While the schedule read Week 5, St. Charles North coach Mark Gould realized the importance of Friday night's midseason clash with Geneva.
"We told the kids this is a playoff-type game," said Gould. "We were sure Geneva's coaches were saying the same thing to them."
Since both teams entered the game with 1-3 records, there would be very little wriggle room remaining for the losing squad.
For the second consecutive week, the North Stars (2-3, 2-1) showcased a stingy defense, solid special teams and an opportunistic offense during their 25-6 Upstate Eight Conference River Division triumph over Geneva (1-4, 1-2) in St. Charles.
It appeared that the Vikings would draw first blood, as they marched from their own 22-yard line to a first-and-goal at the North Stars' 2 on the game's opening drive.
Senior tailback Bobby Hess (21 carries, 116 yards) gained 50 yards of those yards before the North Stars' defense stiffened.
On first down, linebacker Fabian Lara stopped Hess for no gain.
On second down, senior linebacker Reece Conroyd shot clean through the Vikings' offensive line to drop Hess for a 2-yard loss.
After a bobbled snap resulted in no gain on third down, Hess was forced out of bounds near the 2-yard line on fourth-and-goal, as the Vikings turned the ball over on downs.
"If they score, we're on our heels and they have all the confidence in the world," said Gould. "It was a momentum-turner. Once they were inside the 5, we went goal line (defense). I think it was just great recognition and being a wall."
"It was big because they were driving on us and we couldn't really stop them," said Conroyd. "When we made that stop, it was huge. It was a big confidence-builder."
Vikings defensive back Noah Parsons made a goal-line play of his own late in the second quarter with an interception.
But the North Stars forced a 3-and-out before Conroyd blocked a punt to set up the home team inside the red zone with 2:33 remaining before halftime.
Fullback Evan Kurtz, who ran for 6 yards on fourth-and-2 to keep the drive alive, plunged into the end zone from a yard out to put the North Stars on top 6-0 (botched snap on PAT try) with 13.9 seconds left in the first half.
Late in the third quarter, the North Stars took to the air for their second touchdown, as Ryan Fischbach (10-of-18, 172 yards) connected with Benjamin Kaplan on a 32-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-5 to make it 12-0 (2-point pass failed).
"It was a slip screen," said Gould. "They did a really nice job for not having the most practice with it."
Fischbach, who was 5-of-7 for 135 yards in the second half, hit junior tight end Garrett Johnson with a 9-yard TD toss on the North Stars' next offensive series to make it 19-0 with 9:32 remaining. His 49-yard bomb to Zach Kirby helped set up the score.
"In the first half, there were two passes that were just barely out of reach so we thought we could still keep passing on them," said Gould. "We felt we could still take some of those deep shots. It was just persistence."
Geneva snapped the North Stars' scoreless quarter streak at 7 when freshman quarterback Nick Derr and Kyle Brown connected on a 53-yard TD strike with 3:01 left.
It was the Vikings' only pass completion of the night.
"We've got multiple pieces that are out of sync right now," said Geneva coach Rob Wicinski. "I couldn't put it on one thing at all. Our consistency is out of whack and it makes for a long night when that stuff happens.