GENEVA – Tugging at his beard the way opposing defenses would his No. 21 Geneva football jersey, Michael Ratay could only gloat.
“Not a lot of people can grow the facial hair,” he said.
The leader of the Vikings’ offense and “no-shave November” appeared to be spot-on Monday. Of the Geneva players who circled the indoor track during a late portion of practice, about 10 sported stubble.
Baby-faced Bryce Biel wore only a smile, amped already for Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. Class 7A quarterfinal playoff game against Carmel at Burgess Field.
“We know that this is one of the elite programs in the state,” the right guard said, “and we’re looking forward to playing them.”
The Corsairs (10-1) are in the playoffs for the eighth straight season, a streak three years longer than the Vikings’. Carmel’s Wing-T attack mirrors that of Rockton Hononegah, the team Geneva (11-0) defeated in the second round last week, but Carmel’s size doesn’t.
“They have a big O-line and then small, fast backs,” Geneva linebacker Brennan Quinn said. “That’s a little different.”
Geneva hopes to have reinforcements in starting defensive tackle Frank Boenzi, who has sat out both playoff games with mono. Vikings coach Rob Wicinski said Boenzi went to the doctor Monday and his status for Saturday remains questionable.
Rich MacDonald has filled in capably thus far, providing the team what Wicinski called “incredible depth.”
Wicinski had been hopeful about a Friday kickoff for the quarterfinals after the Hononegah game, but said Carmel expressed concern about arriving on time from Mundelein in Friday traffic.
Per the IHSA formula for determining home games in the playoffs, the top-seeded Vikings would also host a potential semifinal against either Cary-Grove or Crystal Lake South if they defeat the Corsairs.
While the extra day of preparation for Carmel is something players aren’t accustomed to, they’re getting there. This marks the third straight Saturday playoff game of the postseason.
“It’s never same ’ol. Any time you’re in the playoffs, it’s extremely exciting,” Wicinski said. “We never take it for granted.”
After a strong showing in the 46-28 win against Hononegah, Geneva is eager to extend the momentum into Saturday’s quarterfinal.
“Offensively, we’re doing great, and defensively, we’re doing great,” Ratay added. “We’re really focused and ready.”