CAROL STREAM – Geneva made one big mistake in Friday’s game against Glenbard North.
And it came at a bad time.
In a game evenly played in the first two-plus quarters -- a number of punts, penalties, dropped passes and overthrow passes by each team — Glenbard North senior defensive back Joshua Applewhite made the key play of the game.
Applewhite intercepted two passes, but his 38-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter sparked the Panthers to a 21-7 victory over the Vikings in DuKane Conference play in Carol Stream.
“That pick-six just came right to me,” Applewhite said. “I was right there, in the moment. That was my first pick-six ever, but this is just my second year playing defense. I felt that pass coming, when I saw the quarterback’s arm.”
The Panthers’ defense is showing why they have potential to be one of the best in the area, recording three interceptions and two sacks and limiting the Vikings to 22 yards rushing and 100 passing.
Trailing 7-6 in the fourth quarter, Applewhite’s INT return for a touchdown fueled a 15-point fourth quarter that changed the complexion of the game.
“Our defense is special,” Applewhite said. “We have great chemistry.”
Before the first of Applewhite’s two fourth-quarter interceptions, the Vikings (2-1, 0-1) and Panthers were locked in a stalemate. Even when the Vikings scored the first points of the game — on Tyler Tuisl’s 83-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter — the Panthers (3-0, 1-0) responded on the ensuing drive with a three-yard TD run by quarterback Justin Bland.
But the Panthers’ defense locked down the Vikings’ attack in the second half. With their run game all but bottled up, the Vikings were forced to pass the ball but the Panthers’ defense, especially the defensive line of Darius Robinson, Max Eick and David Petty, made things even more difficult.
Petty, a defensive end/tight end, tallied a sack in the third quarter and secured the win with a late fourth-quarter interception.
“Our defense played good, and we really turned it up in the second half,” Petty said.
Glenbard North senior wide receiver/safety Shea Gaffney bailed out the offense on numerous occasions, extending drives with long receptions to finish with five receptions for 156 yards. Meanwhile, Bland overcome a sluggish start, completing 12-of-23 passes for 224 yards.
“Coach (Ryan) Wilkens told me to produce because in the first two weeks I dropped a few passes, so I knew I had to produce this game to get the offense moving,” Gaffney said. “I felt I had a great week of practice, and was just really amped up to play this game.”
Geneva’s defense surrendered several big plays in the passing game, mainly to Gaffney, but played stellar for most of the game. The Vikings allowed just 73 yards rushing to go with tallying three sacks, recovering a fumble in the red zone and stopping the Panthers early in the fourth quarter on downs.
“We played a really good football team but we fought and clawed and things just didn’t go our way,” Geneva coach Boone Thorgesen said. “The defense played fantastic and was really flying around. Glenbard North is a power running game, so it was big boy football and our boys stepped up to the plate and gave us a shot to win. We just have to execute better down the stretch.”