Watch out Champaign, the Green Machine is rolling back into town.



The Geneseo Green Machine is back in the IHSA State Championship Game for the first time since 1993.


Watch out Champaign, the Green Machine is rolling back into town.

The Geneseo Green Machine is back in the IHSA State Championship Game for the first time since 1993.

“This is great for the community, the school, the students and it is great for everyone in Geneseo,” said head coach Larry Johnsen Jr., whose dad Larry Johnsen Sr. led Geneseo to its last state championship in 1982. “Rallying around something like this means a lot to everybody. I am so proud.”

Geneseo knocked off No. 2 Richmond-Burton Nov. 21 in a tight semifinal match up at Bob Reade Field, 24-20.

Richmond-Burton struck first on a 6-yard run by Justin Russell after chewing up most of the clock in the first quarter. Kevin Klingenberg knocked through the PAT kick for the 7-0 lead with 3 minutes and 46 seconds left on the clock.

To start the second quarter, the Green Machine was deep in their own territory when Jason Johnson got the ball, but as he was trying to make his way up field, the ball was knocked out of his hands and quarterback Michael Atwell was in the right place at the right time. Atwell picked up the fumble and sprinted down the sideline 82 yards for the touchdown to put the Green Machine on the board. Luke Lembke added the PAT kick to tie the game at 7-7.

The Rockets countered with about 7:00 left in the half when Russell ran the ball into the end zone from 3 yards out and Klingenberg added the PAT to put R-B up 14-7.

Later in the quarter, Geneseo fumbled, but Atwell scooped it up and ran it down the left side of the field to the Richmond-Burton 1-yard line. Atwell then took the ball himself and pushed his way through the line and into the end zone for the Geneseo touchdown. Lembke split the uprights for the PAT. With under 4:00 left in the half, the game was tied 14-14.

Just before the half, the Rockets managed to make their way down the field and score on an Adam Pittser 1-yard run, but the PAT attempt was blocked. The Rockets took a 20-14 advantage into the half.

“I said at the beginning, the team who makes the big plays when they need to will win the game,” said Johnsen.

In the second half, the Green Machine clawed their way back and were able to capitalize on the Rockets mistakes.

“Our kids just made the big plays when they had to,” said Johnsen. “And I am real impressed by our kids.”

Collin Akers tied the game up on a 44-yard TD run and Lembke put Geneseo up by one with the successful PAT kick for a 21-20 score.

With about 4:00 left in the third quarter, Geneseo got into field goal range and Lembke drilled the kick from 21 yards out to give the Green Machine the 24-20 advantage.

In the fourth quarter, offensively Geneseo was trying to keep the ball in its possession and defensively the Green Machine was holding strong and attempting to limit the Rockets scoring chances.

In the final minutes, the Rockets made their way down field, but Aaron Kotecki tackled the ball carrier short of the first down. The Geneseo offense returned to the field and ran the clock out to advance to the State Finals.

The Green Machine had a total of 268 yards of offense, all on the ground on 41 carries.

Atwell was the leading rusher for the Green Machine Saturday with 105 yards on six carries. Johnson added 67 yards on 15 carries, followed by Akers with 76 yards on nine carries and Lembke, 22 yards on nine carries.

Richmond-Burton finished the game with 377 rushing yards on 49 carries and 10 passing yards on one completion. The Rockets had five fumbles and Geneseo recovered four.

Coming up with tackles for a loss for the Geneseo defense were Mark Cothron, one for a loss of 4 yards; Hunter Fiers, three for a loss of 8 yards; Johnson, one for a loss of 2 and Kotecki, one for a loss of 2.

The Green Machine (11-2 overall) will square off against Metamora for the IHSA Class 4A State Championship today at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois-Champaign.