When the horn sounded, Geneva was on top 35-21, holding off a St. Charles team's comeback for the second week in a row.
The Vikings advance to 4-2 on the season, and the Saints fall to 4-2, with the very real possibility for a rematch in the playoffs.
For Geneva coach Rob Wicinski, it was the season's most-important business trip.
"Huge, huge win," he said. "I was concerned about this team, going back to back against tough opponents, but then one of the coaches said, ‘Coach, we used to do this all the time in the Western Sun’ — Glenbard and Kaneland and Batavia back to back to back — and I kind of chilled out there and said, ‘Yeah, they’ve got to take care of business.' And this was another kind of business trip for us.”
Coach Mike Fields, who was an assistant coach under Wicinski until he took over at East, said several times that he was "outcoached," but make no mistake, that was not the case.
"The old dog got the pup, if you will. So I’ll take that, and I’ll go home with my tail between my legs and I’ll learn," he said. "My coaching staff and I will sit down and we’ll try to get better, and the kids will too, and we’ll rebound from this."
Friday's game was punctuated by big pass plays and consistently strong running by both teams.To start the third quarter, a 57-yard pass from Dan Santacaterina to Michael Landi sets up a 1-yard T.J. Miller plunge, and the Vikings went up 28-14.
After that, a couple of defensive stops on both sides kept the 14-point lead intact at the end of the third period.
Geneva scored on a 10-yard T.J. Miller run after a seven-play drive to go up 35-14 with 11:48 left.
"I thought Miller really made some nice cuts for us," Wicinski said. "We haven’t really seen a lot of that this year, and I thought the he really stepped up. He was actually calling some plays, which is really unusual. The kid's a little shy, he doesn’t say much. But if I get a tailback calling plays, now I just got to have the line believe in him."
After that, Mitch Dupuis came in at quarterback for the Saints, and three Geneva penalties kept alive a drive. Ramon Lopez ran 14 yards for the touchdown, and the Saints were back in the game 35-21 with 9:08 left.
The Saints' defense held, then the offense mounted a 14-play drive that was stopped with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-3 on Geneva's 9-yard line with 3:59 left in the game.
Geneva used the clock on the running of Miller, Liam Burns, Max Woodworth and Santacaterina to secure the 35-21 win.
"We put some effort in to stopping the pass because they’ve been so good at the pass," Fields said. "You know, you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t — I’ve said that a couple times this year. When you stop the run and give up the pass, it’s not a positive. But when you stop the pass and give up the run, what are you going to do? They executed real well; they executed better than us tonight. As I said, the better team won tonight, and we’ll see what happens and cross that bridge when we get to it."
That bridge is the playoffs, and who know, a possible rematch.
"We’ll see, you never know," Fields said. "Stranger things have happened, for darned sure."
Was this Geneva's best game of the season, so far?
"I’ll take that, but I’m going to reserve judgment and check some film," Wicinski said. "I thought we had good focus coming in."
AT THE HALF: 21-14 Geneva
This game was all it was billed to be and then some.
A first half highlighted by a crazy Dan Santacaterina scramble and 43-yard throw to Pace Temple on Geneva's side of the ball was countered with a 47-yard pass from Jimmy Mitchell to A.J. Washington followed by a fourth-down, improvised St. Charles East score with 1 second left in a thrilling half that found Geneva up 21-14.
With first down on the 8-yard line, the Saints threw three straight incomplete passes, but on fourth down, a pass-interference call put the ball on the 1 with 1.8 seconds left. Lopez ran and looked like he was tied up, but he lateraled to Mitchell, who ran it in for the touchdown.
"It was a busted play," Fields said after the game. "That’s just a couple of kids being kids and having some fun out there. 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. That was one of those plays, and we’ll take it. But we need a little more of just sound football going forward to have any success the next three weeks."
Wicinski put a big ditto on the analysis of that play, and by the way, look for the creative invention of a word at the end of the quote:
"They actually did an improv, so, kudos to them," he said. "We need to get more weight room (time), because we kind of let him stand there and he was able to pitch the ball. So, a little trickeration."
Until that final, 86-yard drive, Geneva played the game it hoped to, using the clock and a potent combination of pass and run to keep the Saints' powerhouse offense off the field.
The Vikings eliminated the mistakes that have plagued them in earlier contests, with zero turnovers in the first half.
But it was a crazy, scrambling pass play that gave Geneva an early advantage and 14-point first-quarter lead.
Santacaterina scrambled for what seemed like minutes, then lofted a desperation throw that landed in Temple's hands. The long completion on third and 20 was a momentum changer, and the Vikings scored two plays later on a 7-yard T.J. Miller run. The extra-point snap was fumbled, but the score stayed at 21-7.
To start the game, the Vikings scored on a 12-play drive capped by a 1-yard Miller run. Temple, the holder, surprised everyone by running in the 2-point conversion, and the Vikings were up 8-0.
But the Saints came right back, with Mitchell completing passes of 23 and 21 yards before hitting Brannon Barry on an 8-yard scoring pass with 5:19 left.
Geneva scored on a long drive with a 4-yard pass from Santacaterina to Temple to make it 15-7 early in the second period.
"The upside is both squads have an opportunity to move forward here, and there’s some positive things possibly down the road," Fields said. "I’m not happy with the outcome, obviously, but we didn’t earn it. The better team won here tonight, that’s for darned sure, and I give them credit. We’ve got to fix some things. Defensively and offensively. We’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror, and it starts with me. We’ll do that, and we’ll go back to the drawing board and see what we can do to get better, starting tomorrow."