It is that time of year again — when the helmets and the shoulder pads come back out and the hitting begins. The Geneseo Green Machine jumped full force into the 2009 season last week as they look to carry on the Geneseo football tradition.

It is that time of year again — when the helmets and the shoulder pads come back out and the hitting begins. The Geneseo Green Machine jumped full force into the 2009 season last week as they look to carry on the Geneseo football tradition.

“They are ready to go,” said head coach Larry Johnsen. “We had a little lay off between practice and summer workouts and it gave them time to relax and get refocused and it has shown.”

How ready and in shape players come into practice tells coaches a lot about what they can expect in the upcoming season and the Geneseo coaches have seen what they wanted.

“Practice is going well,” said Johnsen. “We are pretty healthy and the guys are doing a good job. They came into practice the way we wanted and are doing a good job of picking up things from the summer. They are very focused, the tempo has picked up, but there are always adjustments and they are doing a good job with those.”

The expectations for this year’s squad are just the same as every year for coach Johnsen.
“I want them to play at whatever their level best is,” said Johnsen. “And hopefully they can develop into proper young men and we can teach them how to act appropriately.”

The group of seniors who will be counted on to lead this year’s Green Machine are Michael Atwell, Sean Barry, Collin Akers, Josh Ward, Tyler Claeys, Aaron Kotecki, Jason Johnson, Luke Lembke, Chase Shannon, Nick Rubino, Jeremy Olson, Kyle Hankins, Kenny Chavez, Troy Diericks, Ethan Lawson, Stephen Nowland, Matt Lloyd, Hunter Fiers, Justin Densberger and Derek May.

“The seniors need to raise it to another level,” said Johnsen. “They worked really hard this summer and they need to lead by example and understand the tempo.”

The juniors looking to make an impact this season are?Tyler Fisher, Billy Hamer, Erik Solberg, Blake Croegaert, Brady Seei, West Cathcart, Andrew Walters, Ryan Akers, Isaac Silver, Tommy Reese, Mark Snodgrass, Ryan Patterson, Blake Woodbury, Alex Anderson, Mark Cothron, Anthony Roome, Cole Reiling, Alex?Carney, Chase Anselmi, Levi Schilling and Nick Hurless.

“It is the same thing every year,” said Johnsen of what he expects from his juniors. “They have to get caught up to speed and fairly quickly. They have done a pretty good job so far.”

Two sophomores will be joining the varsity squad this year, Landon Hoon and Sean Landergren.

One thing the Green?Machine has going for them already this year is their competitive drive, which even showed up the first day of practice.

“I will say this about this team, they are very competitive,” said Johnsen. “There are a lot of positions open and some players are starting to separate themselves. The person who does the little things and can be counted on will get the time. Every spot is open.

“The competition for positions is high which will mean there will be a lot of pushing at practice. There is more competition this year than in past years. A lot of guys are right there and they have done a great job of preparing. That is the great thing about competition, you can’t afford to relax.”

One of the biggest strengths of this year’s team will be its depth due to the amount of competition for a spot in the starting lineup.

A potential weakness that the Green Machine will have to overcome is the inexperience up front on the offensive and defensive line.

“There are capable bodies, we just have to see how they handle it,” said Johnsen. “We are not big, but not small either. We have a lot of good sized kids.

“We are going to do what we can do and see what our strengths are for this team as far as what schemes we run. It depends on the personnel.”

Since Geneseo is known for running the ball, coach Johnsen said this year’s squad will have some power in the runningback position as well as good sized and physical kids in the fullback position.

“I don’t know if we will ever be that fast team,” said Johnsen. “We have good quickness and decent speed. Our team quickness and speed is about average.”

The goals set for the Green Machine this year are to win the first game and focus on the short term goals.

“We have to go game-by- game and need to go out and play our best every game,” said Johnsen. “We need to concentrate on the task at hand. We can’t forget about the little things.”

Coach Johnsen views his team’s keys to success this year  will be staying healthy and focused.

“The guys have that drive every year,” said Johnsen about the determination in his team to be successful. “We have a group of guys that want to keep the tradition together. They want to play at their level best and they have that inner drive. They don’t want to be the guys that don’t keep the tradition going.”

As far as the outlook of the NCIC this year, there has been a new kink thrown into the mix with the addition of Morris, which will just add to the high level of competition that the conference has been producing over the last few years.

“All the teams are just getting better and we keep raising our level,” said Johnsen. “We can’t afford to be complacent because of who we are.

“Morris will add a very good team and they have a high expectation of their program.”

Last season, Geneseo advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs, but were defeated by Richmond-Burton, 21-0 to end the Green Machine’s season. In the first round of the playoffs, Geneseo beat Walther Lutheran, 45-33  and then went on to defeat Kankakee McNamara, 16-14 in round two. Geneseo ended the season with an 8-4 overall record and went 3-2 in the NCIC.

The Green Machine will be in action tonight at 5:15 p.m. in the annual Green and White scrimmage. Geneseo will get its first taste of competition next Friday, Aug. 28 when GHS hosts Chicago Manley at 7:45 p.m.

“(From the first game) we want to try to iron out the kinks and raise our level of play,” said Johnsen. “We want to make improvements every game and practice. We also want to limit our mistakes.”