In a game of monkey-see, monkey-do, in which St. Charles East and Geneva kept duplicating each other's feats Friday night, the host Saints finally took advantage of two key Geneva mistakes to tally touchdowns and land a 34-27 Upstate Eight River victory.
The victory had significant meaning for the Saints (4-2, 3-0) above and beyond making it a happy homecoming.
It was the first time the Saints have topped the Vikings in seven tries, and the first win for St. Charles East coach Mike Fields over his mentor Rob Wicinski at Geneva.
"Sometimes the ball bounces your way," Fields said. "We did some things wrong tonight and didn't execute on a couple of occasions, but it was a great high school football game and both sides fought hard."
The loss put an end to an eight-year playoff run for Geneva (1-5, 1-3), while the Saints move on with visions of earning a shot at the River Division title and securing a playoff spot in the season's closing weeks.
Each team ran a kickoff back for a touchdown, each team relied on its tailback to pile up carries and yards, each team's sideline was warned about unsportsmanlike conduct, and each team missed a critical extra point.
Geneva had more yards rushing (168 to 143), more yards passing (169 to 107) and more first downs (13-12) than the Saints, but the Vikings also had more fumbles (3-2), two of which resulted in key scores for St. Charles.
Geneva tempered the Saints' homecoming adrenaline on the opening kickoff when Bobby Hess went up the middle, cut slightly to his left and burst 94 yards for a 7-0 lead only 13 seconds into the game.
About two minutes later, Saints' defensive back Mitch Munroe had a pass from Geneva quarterback Nick Derr land right in his hands after it was slightly tipped by Viking receiver Pace Temple. Munroe rambled 24 yards for the tying score.
"I just sat back in my coverage and the kid (Temple) tipped it and I caught, and just had an open field," Munroe said of his easy touchdown.
Hess (26 carries for 146 yards) put Geneva back on top at the 4:30 mark of the first quarter when he slipped through an opening in the line and raced 40 yards for the score.
But the Saints counter-punched on the first play of the second quarter when Erik Anderson beat Geneva defenders to haul in a 58-yard pass from Jimmy Mitchell in full stride for the tying touchdown.
Not to be outdone, freshman quarterback Derr found his 6-5 wide receiver Kyle Brown on a slant pattern for a 77-yard score. Two Saints defenders collided when approaching Brown, leaving the field wide open for the junior to increase Geneva's lead to 21-14.
Munroe would be called on to recharge the Saints again, this time taking the opening kickoff of the second half 96 yards for a touchdown that tied the score.
The Saints finally moved ahead by blocking a Geneva punt near the end zone, after punter Joe Boenzi retrieved a snap that went over his head and tried desperately to kick it while near the goal line. Mike Eyre recovered in the end zone for a 28-21 lead.
But Derr and Brown quickly hooked up again on a 43-yard slant for a touchdown at the 7:15 mark of the third quarter, but the Vikings missed the extra point.
"Brown is such a big target and has great hands," Wicinski said. "He goes up and gets them and he's a rebounder (in basketball) by trade, so the quarterbacks don't have to be perfect; just get it out to him and he'll go get them."
Anderson (28 carries for 131 yards) finished off the scoring when he barreled into the end zone from five yards out early in the fourth quarter, just moments after the Vikings lost the ball near their own 12-yard line on a fumbled exchange between Derr and his running back. When the Saints missed the extra point, the Vikings had a chance to tie with a touchdown and extra point.
"We had really great blocking through every hole and (fullback) Joe (Hoscheit) just blew up everybody with his blocks," Anderson said. "It was really great to finally beat these guys because it's been a long time."
Geneva marched down the field for its last chance behind Hess, who was limping because of leg cramps. But on a critical fourth-and-2 at the Saints' 31-yard line, Geneva was whistled for holding after Hess had gained first-down yardage. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was added against the Geneva bench, and the Vikings were forced to punt.
St. Charles ran out the final 4:19 to seal the win.
"It's always a battle with these guys," Fields said. "We haven't been able to get them the past three years and I think before I got here they had lost three in a row to them.
"So, this is a good one and we'll appreciate it tonight and start getting ready for Streamwood tomorrow."
Somehow, Wicinski was able to smile about the end of his team's impressive playoff run.
"The end of the eight-year run of playoffs doesn't mean as much to me as other things," Wicinski said. "If a coach gets into this for wins and losses, it will drive him crazy.
"I want the kids to get better, stay healthy and have a great experience," Wicinski added. "I never got into this for the wins and losses, I got into it for the relationships with the kids, and I have seen unbelievable progress by some of these kids this year."