GENEVA – Despite the fact Geneva’s football team was unable to reach the state title game, coach Rob Wicinski is pleased with the progress his program has made.
It was the second time in three years that the Vikings reached the Class 6A semifinals, only to see their season end.
This time was even more heart-wrenching – a 28-0 loss at home to rival Batavia, which advances to play Normal in the title game at 10 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
But this group of seniors has left its mark.
“Extremely proud of the seniors,” Wicinski said. “I really believe that even though we got bogged down in the semifinals again, I really believe they have taken the program to another level.
“Their leadership has also built up the lower levels, so they have something to shoot for.”
The Vikings tied the school record that had been achieved four times prior with 11 wins and started the season 8-0, sharing the inaugural Western Sun Conference championship with Batavia and Kaneland, whose season ended in the Class 5A semifinals as well Saturday, 22-7 to unbeaten Marian Central.
Those facts are not lost on the seniors, especially the team’s emotional leader and two-year starting quarterback Shaun Ratay.
“This season’s meant the world to me,” Ratay said. “I love everybody on this team, all the coaches. It’s been the best time of my life. I just wish we could have gone a little farther. Next couple of years, these guys are going to be pretty good, and I’ll be back watching them.”
In order for the Vikings to advance, it’s become clear that beating Batavia will be the key. The two teams often have been mismatched through the years, with one team down and the other one successful. That has changed in recent years as both teams have become successful, but the Bulldogs’ dominance over Geneva has not changed. Saturday’s win was the 11th in the last 12 tries for Batavia.
“In order to get downstate, it looks like Batavia is in the way, so that’s our goal,” Wicinski said. “They came in here and beat us twice. Any team that can do that, good luck to them at state. We just have to keep plowing away.”
As for Kaneland, the Knights enjoyed an offensive explosion this season, scoring 507 points in its 11-2 season.
Quarterback Boone Thorgesen was a big part of that. His 4,763 total yards rank second all-time in IHSA history for a single season behind the 5,138 racked up by Dusty Burk of Tuscola in 1996, according to IHSA.org. He ranks seventh all-time in the state in passing yardage (3,723) and passing touchdowns (43) in a single season. He also rushed for 1,040 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
The run to the semifinals was the furthest the Knights had gone since going undefeated while winning back-to-back Class 3A state titles in 1997 and 1998.