Geneva nabs four interceptions in the second half to beat Glenbard North

GENEVA – Led by four second-half interceptions and Troy Velez’s two touchdowns, Geneva beat Glenbard North, 14-10, in a DuKane Conference opener Sept. 9 at Burgess Field.

All four of the Panthers’ drives in the last two quarters ended with Geneva defenders picking off Justin Bland passes. Junior Will Diamond snared two while Eli Curry and Tom Diamond grabbed one interception each. Diamond’s pick at the Vikings’ 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter prevented the Panthers from taking the lead.

“That’s what we preach in practice. Interceptions and turnovers decide games,” Geneva coach Boone Thorgesen said. “Our defense played fantastic. When their backs were against the wall, they made the plays.”

Velez, a sophomore, rushed for 142 yards on 22 carries. His biggest gain was a 52-yard scoring run with 4:04 left in the third quarter that put Geneva on top for good. It appeared that he was stopped at midfield, but he broke loose and crossed the goal line.

“He runs hard. This was his game,” Thorgesen said. “He ran like a man possessed.”

“I just kept moving my feet. I never gave up,” Velez said about his second effort.

Glenbard North (1-2, 0-1) came within one yard of the end zone on its first possession of the game but had to settle for a field goal. Panthers receiver Johnnie Robertson caught a 14-yard pass from Bland on his knees at the 1-yard line on the 90-yard, 11-play drive. However, three consecutive offensive penalties pushed the Panthers back to the 16-yard line. Facing fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line, the Panthers opted for a field-goal attempt. Juan Ramirez’s 26-yard boot put Glenbard North up 3-0 at the 5:24 mark of the first quarter.

Geneva (3-0, 1-0) responded with a scoring drive of its own on its first possession. Back-to-back completions from Nate Stempkowski to Aldo Sense (16 yards) and Talyn Taylor (19 yards) put the Vikings at Glenbard North’s 4-yard line. Velez ran the ball in for the score on the next play to put Geneva in front 7-3.

Stempkowski completed six of 12 attempts for 91 yards. Taylor caught three of the passes for 41 yards.

The Panthers pulled back in front 10-7 with five seconds left in the half. Bland started the drive when he picked off a Taylor pass and returned it to the Vikings’ 37-yard line. Bland finished the drive with a 13-yard run into the end zone.

Geneva’s first interception of the third quarter set up the drive that ended with Velez’s second touchdown.

Bland connected on 15-of-32 attempts for 164 yards. Robertson caught four passes for 58 yards while teammate Zamar Robinson added five catches for 51 yards.