Ready for action

Amy Carton
Cole Reiling tries to break through the defense during playoff action against Mendota last season.

After finishing last year as state runners up, the 2010 Geneseo Green?Machine is set to blaze their own trail with their sights set on getting another crack at the state title.

“This is a different team,” said head coach Larry Johnsen. “They got a great opportunity last year, but they are looking to build their own legacy. They came into practice really ready.”

With only a week of practice under their belts, the Green Machine has jumped right in with a lot of competition for spots in the line up.

“We don’t have a ton of numbers varsity wise so the people we do have need to be ready to roll,” said Johnsen.

Johnsen said his expectations for his team are the same every year.

“I want us to play to the best of our ability, make sure we behave off the field, do the best we can and be more concerned about ourselves,” he said. “We have to develop a team chemistry and deal with adverse situations.”

The strengths of this year’s squad will be the starters the team returns upfront. Geneseo also returns seven starters on defense, which gives them a starting point.

“We have a good core group coming back,” said Johnsen. “Every year we look for a leader and the juniors will have to find their place.

“We have to find some depth and find the best players on defense. It is the same on offense, we are replacing our whole backfield. There are bodies there, but you are not going to replace last year’s guys. You can’t replace their personalities. We will have to see who fills those roles.”

From this year’s seniors, coach Johnsen just wants them to relax and play.

“The biggest thing we need to concentrate on is the journey,” said Johnsen. “We need to play for that opponent and not look ahead. We need to worry about what is going on at that point.”

From the juniors, coach Johnsen said they will have to be patient as they wait for their chance.

“We have a core group coming back that stands out and we just want to make that group bigger,” he said. “Varsity is a different level and the juniors have to be ready to go in when we call them.”

A challenge that the Green?Machine will have to overcome this season is the toughness of their schedule.

“We have to be careful with the schedule because you don’t want to overload, but you want to play good competition,” said Johnsen. “You want to find out where you are at, but we have to be careful.”

With some new teams being thrown into the mix from the East Division of the new Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference, the Green?Machine only knows a little bit about the teams which include DeKalb, Maple Park (Kaneland), Morris, Rochelle, Sycamore and Yorkville.

As far as the West Division of the conference, it is business as usual with Dixon, LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa, Sterling and Streator.

“Our main concern is us,” said Johnsen. “We know what they have coming back on paper and our goal is to be in the thick of it  at the end of the year.”

Although Geneseo usually has a target on their backs each year whether or not it will be any bigger this year is unknown.

“We have a target on our backs all the time and that is okay,” said Johnsen. “Our concern is about not being complacent. Every team is different and wants to create their own legacy, so only time will tell.”

Last season, the Green?Machine marched their way down to state where Geneseo earned a second-place finish, falling to Metamora 41-7. On the way to state, Geneseo knocked off Plano, 33-16, Bishop?McNamara, 26-24, Mendota, 17-9 and Richmond Burton, 24-20. In conference action last year, the Green Machine captured wins over Sterling, 17-7, Streator, 43-7, Dixon, 26-0 and Ottawa, 1-0 (forfeit), but lost to Morris, 14-7 and LaSalle-Peru, 38-36. Geneseo ended the season with an overall record of 11-3 and a conference mark of 4-2 to tie for third place.

Geneseo opens the season with the annual Green and White Scrimmage, tonight at?5 p.m.

The Green?Machine’s first game of the season will be at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27 on the road against East Peoria.

West Cathcart sprints down field for the touchdown against Bishop McNamara last season in the playoffs.