FOOTBALL

Green Machine to be tested early

Amy Carton
Nick Verbeck blocks the Raby linemen during action last season. Verbeck returns to the Green Machine for his senior season.

After only a few days of practice, the Geneseo Green Machine is ready to roll into the 2013 season, knowing they will have to rely on their veteran experience as they will be tested this season from the start.

“Practice is going well. I am pretty happy,” said head coach Larry Johnsen. “I thought we came in pretty sharp both physically and mentally. You can tell they put the time in this summer.

“We have some nice athletes who are pretty athletic, and we are still moving people around, but the pieces of the puzzle are there, we just have to put it together.”

Coach Johnsen said his expectations for this year’s squad is to keep taking steps forward each practice and each game.

“We have quite a few with experience, and I want them to take it to the next step,” he said. “Each week we have to prepare to do the best we can and be ready to play.”

As part of the veteran group, the Green Machine return several players with three years of varsity experience, along with the rest of the seniors who saw action during last season.

Seniors who will be looking to lead the team are: Luke Snyder, Alex Craig, Jordan Mielke, Joe Thomas, Kevin Wolak, Matthew Rowley, Zach Denney, Trevor Craig, Scott Schulte, Rayce Singbush, Phillip Anderson, Kaleb Haxby, Jacob Eaker, Josh King, Justin Cain, Ryan Webster, Kyle Maere, Brandon Mizlo, Rob Smith, Kyle Patterson, Jeremy May, Nathan Francque, Gage Blackert, Zach Mackey, AJ Marmion, Mike Murray, Nick Verbeck, Michael Haugse and Bailey Weber.

“I don’t know if I expect anything more (out of those three-year players), but there has to be that internal fire,” said Johnsen. “They have been around and people look up to them. They have to be the tone setters.

“I expect the seniors to be leaders because it is their team. The best teams are those who have players who can handle the pressure. All the intangibles have to come from within.”

The juniors vying for a spot in the varsity lineup include: Cooper Humphries, Greg Rusk, Ryan Ganson, Tyler Mackey, Cody Bailey, Jordan Schnowske, Jeremy Harper, Levi Warren, Josh Beard, Ryan Pitra, Lane Akre, Joey Medina, Paul Kastorff, Jacob Beeth, Dylan Mannon, Zach Schefsky, Carson Krause, Sam Arndt, Parker Salisbury, Grant Pritchard, Jacob Morgan, Drew Himmelman and Adam Smith.

“I want the juniors to fit in and learn from the seniors, but not shy away,” said Johnsen. “They have to push themselves because we are looking for those guys to step up and fill positions, and some are close. They can’t take a year off. This is not a redshirt year.”

The juniors and seniors also will be joined by sophomore, Jacob VanDoren.

This year’s Green Machine squad is on the smaller end, size wise, but that doesn’t concern coach Johnsen. His concern is with the team’s speed.

“We have to play to the best of our ability no matter how fast/slow or big/small,” he said. “We have some speed, but I wouldn’t categorize us as blazers. We have enough speed to do some things.”

This year’s squad has a mix of experience and inexperience, but is on the more experienced end, which is a good starting point, said Johnsen.

“Our experience is one of our strengths,” he said. “We have some nice athletes and they have pretty good team chemistry. Sometimes it is hard to get them to work together, but we have done a pretty good job as of now.”

A challenge for the Green Machine this season will be their schedule, especially early on.

“The front end of our schedule will be tough,” said Johnsen. “Dunlap will be tougher and Morris and Sycamore are tough. The front end of the schedule will go a long way to determine who we are.

“The beginning of the season (will be our key to success). It is important to get off to a good start. We play good teams. We will see how we fare.”

As far as the outlook of the conference this season, Ottawa will be a tough team again and Sterling also will be a contender, but coach Johnsen said he likes his team’s chances and thinks the Green Machine will be right in the mix.

“I will be interested to see how things sort out, but we have plenty of work ahead of us,” said Johnsen.

Last season, the Green Machine fell 12-10 to Coal City in second round of playoffs and finished with an overall record 6-5 and 3-2 conference mark.

This year’s squad will debut in the program’s annual Green and White game tonight beginning at 5:05 p.m. at Bob Reade Field.

Geneseo opens the season on the road against Dunlap at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 30.