The Wolves' early blend of defensive execution and special teams savvy silenced the Geneva crowd. Even superfan Gary "And that's another Geneva first down" Sharp, toting a megaphone to trumpet his signature call from the stands, was mum.
But it was Geneva senior running back Justin Taormina's 42-carry, 282-yard effort that eventually led to the Vikings' 36-19 win against Oswego East. Geneva (9-1) will visit Bradley-Bourbonnais in the second round next weekend, as the Boilermakers outlasted host Glenbrook North, 60-59, in double overtime.
Oswego East (6-4) blocked a punt on Geneva's first possession and recovering on the Vikings' 18-yard line. That set up a 10-yard touchdown pass from nimble Oswego East quarterback Jaylon Banks – who opened the game with a 13-yard carry – to Kijana Caldwell with 7:59 left in the first quarter.
Just less than three minutes later, the Wolves threatened again, as Kaelub Newman intercepted Geneva quarterback Sean Chambers and returned the ball 46 yards to the Geneva 6.
That's when the Vikings concocted their own combo, benefiting from interior line pressure and two false start calls against the Wolves. Oswego East missed a 33-yard field goal attempt, and suddenly, the Vikings were ignited.
"We were feeling confident," senior defensive lineman Stephen Kemp said. "We're feeling good."
Geneva visited the end zone on five of its next six possessions. Taormina scoring runs of 1, 4 and 23 yards bookended a 20-yard touchdown connection from quarterback Sean Chambers to wide receiver Ryan Skibinski, helping Geneva to 29 unanswered points in the second quarter.
"After the big turnover, when we had the ball first and goal from the (6)-yard line, in those situations against teams like this, you've got to come away with points. Not scoring touchdowns and missing the field goal was big for us," Oswego East head coach Tyson LeBlanc said. "I thought it gave them a little bit of momentum, and they took it."
Taormina's 23-yard run saw him sweep right and cut back to the left thanks to a nifty block from reserve offensive lineman Bradley King, filling in for Matt Pawlak, who left the game with a stinger. King received a personal greeting in that instance and again when Taormina busted loose for a 75-yard touchdown run to open the third quarter, which vaulted Geneva to a 36-7 lead with the point-after.
Nik Wadsworth's 3-yard touchdown run and a 49-yard touchdown pass from Riley to Caldwell brought the Wolves within striking distance in the third quarter. But Geneva's stability was the difference.
Oswego East caps its season with its second postseason appearance in school history.
“Outstanding group of seniors,” LeBlanc said. “I mean, we were put in a situation where we were essentially in a playoff in Week 6, when we had our first loss. For us to fight through against Plainfield South, who’s a playoff team, and Minooka, who’s a playoff team, for us to get those wins was a huge credit to our seniors and the dedication and work that they put in over the course of the four years to take our program to where we’re at now. Because it’s in a lot better spot than it was when they got here.”