Geneva thoroughly dominated St. Charles North during the first half of Friday's 35-28 Vikings win, with Vikings defensive end Billy Douds supplying the exclamation point.
Douds delivered a powerful jolt to St. Charles North quarterback Erik Miller in the first quarter, jarring the ball loose and setting up the Vikings' second touchdown deep in North territory.
"[Geneva defensive end Matt Loberg] came around the edge, we got a push up the middle, and I got around [North offensive lineman Chase Gianacakos]," Douds said. "And Chase is a great player, we battled it out all winter long. I just got around, and sandwiched [Miller]."
Douds is highly familiar with Gianacakos – the North Stars' 288-pound, Michigan State-bound left tackle – from offseason workouts.
"We went to Don Beebe's academy together," Douds said. "We were going up against each other 10, 15 times a night, every Wednesday night. We got some good reps in."
Douds, 6-2, 215 pounds, acknowledged dealing with Gianacakos' brawn caught up with him as the game unfolded. After a poor start, North scored 21 unanswered points to make a game of it.
"He really wore me down in the third quarter," Douds said. "He was pushing me back on their run plays but I knew if I got a good jump on him, I'd get his hands off me, and get around him."
Douds leads the Vikings with 2 1/2 sacks this season and is fourth on the Vikings' defense with 25 tackles.
Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said Douds has improved at setting an edge for the Vikings' defense.
"Billy has gotten better week to week to week," Wicinski said. "We've really been working hard on keeping his contain. The first week against Oswego, and against [Wheaton North] and Batavia, he was inside a lot, people were breaking down our defense. We told Billy this is it, man, you've got to keep your contain, and he's really been disciplined up and done that."
Batavia often trumpets its balance offensively, and the statistics bear that out for offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari and the Bulldogs.
Through five games, Batavia (4-1) has passed for 1,000 yards and rushed for 996 yards.
Bulldogs senior quarterback Micah Coffey has thrown for 941 yards, while senior running back Anthony Scaccia has rushed for 584 yards, to go with 144 receiving yards.
Michael Moffatt (19 receptions, 280 yards) is the Bulldogs' leading receiver.
Closing in on bids
Aurora Christian and Kaneland – each 5-0 – are the area's last unbeaten teams after Marmion dropped its first game Friday against Montini.
The Eagles and Knights can clinch the playoffs with wins this week; Aurora Christian hosts Marmion while Kaneland visits DeKalb.
Five wins make a team playoff-eligible, a benchmark Batavia (4-1), Marmion (4-1) and St. Charles East (4-1) are capable of reaching this week.
Aurora Central Catholic (3-2), Geneva (3-2) and St. Francis (3-2) are also above .500 heading into the final four weeks of the regular season.
St. Charles North and Wheaton Academy both sit at 2-3, while Burlington Central (1-4) is the last area team still searching for win No. 2.
IN THE GROOVE
Kyle Brown, Geneva, Sr., WR
What he did: Brown caught a pair of touchdowns passes – including a highlight-reel, one handed-grab – among his five-reception, 111-yard receiving night Friday as Geneva earned a 35-28 Upstate Eight Conference River win against St. Charles North.
Aurora Christian defense
What it did: The Eagles kept St. Francis standout running back James Butler and the rest of the Spartans' offense in check Friday as the Eagles beat the host Spartans, 24-14, to remain unbeaten.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
St. Charles North and Aurora Central Catholic face stressful paths in their pursuit of the playoffs.
After dropping their respective games on Friday, North (2-3) and ACC (3-2) each appear likely to finish the season with 5-4 records unless either team is involved in a significant upset the rest of the way. At 5-4, the North Stars and Chargers would need favorable shakes on playoff points to make the postseason.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether St. Francis can stop the bleeding in the rugged Suburban Christian Conference Blue.
The Spartans want to avoid a midseason slide along the lines of what they experienced last year, but it won't be easy. St. Francis has lost two straight games after beginning the season 3-0, and the Spartans head to 4-1 Marian Central on Friday.
COACH SLY SAYS
We've gotten used to Kaneland and Morris playing for all the NI Big 12 marbles the past few years, but it's looking like Kaneland fans might want to set their Game of the Year watch a little bit earlier this season.
Morris isn't as dangerous as usual this year, as the Yorkville Foxes made clear Friday when they took down the Redskins for the first time since 1962. Bet that went over well in Morris.
Looks like Sycamore, like Kaneland, 5-0, is going to be the Knights' biggest threat the rest of the way. The Knights and Spartans are due to meet Oct. 18 in Sycamore, and Sly can only imagine the atmosphere for that one if the teams can stay spotless between now and then.
That won't be easy, especially for Sycamore, which has to travel to Morris and Rochelle the next two weeks.