GENEVA – The Geneva football team has a long way back to get into playoff contention, but the Vikings’ season officially has a pulse.
Shaking off three beat-downs to start the season, the Vikings relished a drastically different outing Friday, crushing Larkin, 56-23, for an Upstate Eight Conference River Division win.
“We were bleeding bad,” Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said. “This helps to maybe put a tourniquet around it for a while, and you go from there.”
Vikings senior running back Bobby Hess accounted for 243 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the first half as the Vikings predictably turned to the ground game almost exclusively one week removed from losing quarterback Daniel Santacaterina to a broken clavicle.
Five Geneva possessions, five Hess touchdowns – including scampers of 54 and 80 yards – put the Vikings (1-3, 1-1 UEC River) in command, 35-0, with 4:06 left in the first half.
Wicinski said he wanted the offensive line to feel the pressure of the Vikings’ season on their shoulders, and they delivered, even with senior offensive tackle Jacob Bastin sidelined by injury.
“Bastin, he’s a great lineman,” Hess said. “It was tough not having him, so I’m proud of the guys for stepping up. Jon Anderson’s in his place right now, and he’s doing a great job.”
After Larkin responded to draw within 35-7, Geneva freshman quarterback Nick Derr – on the Vikings’ third pass of the first half – completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kyle Brown with 9 seconds left in the half.
Junior T.J. Miller, one of Geneva’s top defensive backs, started at quarterback but Derr took most of the snaps as the game unfolded. Wicinski said Derr, a multisport standout who was the sophomore team’s quarterback, didn’t require as much hand-holding as one might expect for a freshman quarterback.
Derr attempted four passes, completing two, both for touchdowns, as he added a 19-yard touchdown strike to sophomore Pace Temple in the third quarter.
“He’s just young is the main thing, but I think with reps he’ll pick up more and more of the offense,” Wicinski said. “We’ll keep putting more and more in. We had a lot of good conversation tonight, and he got a lot of good experience tonight.”
It was Geneva’s first appearance at Burgess Field since the home opener against Oswego, a disastrous, turnover fest in which the Vikings absorbed a running-clock defeat. This time, it was Geneva’s turn to keep the clock rolling, as fullback Joe Boenzi dashed in for a 54-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter. Kevin Dunlop’s extra point made it 49-7, and the clock was rolling.
The Vikings tacked on another quick score after senior Alex Kunkel recovered a Larkin fumble on the ensuing kick, setting up Derr’s touchdown pass to Temple.
Vikings senior Nathan Balettie, a 6-foot-2, 255-pounder expected to be one of the team’s top defensive players, made his season debut after missing the first three games because of a concussion.
“I’m hoping to blow it up, get in there and make some plays, help the defense out, help the team out and get some more victories,” Balettie said.
About the only downer for Geneva was standout linebacker Colin Griffin leaving the game with an injury. Wicinski said initial reports were mixed about its severity.
Larkin (2-2, 1-1 UEC River) started to make hay offensively in the second half as Geneva mixed-and-matched personnel. Royals running back Maurece Herrion-Jackson finished with 157 rushing yards on 14 carries.
Hess had just one carry in the second half, winding up with 248 yards on 22 carries.
The Vikings hit the road to play St. Charles North and St. Charles East the next two weeks, but were glad to give their fans something better to remember in the meantime.
“I’ve been taking the wins for granted, I think,” Wicinski said. “I’m going to taste this one a little bit. I don’t care who we played, whatever. Having them go over and [sing the fight song], I forgot what that was all about.”
GENEVA 56, LARKIN 23
Larkin 0 7 8 8 – 23
Geneva 21 21 14 0 – 56
HOW THEY SCORED
G – Hess 54 run (Dunlop kick), 7:57
G – Hess 4 run (Dunlop kick), 5:16
G – Hess 8 run (Dunlop kick), 0:43
G – Hess 80 run (Dunlop kick), 7:11
G – Hess 3 run (Dunlop kick), 4:06
L – Herrion-Jackson 54 run (Herrion-Jackson kick), 3:10
G – Brown 17 pass from Derr (Dunlop kick), 0:09
G – Boenzi 54 run (Dunlop kick), 11:14
G – Temple 19 pass from Derr (Dunlop kick), 10:15
L – Herrion-Jackson 3 run (Herrion-Jackson run), 4:08
L – Randazzo 3 run (Blalark run), 10:25
RUSHING – Larkin: Randazzo 10-38, Blalark 6-minus 16, Herrion-Jackson 14-159, Clemons 4-11, No. 38 1-minus 4, S. Pruitt 1-1, J. Pruitt 2-7. Totals: 38-196. Geneva: Hess 22-248, Boenzi 4-86, Temple 1-13, Soto 3-14, Cella 1-minus 1, Corral 3-13, Deem 6-21. Totals: 40-394.
PASSING – Larkin: Blalark 2-10-0-40. Geneva: Derr 2-4-0-36.
RECEIVING – Larkin: Bonds 1-31, Randazzo 1-9. Totals: 2-40. Geneva: Brown 1-17, Temple 1-19. Totals: 2-36.
TOTAL OFFENSE – Larkin 236, Geneva 430
SOPHOMORE GAME – Geneva 39, Larkin 0