Special teams a difference-maker in St. Charles East football's win over Geneva
ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East’s Erik Anderson salted away the final few minutes of Friday’s football game by attacking Geneva’s defensive front just as he had in the first quarter.
Whether blocks developed at the snap or shortly thereafter, he spotted them and struck.
Watching Vikings counterpart Bobby Hess follow suit got unnerving before long. Anderson hasn’t played two ways since middle school, but he wondered whether his No. 21 jersey could double as a defensive back, too.
It didn’t, so all Anderson could do was wait until East got the ball again. Patience, he told himself. That’s what the Saints thought, too.
East survived the scuffling Vikings’ valiant threat, scoring a 34-27 Upstate Eight Conference victory that kept the Saints on pace for a coveted conference title.
“We have big goals and we want to go far,” Anderson said, “but we also know that it doesn’t come right away. You’ve just got to keep working.”
Geneva (1-5, 1-3 UEC River) took the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, as senior running back/returner Bobby Hess reminded the crowd of his impact as early as possible. The Saints (4-2, 3-0 UEC River) watched Hess strike for a 40-yard touchdown run later in the first quarter and were starting to stress as he re-emerged as a force down the stretch.
East’s collective blood pressure was far more steady, however, in the middle quarters, even as turnovers and big special teams plays threatened to turn the tide for either team.
Hess gained 61 yards on his first four carries, but needed 17 more totes to get his next 61 yards.
“They just had a couple big plays on us early. We were doing all right,” East linebacker Jon Finn said. “So we just stepped up our game. We had a couple blitzes we put in, brought our intensity up and did what we knew we could do.”
Hobbled and cramping, Hess still uncorked runs of 18, 9 and 16 yards in the final quarter en route to 26 carries for 144 yards. He was not on the field during one of the game’s biggest plays. Trailing by the final margin, Geneva went for a 4th and 1 from the East 31-yard line with 4:28 to play.
Geneva called a naked bootleg for freshman quarterback Nick Derr, who appeared to get first-down yardage. An offensive holding penalty called the play back, and an ensuing unsportsmanlike conduct call against Vikings coach Rob Wicinski forced Geneva to punt.
Always impassioned Saints coach Mike Fields delivered what players called one of his more memorable halftime addresses after Geneva took a 21-14 lead at intermission.
Mitch Munroe sensed the urgency more than most, taking the second half kickoff 96 yards for a score. Munroe shined on special teams throughout the night after accounting for the Saints’ first touchdown, returning a Derr interception 24 yards to the end zone.
“Homecoming. Big night. Big crowd,” Munroe said. “We were all pumped up and ready for this.”
Munroe’s kickoff return and Pat Frio’s point-after tied the score at 21. Another special teams touchdown two minutes later gave the Saints their first lead.
Mike Candre blocked Geneva’s Joe Boenzi as he attempted to punt deep in Geneva territory after a botched snap. Mike Eyre recovered the ball near the back pylon of the end zone for a touchdown.
“I do feel that if we were a little bit tighter on special teams, I think we would have been OK,” Wicinski said.
Geneva answered on a 43-yard scoring pass from Derr to Kyle Brown, the pair’s second long touchdown connection of the game. The extra point attempt failed, putting Geneva down by a point.
The gaffe was mostly canceled out when East missed its point-after when Anderson scored on a 5-yard run with 11:00 to play in the game. He scored two plays after Geneva fumbled and three plays after East opened the fourth quarter with an interception.
Anderson carried 28 times for 151 yards before he could finally exhale.
“You’ve just got to stay positive,” he said. “When you get out there, all you can do is do your part.”
ST. CHARLES EAST 34, GENEVA 27
Geneva 14 7 6 0 – 27
STC East 7 7 14 6 – 34
G – Hess 94 kickoff return (Dunlop kick), 11:47
E – Munroe 24 interception return (Frio kick), 9:22
G – Hess 40 run (Dunlop kick), 4:30
E – Anderson 58 pass from Mitchell (Frio kick), 11:50
G – Brown 77 pass from Derr (Dunlop kick), 10:13
E – Munroe 96 kickoff return (Frio kick), 11:45
E – Eyre end zone blocked punt recovery (Frio kick), 9:45
G – Brown 43 pass from Derr (kick failed), 7:15
E – Anderson 5 run (kick failed), 11:00
RUSHING – Geneva: Hess 26-144, Boenzi 4-10, Miller 2-14,Temple 1-3, Derr 1-(-7). Totals: 34-164. St. Charles East: Anderson 28-151, Hoscheit 6-19, Mitchell 3-(-8), Candre 1-(-7). Totals: 38-155
PASSING – Geneva: Derr 8-14-177-2-1. St. Charles East: Mitchell 5-12-104-1-0.
RECEIVING – Geneva: Brown 4-139, Dunlop 1-23, Temple 3-15. St. Charles East: Anderson 1-58, Munroe 1-16, Zajicek 1-12, Barry 1-11, Hoscheit 1-7.
Sophomore game: Geneva 7, St. Charles East 2