ST. CHARLES – Moderate fog formed over the south end of the St. Charles North football field late in the fourth quarter Friday night.
The complexion of North’s Upstate Eight Conference River Division game against Geneva begged Reece Conroyd to burst through mist. Alas, the North Stars junior linebacker already had done enough damage in plain view.
Conroyd contributed several big plays to North’s 25-6 victory, including two fumble recoveries and a partially blocked punt. Like the rest of his teammates, he serenaded what remained of a soggy crowd before searching for open space to celebrate.
“Everyone came together for this game. We know it’s a big game. We’ve got to make a push for the playoffs, and this was a must-win,” Conroyd said. “We worked hard all week, had some intense practices and we came out here with a goal. We came here to make a statement, and I think we made it tonight.”
North (2-3, 2-1 UEC River) might have bucked the one-game-at-a-time trend by emphasizing a victory so heavily. With defending division champ Batavia (Week 7) and challenging crossover foe South Elgin (Week 9) still on the schedule, the North Stars knew a loss would make for tough sledding in a bid to end a two-season playoff drought.
Geneva (1-4, 1-2) absorbed defeat instead, watching the tide turn after Conroyd and company forced a turnover on downs after the Vikings had a 1st and goal from the North 1 on their first possession.
“We just can’t handle adversity right now, offensively or defensively,” Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said. “We’re just on such thin ice. Our window is just so small for success. So anything that goes south, it’s a real difficult task for us.”
The teams combined on 15 running plays to open the game, which likely would have been the course even if rain hadn’t pelted the area for much of the afternoon and early evening.
Vikings senior Bobby Hess (21 carries, 121 yards) embraced an increased workload after Geneva lost sophomore quarterback Daniel Santacaterina to a broken clavicle in Week 3. Freshman Nick Derr showed well in spots of last week’s home rout of Larkin, but completed just one of his 11 passes against the North Stars, a 48-yard touchdown to Kyle Brown with 3:01 remaining in the game.
By then, the North Stars had built a 25-0 lead behind a versatile attack. Running backs George Edlund and Evan Kurtz – who bookended the team’s scoring with separate touchdown runs – worked in tandem before North opened things up in the passing game after halftime.
Senior quarterback Ryan Fischbach connected with classmate Benjamin Kaplan for a 35-yard gain on one third-quarter drive before Kaplan finished the possession with a weaving touchdown on a 32-yard slip screen.
Fischbach also connected with Zach Kirby on a 49-yard play and added a 10-yard scoring pass to Garrett Johnson. He had plenty of time to operate behind an effective offensive line.
“At the start of the game, it was pretty slippery and we were sliding around, but once you get going, it got better,” junior left tackle Chase Gianacakos said. “You’ve just got to keep running your feet and keep blocking all the time. Never stop, never quit, keep hustling.”
Gianacakos, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound force who started as a sophomore, also has shuttled in on goal-line defense scenarios, and was part of the series of stops North put together in the opening minutes.
As North flirted with its second successive shutout, players pointed to the early stand as the difference-maker. The Vikings attempted a fourth-down conversion from the North 4, but North defenders forced Hess out of bounds, and North coach Mark Gould declined the ensuing offensive holding penalty.
“It was big, because they were driving on us and we couldn’t really stop them,” Conroyd said. “Then we made that stop, that was huge. ... That was a big confidence-builder.”
Wicinski implored the Vikings to keep their heads up and keep working, because he and his staff are not going to stop coaching.
Geneva knows its offense must improve when the Vikings conclude their trip through St. Charles with a visit to East next week.
“We’ve got multiple pieces that are out of sync right now. I couldn’t put it on one thing at all,” he said. “Just our consistency is out of whack, and it makes for a long night when that stuff happens.”
ST. CHARLES NORTH 25, GENEVA 6 Geneva 0 0 0 6 – 6 STC North 0 6 6 13 – 25
HOW THEY SCORED
SECOND QUARTER S – Kurtz 1 run (run failed), 0:13THIRD QUARTER S – Kaplan 32 pass from Fischbach (pass failed), 2:50FOURTH QUARTER S – Johnson 10 pass from Fischbach (Stutesman kick), 9:32 S – Edlund 10 run (kick failed), 5:04 G – Brown 48 pass from Derr (pass failed), 3:01
RUSHING – St. Charles North: Edlund 14-56, Kurtz 17-52, Hausl 1-2, Hunter 1-2, Fischbach 2-(-1), Miller 1-(-2). Totals: 36-109. Geneva: Hess 21-121, Boenzi 13-29, Derr 1-0. Totals: 35-150.PASSING – Geneva: Derr 1-11-48-1-0. St. Charles North: Fischbach 10-17-173-2-1. RECEIVING – Geneva: Brown 1-48. Fischbach 2-(-1) . St. Charles North: Kirby 4-70, Kaplan 2-67, Johnson 3-26, Kurtz 1-10.