Coach Rob Wicinski's Geneva team was a perfect 13-0 going into the 7A championship game in Memorial Stadium last November. But they encountered a juggernaut in East St. Louis.
"East St. Louis had speed, and speed is a definite determinator," Wicinski explains. "Things started getting loose on us in the fourth quarter because we were trying to get quite a few points. Their speed was the determining factor, not so much their perimeter speed as their inside speed."
The Flyers were absolutely loaded with outstanding talent. Terry Hawthorne and Tommie Hopkins both signed with Illinois, and Kraig Appleton and Ty Phillips also signed with Division 1 schools. But Wicinski feels his Vikings played them better this time than in 2007.
"I thought we did a much better job of handling their speed. Even though the score doesn't show it, we played a better game against them the second time than we did the first time when we went down there the year before in the quarters."
Wicinski is humble about his team's success on the year. And he is unsure how his 2009 edition will stack up.
"We were very fortunate. A lot of those guys are gone though."
One player who is back is star defensive tackle Frank Boenzi. Frank missed three games late in the season with mononucleosis. Wicinski says he was at 100% for the finale, but he may not have had his endurance back.
"His first game back was the week before the championship. He missed the three games before that."
Wicinski offers high praise for his star.
"I was watching the bowl games, and he reminds me of those SEC type tackles they have, one techniques and two techniques. He really commands a lot of attention inside. He's quick off the ball, has tremendous natural strength, and he can do nothing but get stronger. He's about 6'-3", 295."
Boenzi is a three-sport star for Geneva.
"He didn't wrestle this year. He had his knee cleaned out a little bit. Just some minor stuff. Now he's started shot and discus. He went downstate in discus. I think he might be one of the favorites this year in at least shot and maybe both events."
Colleges are just beginning to check out Frank's junior tapes.
"No offers yet, but there will be some. Ohio State has been around, Purdue, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois. Just minimal sniffs outside the Big 10 though."
Coach Wicinski is also high on an upcoming senior linebacker.
"I've got a linebacker whose probably a Division I caliber kid. His name is Bret Shannon. He's about 6'-3", 220. He has tremendous closing speed. He has really nice feet, and he's physical. The colleges are just starting to sniff around. He was overshadowed by some of those linebackers we had last year, but he's become quite a leader for us this year."
The Western Sun Conference offers Geneva excellent competition each season.
"Batavia didn't have a great team last year, but they were in the championship game three years ago. Kaneland went to the semis three years ago in 5A. And Glenbard South went to the second round this last year. Rochelle has a powerhouse in 5A."