GENEVA – Friday’s 42-carry, 282-yard effort naturally prompted Geneva senior running back Justin Taormina to salute his offensive line.
Upon tipping his proverbial cap, however, Taormina also gestured to what football players long have called their hats.
Therein lied the real reflection.
“Bleached hair, it’s a sign that I have your back if you have my back,” Taormina said. “It’s a tradition at our school. Everybody was on board with it. We all have each other’s back. We never panicked. We’ve shown that in the St. Charles North and St. Charles East game before. We’re a team that plays to the last second, and it’s just a great relief to get a big win like this and move on to next week.”
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.
In Friday’s early stages, it seemed as though Oswego East (6-4) might also push the home team to the wire.
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.
Oswego East had plenty to do with that, of course, blocking 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.”
The “good juju,” to borrow a favorite phrase from Vikings coach Rob Wicinski, translated to the offense, which 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 Chambers to receiver Ryan Skibinski, helping Geneva to 29 unanswered points in the second quarter.
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 broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown run to open the third quarter, which vaulted Geneva to a 36-7 lead with the point-after.
“The first thing I did when I got that was I went straight to bench where the line was, and I congratulated them because they earned it,” Taormina said. “I didn’t earn it. It’s them doing their work, and I just get the glory.”
Nik Wadsworth’s 3-yard touchdown run and a 49-yard touchdown pass from Banks to Devin Riley brought the Wolves within striking distance in the third quarter. But Geneva’s stability was the difference.
Alec Keating and Nick Miller hauled in fourth-quarter interceptions as 6-foot-4 junior defensive lineman Collin Lee used his leverage to tip several passes at the line of scrimmage.
“He used to play safety, so he’s very athletic,” said Kemp, who missed the second half with a shoulder injury but said he’ll be good for the second round. “He just comes up and gets the ball.”
Ditto for Taormina, whether it’s on a direct handoff from Chambers, a pitch or any other means.
The fans sure enjoyed the display, but could the offensive line get a good view?
“We try to,” reserve Adam Dahlberg said, “but more it’s you’ve got to keep the guys off of him. Their defense was very fast tonight.”
GENEVA 36, OSWEGO EAST 19
Oswego East 7 0 12 0 _ 19 Geneva 0 29 7 0 – 36
O – Caldwell 10 pass from Banks (Santillian kick), 7:59
G – Taormina 1 run (Hines kick), 10:10
G – Skibinski 20 pass from Chambers (Chambers pass), 6:08
G – Taormina 4 run (Hines kick), 3:44
G – Taormina 23 run (Hines kick), 0:12
G – Taormina 75 run (Hines kick), 11:41
O – Wadsworth 3 run (run failed), 6:55
O – Riley 49 pass from Banks (pass failed), 4:02
RUSHING – Oswego East: Bailey 6-22, Wadsworth 3-9, Riley 1-3, Banks 11-(-1), Cahue 1-(-4). Totals: 22-29. Geneva: Taormina 42-282, Kemp 1-6, Bodine 4-3, Chambers 2-3, Friedel 1-0, Swanson 1-0. Totals: 51-294. PASSING – Oswego East: Banks 15-30-2-273. Geneva: Chambers 7-21-1-143. RECEIVING – Oswego East: Riley 7-103, Allison 3-75, Bailey 2-56, Caldwell 2-27, Glende 1-273. Geneva: Skibinski 4-82, Erdmann 3-61.
Total offense: Geneva 437, Oswego East 301.