Geneseo has magic eight ball

Chris Steele
Justin Scott, left, and Jake Yarger celebrate recovering a fumble during Geneseo’s 35-7 victory over Manteno.

The Green Machine stepped onto the grass at Bob Reade Field thinking they could get a defensive score on Nov. 7.

At the end of the first quarter, Geneseo’s defense had already realized their goal, and they were just getting warmed up.

The Green Machine defense forced eight turnovers to pave the way to a 35-7 second round victory over Manteno in the 4A IHSA football playoffs.

Geneseo (10-1) forced four turnovers including a pair of pick-sixes on the first four Manteno possessions to jump out to a 21-0 lead over the Panthers (9-2).

The Green Machine created 28 points off of turnovers against an offense which had scored an average of 42.8 points a game.

“Coach (Travis) Mackey said before the game, he felt like the defense was going to get a touchdown,” Jacob VanDoren said. “Instead, we got two touchdowns. We kind of proved him right.”

After Manteno reached the red zone on its first possession, the Green Machine’s Devin Haxby recovered a fumble to end the drive inside the 10-yard line.

“It was huge for our defense to make plays like that because it carries over to the offense,” Haxby said.

Haxby turned the turnover into points on Geneseo’s first drive with a 38-yard touchdown carry at Bob Reade Field.

With pressure forcing Panthers’ quarterback Gavin Zimbelman to make hurried throws, Geneseo’s Jordan Jackson broke on a ball and returned the interception 56-yards for a touchdown.

Jackson was inspired by bulletin board material from Manteno which said Geneseo was one dimensional and couldn’t stop the pass.

“I think we really took it to heart,” Jackson said. “We wanted to make a statement on the field by flying around making plays.”

Returning to the lineup after battling a hamstring injury, Geneseo’s Quinn Singbush made a good read from his corner position and picked off a pass for a 46-yard touchdown return before the end of the first quarter.

The Green Machine’s VanDoren forced a turnover jarring a ball lose which was recovered by Jake Yarger to set up another Geneseo scoring opportunity which ended in a missed field goal.

The pass rush kept Zimbelman from being comfortable all game.

VanDoren batted down three pass, and Yarger brought down Zimbelman for a sack which knocked him out of the game for a series in the second half.

Geneseo’s pressure was relentless and resulted in another interception for Jackson and Justin Scott recovered a fumble on a high snap.

“We had a big emphasis on putting pressure on the quarterback and making him make some quicker throws,” Scott said. “We didn’t want him to be able to think out his passes. We put him under pressure and make him make some bad throws which ended up being picks.”

Despite having a cast covering one hand, Geneseo’s Connor Welch came up with an interception to end a Manteno drive before the half.

“The goal was to mix him up a little bit with combination of blitzes and coverages,” Geneseo coach Larry Johnsen said. “We tried to just keep him off guard. Once he gets you dialed in, he can tear you up.

“I thought our defense played wonderful. It was a great team win. It felt like a quarterfinal game at least.”

Manteno couldn’t handle a high arching mortar kickoff from Jack Hinton leading to a Geneseo recovery when Cole Hunzeker fell on the bouncing ball.

The Green Machine’s Will Daniels threw a dart to the back of the end zone and Ryan Tulcus was able to tap his toes in the end zone before falling out of bounds.

With this potentially being Geneseo’s last game at home, the Green Machine seniors finish their careers undefeated at Bob Reade Field.

Geneseo advances to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season.