GENEVA – Geneva kicked away from St. Charles East return threat Brannon Barry throughout Friday’s Upstate Eight Conference River Division football game.
A squib here. A pooch there. Always a bluff.
It was about the only time the Vikings held their cards in a 35-21 victory. A consistenly effective offense outpaced the Saints’ late surge, helping Geneva (4-2, 3-1 UEC River) take sole possession of second place in the league standings.
“It was just really good communication this week,” Vikings junior center Joey Wagner said. “We knew what we were supposed to do, and it was just a matter of execution, and I think we came out and we did that. We performed well, and it was a lot of teamwork.”
East backup quarterback Mitch Dupuis’ fourth-down pass from the Geneva 9 fell incomplete with 3:53 to go, enabling the Vikings’ defense to exhale one last time.
Entering the game midway through the fourth quarter despite no apparent injury to starter Jimmy Mitchell – “I decline comment on my quarterback change,” Saints coach Mike Fields said – Dupuis kept the Saints (4-2, 2-1) afloat.
Still, pressure up front from a group including Geneva’s Billy Douds, Stephen Kemp and Matthew Loberg ultimately took its toll no matter which East player was under center.
“We have both on our D-line. We have big guys and we have speed,” Douds said. “We saw them running a lot on first down, and when they passed on second, third or fourth down, we pinned back our ears.”
Although he played on the other side of the ball, Geneva senior running back T.J. Miller proved just as bullish, rushing 24 times for 118 yards and touchdowns of one, seven, one and 10 yards.
Geneva gained 267 yards on 43 plays and possessed the ball for the majority of the first two quarters, but only had a 21-14 halftime lead to show for it.
As a capacity homecoming crowd thirsted for a three-possession edge in the waning minutes, the game hinged on one of the lone plays in which the Vikings didn’t execute.
With Geneva ahead, 21-7, and the ball on the Saints 19, the Vikings turned the ball over on downs when Daniel Santacaterina’s 5-yard pass to Miller was four yards shy of the first down. East took over on its own 14 with little time – 1:09 – and even less momentum.
East offensive coordinator Shaun Ratay, a former Geneva quarterback, didn’t shy away from the aerial attack. Gaudy gains to A.J. Washington (49 yards) and Mitch Munroe (46) bookended Loberg’s sack of Mitchell, quickly putting East at the Geneva 8.
A fourth-down pass interference call against Geneva gave the Saints one last chance to avoid stalling the drive, and they cashed in on a trick play as time expired on the half.
With Mitchell casually going in motion to the left, running back Ramon Lopez took a direct snap and flipped the ball back to Mitchell, who avoided the congestion and raced in for the touchdown.
The lateral – not the call itself – was improvised.
“Busted play. That’s just a couple of kids being kids and just having some fun out there,” Fields said. “I will give Jimmy some credit; he told Ramon, ‘Hey, you know, if you get stopped, I’m going to trail you.’ But we certainly didn’t draw that up. Just one of those plays, and we’ll take it.”
With apologies to the halftime fireworks show, the Vikings arguably delivered the night’s most eye-popping sequence on their third straight scoring drive to open the game. Facing a 3rd and 18 from his own 35, Santacaterina scrambled, eluded pressure from two Saints defenders, scrambled some more, and lofted a pass near midfield.
Pace Temple settled under the ball, secured it and juked his way for a 43-yard gain.
Santacaterina finished with 240 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. Mitchell passed for 245 yards and one score.
“We’re improving week to week, and that’s what I love about these guys,” Wagner said. “No matter what level we reach, we’re always looking for the next one. Always looking to get that much better. And that’s what’s fun about these guys, is that the potential’s limitless. Just keep working.”
ENEVA 35, ST. CHARLES EAST 21
STCE 7 7 0 7 – 21 Geneva 8 13 7 7 – 35
HOW THEY SCORED
FIRST QUARTER G – Miller 1 run (Temple run), 6:30 S – Barry 1 pass from Mitchell (Anderson kick), 5:19SECOND QUARTER G – Temple 4 pass from Santacaterina (Browere kick), 11:16 G – Miller 7 run (run failed), 7:17 S – Mitchell 4 run, (Anderson kick) 0:00THIRD QUARTER G – Miller 1 run (Browere kick), 9:12FOURTH QUARTER G – Miller 10 run (Browere kick) 11:48 S – Lopez 14 run (Anderson kick), 9:08
RUSHING – St. Charles East: Dupuis 5-43, Lopez 11-40, Barry 2-20, Munroe 4-(-2), Mitchell 5-(-26). Totals: 27-75. Geneva: Miller 24-118, Burns 11-71, Woodworth 6-23, Santacaterina 8-5. Totals: 49-217.
PASSING – St. Charles East: Mitchell 14-27-245-1. Dupuis: 2-5-22. Geneva: Santacaterina 12-19-240-1-1.
RECEIVING – St. Charles East: Washington 5-99, Munroe 1-46, Pullman 2-31, Barry 2-26 Hopper 1-26, Flanigan 3-19, Lopez 1-20. Geneva: Temple 5-81, Landi 2-70, Woodworth 3-45, Brown 1-39, Miller 1-5.
Total offense: Geneva 457, St. Charles East 342.
Sophomore game: St. Charles East 28, Geneva 21