GENEVA – When it became official Geneva’s running game would clash with Carmel’s run defense in the IHSA Class 7A football quarterfinals, it was apparent someone’s reputation would take a bit of a hit.
For those who have questioned the defenses that have allowed all those yards to Geneva so far this season, it turns out Michael Ratay and the Vikings' offensive line are legit.
The Vikings’ offense controlled the clock Saturday afternoon at Burgess Field and made a hyped-up Carmel front seven look not much different than the previous 11 teams as Rob Wicinski’s Vikings rumbled to a 35-21 victory and into the state semifinals for the third time in his tenure.
The win ran the Vikings' record to 12-0, marking the first time in school history they’ve reached the 12-win mark.
“I’m really proud of them,” Wicinski said. “I’m really proud of the way they handled themselves. I’m really happy for them. They’ve worked hard.”
Geneva trailed early, but evened the score at 14-14 less than a minute before halftime on an 8-yard pass from Brandon Beitzel to Michael Santacaterina. From there it was all Ratay as Geneva’s offensive line wore down a Carmel defense that barely sniffed the sidelines in the third quarter.
“I think the key was that second score right at the end of the second quarter,” Wicinski said. “I think that really gave us a boost. We came down there and the offensive linemen we’re very confident that they could do what they needed to do.
“…It was actually very calming for us. Now, all the jitters were out and we just got down to business. Somebody did something well up front, but of course when you’ve got 21 (Ratay) breaking some tackles, that doesn’t hurt.”
Ratay ran for 184 yards, 134 of which came in the second half as Carmel’s defense tired.
“I know that our offensive line, they’re never going to quit so I know that they’re going to pound the other team down and hopefully wear them down,” Ratay said.
He carried the ball five times on the opening drive of the second half. Four of them went for nine yards or more, and he capped the drive with a 14-yard trip to pay dirt to give the Vikings their first lead.
“That changed the game right there,” Carmel coach Andy Bitto said of the drive. “They scored at the end of the first half, but we felt we played pretty well in the first half.”
Carmel (10-2) ran three third-quarter plays before punting to Geneva with 6:44 left in the quarter. The Vikings again found holes in the Corsairs' defense on an 84-yard, 16-play drive that ran the clock down to 13 seconds and ended with Beitzel reaching across the goal line to extend the lead to 28-14.
As the Vikings wrapped up the quarterfinal win, their semifinal opponent, Crystal Lake South, wrapped up an overtime win against Cary-Grove. The Vikings aren’t very familiar with Crystal Lake South, but a similar performance from Ratay and Co. would be an ideal starting point.
“It’s nice to have a back that can make one guy miss,” Wicinski said. “Or two or three or four.”