were negative and he cannot play contact sports for the next two weeks.

When play resumed, Geneva struggled to move the ball while throwing into the wind and facing a vaunted East pass rush. Chambers punted the ball away, but he and Geneva took control moments later when Jett fumbled on the first play from scrimmage once possession changed.

Off to a dismal start – 1 for 10 for 26 yards – Chambers swiftly regrouped upon taking over from the Saints’ 29-yard line with 29 seconds left before halftime. He connected on his next three attempts, culminating with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jack Wassel with six seconds before intermission.

Wicinski figured that sequence would inspire his bunch, even as East displayed what he called “total, tremendous improvement” from what he saw on early-season film.

It seemed to invigorate the Vikings on the surface, but East forced a Geneva turnover on downs inside the Saints’ 10 to begin the second half. In all, the final 24 minutes featured three turnovers on downs, two punts and a Geneva fumble before the game-winning scoring drive.

The Vikings got the ball back for the drive on a punt that followed a fumble from Justin Taormina (188 yards) on the Geneva 27-yard line with 3:52 remaining.

East ran for 240 yards. The Saints must win each of their three remaining regular season games to become playoff eligible. Visits to Larkin and East Aurora – a combined 1-9 entering Friday – bookend a Week 8 home game against 4-2 St. Charles North.

“I’m proud of the kids. I’m really proud of our effort, where we went,” Farquhar said. “Our defense was phenomenal tonight. I can’t say enough. [Geneva] had three scores on three turnovers.”


STCE        13    13    0    0    –    26

Geneva    7    14    0    6    –    27

How they scored


E – Jett 39 run (Candre kick), 10:47

G – Wassel 26 pass from Chambers (Hines kick), 8:26

E – Jett 2 run (kick failed), 3:07


E – Canales 4 run (Candre kick), 10:04

G – Taormina 6 run (Hines kick), 3:20

E – Macaluso 23 pass from Mitchell (run failed), 1:05

G – Wassel 14 pass from Chambers (Hines kick), 0:06


G – Skibinski 27 pass from Chambers (kick failed), 2:12


RUSHING – St. Charles East: Jett 19-112, Canales 9-67, Mitchell 9-42 Macaluso 3-18, Galante 1-1. Totals: 41-240. Geneva: Taormina 32-188, Chambers 9-17, Bodine 2-11, Kemp 3-9, Swanson 1-(-3). Totals: 47-212.

PASSING – St. Charles East: Mitchell 3-7-0-57. Geneva: Chambers 8-20-0-109.

RECEIVING – St. Charles East: Macaluso 1-24, Macklin 1-18, Grohe 1-15. Geneva: Wassel 4-67, Skibinski 2-32, Erdmann 1-9, Kemp 1-1.

Total offense: Geneva 321, St. Charles East 297

Sophomore game: St. Charles East 21, Geneva 6

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