CHICAGO — St. Rita’s defense wanted to take the life out of Geneva’s offense on Friday night.
Mustangs’ defensive coach Terry Quinn always wants his defense to capitalize on big plays and stop an opposing offense before it gets started and St. Rita did that in its Class 7A playoff opener.
The Mustangs blocked a field goal, returned an interception for a touchdown and forced a fumble on the Vikings’ first three drives, setting the way to a 27-14 win.
“We wanted to take them out of the game early,” St. Rita defensive back Zack Clark said. “Give them no hope and showed them who the better team is. We did that today.”
Geneva drove down to the St. Rita 15 after the Mustangs took a 3-0 lead and the Vikings attempted a 32-yard field goal that Key’Andre White blocked with 15 seconds left in the first quarter.
After St. Rita (8-2) scored on its next drive to take a 10-0 lead, Clark got in on the action and intercepted a pass and returned it 63 yards to give the Mustangs a 17-0 lead with 10:10 left in the second quarter. Geneva fumbled on its next play and Patrick Carmody recovered the ball but the Mustangs failed to score on the following drive.
St. Rita finished the night with four turnovers, Clark leading the way with two interceptions and Johnny Scmitt added another pick in the fourth quarter.
“The defense has been playing really well, and the offense feeds off of that too,” St. Rita coach Todd Kuska said.
Mustangs running back DJ Stewart rushed for two touchdowns and finished with 147 yards on 23 carries. Stewart added his second touchdown of the night when he ran in for two yards to give St. Rita a 24-0 lead with 3:15 left in the second quarter. Ethan Middleton added 29 rushing yards while quarterback Jett Hilding completed seven of his 16 passes for 86 yards and added 42 rushing yards.
TOUCHDOWN: DJ Stewart with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Mustangs a 10-0 lead with 11:04 left in the 2Q. Stewart picked up all 77 yards on that drive, including a 64-yard run. pic.twitter.com/SJzk7O73lh— Michal Dwojak (@mdwojak94) October 29, 2022
St. Rita rushing attack features mutliple playmakers in Stewart, Middleton, Hilding and wide reciever Calvin Lee, so the offensive game plan can be simple at times.
“The game plan was just keep pounding,” Stewart said. “Keep pounding, keep pounding, keep pounding each week.”
Geneva (6-4) regrouped after falling behind 24-0 when quarterback Nate Stempowski scored on a 5-yard run to make it 24-7 St. Rita 1:16 left in the second quarter. Stempowski left the game in the third quarter with an injury and sophomore Anthony Chahino came into the game after only getting a week of practice because he was recovering from a broken hand.
TOUCHDOWN: Geneva quarterback Nate Stempowski scores on a 5-yard run to get on the board. Highlight on the 91-yard drive was a 49-yard scramble from Stempowski. Vikings really needed that. Mustangs lead 24-7 with 1:16 left in the 2Q. pic.twitter.com/cvppdOCT6V— Michal Dwojak (@mdwojak94) October 29, 2022
Chahino completed a 85-yard pass to Anthony Pantano to make it 27-14 St. Rita with 4:12 left in the game but the sophomore had two interceptions in the fourth quarter.
Stempowski completed six of his 11 passes for 65 yards and rushed for 64, including a touchdown. Chahino completed three of his 12 passes for 108 yards.
“Like they always do, they fought, they battled and got us back in the game and gave us a shot a little bit,” Geneva coach Boone Thorgesen said.
St. Rita will play Prospect (9-1) in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs. The Mustangs defeated the Knights, 42-20, in the 7A semifinals last year.
Kuska knows the Prospect offense can pose problems and will work all week to make sure the offense and defense have that same killer mentality they showed in their first playoff game.
“That’s a good football team,” Kuska said. “They’ve been putting up a lot of points and winning a lot of games.”