AURORA – Saturday's ACC Charger 7-on-7 passing tournament provided Geneva safety Chris Barger another opportunity to get a grip on the speed of the game.
“It's to show what we learned from camp and display it somewhere,” he said. “It's a real good exercise for us.”
Geneva, Burlington Central, Wheaton Academy and host ACC were among the 20 football teams taking part in the 7-on-7 contest.
Points of emphasis during the offseason for Geneva have been conditioning, speed and footwork, and coach Rob Wicinski knows how important those aspects are to a winning football program.
“We can't go anywhere unless we compete," Wicinski said. "I'm really pleased with their effort and that they're out there competing. The Xs and Os and getting guys in position, that'll all come with time. It's a process, and we're looking to compete and have fun out here."
Geneva is coming into the new season looking to evolve even more as an offense despite averaging more than 35 points a game last season. With Northern Illinois recruit quarterback Daniel Santacaterina and wideout Pace Temple leading the charge, Geneva is poised for another successful season.
“Santa is a good boy, and he's here all the time," Wicinski said. "He has a nice ability to read the defense and execute. My wideouts have been very crisp on their routes, and that's part of the process with making sure our concepts are correct."
With a second conditioning camp coming up next week, Geneva will be looking to build upon its 4-0-1 showing at the tournament.
“If I stay out of the way, we should be OK,” Wicinski joked.
At Burlington Central, coach Rich Crabel hopes to hammer home the value of full effort after his Rockets went 3-2 on the day.
“It's just a matter of seeing who wants to run,” Crabel said. “We're not running [hard enough], so our biggest thing is effort and being where you're supposed to be.”
After completing an up-and-down 2013 campaign in which Central finished 4-5, the summer serves as an opportunity for the team to get stronger and learn coverage assignments.
“Last year, I thought we finished up pretty strongly, so we need to carry that over into this season, and fix the little things from now until August," Crabel said.
Varsity hopeful running back/safety Jason Berango sustained a knee injury earlier in the summer, knocking him out of play for the foreseeable future, but the opportunity to observe on the sidelines allowed the junior to see his team cooperating more and coming together as a team, which he hopes will translate to the start of the season next month.
“I know we are a better team than what our record [from last year] says,” Berango said. “We are continuously getting better, and this should be a good year for us.”
ACC coach Brian Casey grades his team based off whether he sees a better effort than the last time they played. The Chargers finished the day 4-1.
“For the kids' sake, it's a whole lot better to see people that they're not used to playing so there's competition there,” Casey said. “Fundamentally, we have some improvements to work on, but individual improvement is big for us.”
ACC will be a “young team” according to Casey, but he thinks the Chargers will be more dynamic and balanced this season, as the coaching staff has spent time trying to find ways to mesh the run and pass game together to make the team more explosive.
The Chargers had seven players earn Suburban Christian Conference First Team All-Conference honors in 2013, and will be returning two of them in three-year starter running back/safety Roman Padilla and second-year starting linebacker Ben Ariano.
“Ben's the smartest kid we have out there. He's the quarterback of our defense. He knows the calls make, and makes sure we are in the right position. … Now that we are comfortable, we got to make a few more plays. Once we are able to do that, then I think weíll be in a good spot.”