The Green Machine knew it was important to get out to a fast start against rival Sterling Oct. 11, and they certainly did.
Geneseo’s defense picked off Sterling 15 seconds into the Oct. 11 showdown and ran it back for a touchdown on the Green Machine’s way to a 38-19 home victory.
“We are excited, and we still control our own destiny,” said head coach Larry Johnsen. “This was a great win, and we clinched a spot in the playoffs.”
Ryan Pitra was the one who got his hands on the ball for the interception and raced back 35 yards put the Green Machine on the board, 7-0 early. Kevin Wolak added the PAT kick.
“That was a great play,” said Johnsen. “We have relied a lot on our defense this season and they made a great play. Until we established our offense, the defense had to hold us in there.”
Geneseo’s next score came with 4 minutes left in the quarter when the Wolak booted a 23-yard field goal for the 10-0 lead.
Sterling got on the board in the first quarter when Logan Wharff snuck into the end zone on a 2-yard run, but the PAT kick failed.
Ryan Webster helped the Green Machine extend their advantage in the second quarter with a 28-yard TD run, and Wolak’s PAT kick was successful.
About a minute later, Lane Akre found a hole in the Sterling defense and was off to the races as he sprinted 66 yards downfield for a touchdown to give Geneseo the 24-6 lead.
“I have a lot of confidence in Lane, and he is a pretty good guy to have as a back up,” said Johnsen. “We didn’t miss a whole lot when he came in (at fullback for the injured Brandon Mizlo).”
Then, with 8 seconds left in the half, Geneseo took to the air when Luke Snyder launched a pass to Drew Himmelman in the end zone who stretched out to make a diving touchdown catch from 13 yards out to put the Green Machine up 31-6 at the half. Wolak hit both PATs.
Akre found pay dirt again in the third quarter with a 26-yard TD run, and Wolak’s PAT was good.
The Golden Warriors put another score on the board on a Jacob Kirchoff 20-yard TD reception from Bryant Lilly, but the extra point conversion failed.
Sterling got one more score in the fourth quarter with a 11-yard run by Draque Penaflor-Heier, and the PAT kick was good.
The Green Machine totaled 365 yards of total offense Friday night with 306 rushing and 59 passing yards.
Page 2 of 2 - “We got back to what we use to do,” said Johnsen. “That is who we are.”
Leading the ground game for Geneseo was Akre with 169 yards on 20 carries; followed by Snyder who ran for 64 yards on 10 carries.
Webster chalked up 63 yards on eight touches; while Jacob Eaker had 7 yards on three carries; and Zach Denney, 6 yards on two carries.
Jordan Schnowske added 3 yards on one carry; followed by Brandon Mizlo with 2 yards on one carry; Joey Medina, three carries for zero yards; and Rayce Singbush, four carries for a negative 8 yards.
Snyder completed three passes for 59 yards on the night. He connected with Singbush twice for 46 yards and Himmelman once for 13 yards.
The defense allowed Sterling 316 yards of offense (152 rushing and 164 passing yards).
Geneseo came up with a total of three interceptions for the night from Pitra, Singbush and Trevor Craig; while Nick Verbeck came up with a fumble recovery.
Coming up with tackles for a loss were Jacob Beeth, Phil Anderson, Kyle Patterson and Verbeck.
“We are getting there. We are confident, but we need to keep going,” said Johnsen. “Credit to the kids for staying focused. We want to finish strong. We want to be conference champs and we don’t want to share.”
The Green Machine (6-1 overall and 3-0 in the NIB 12) will be on the road tonight at 7:30 p.m. against Streator.