Geneva coach Rob Wicinski was so happy to see his stellar running back Bobby Hess show up for practice this week after limping off the field at St. Charles East last weekend, he greeted him with a hug.
Hess earned a few more of those after running wild over the visiting Elgin Maroons Friday night, tallying 6 touchdowns and piling up 228 yards rushing in 16 carries.
It made the candy-themed homecoming game for Geneva (2-5, 2-3) all the more sweet in a 49-6 Upstate Eight River rout.
"Bobby Hess has been incredible for us this year, the one consistent we could count on," Wicinski said.
How consistent? Enough to score 5 of Geneva's 6 first-half touchdowns on runs of 19, 62, 33, 32 and 16 yards. In between that onslaught, Kyle Brown pulled in a 9-yard touchdown pass in the far corner of the end zone on a high, floating pass from freshman quarterback Nick Derr (7 of 13 for 90 yards).
Elgin (1-6, 0-4) had no answer for Hess, who sparked a Geneva rushing attack that gained 391 yards.
"We knew coming in that Hess was an excellent back," Elgin coach Dave Bierman said. "Geneva has been bitten by the injury bug this year, or they'd be in a lot different situation."
It was hard to fathom the Vikings are already out of the playoff picture, considering they clicked on all cylinders in this rout. For the second straight week, the defense was impressive. Geneva held Elgin workhorse Jaylen Clemons to 31 yards on 18 carries, while also chasing Maroon quarterback Ryan Sitter all over the field.
"We knew they were going to throw a lot of long passes tonight, so we had to get after the quarterback," said Viking defensive end Doug Davis, one of many Geneva players often in the Elgin backfield.
"The defense has really pulled it together the last couple of weeks."
With Hess taking away any uncertainty about the game's outcome by scoring two touchdowns in the game's first seven minutes, the only question was whether the Vikings would cause a running clock by being ahead by 40 or more points at halftime.
They certainly tried. Ahead 35-6 after Elgin scored on a 67-yard touchdown pass from Sitter to Dontrell Gaddy, the Vikings answered with Hess' final touchdown of the half for a 42-6 lead.
Both teams had drives stall in the final minutes of the half, but Brett Landrum picked off a Sitter pass to give the Vikings the ball at the Elgin 30-yard line with less than 20 seconds remaining. Twice, the Maroons had fouls on the final plays of the half, so Geneva kept getting chances to score.
With no time left on the clock, Derr went around end on a quarterback keeper and rambled 21 yards before stepping out of bounds near the Elgin 3-yard line.
But it didn't take long for Geneva to get the running clock in action when Hess pounded off a touchdown run of 14 yards midway through the third quarter.
"It's unfortunate that we let the cow out of the barn so early (in not making the playoffs) because we're really starting to get some breath back into our offense," Wicinski said. "We had some speed bumps we couldn't overcome the entire season."
Wicinski said his team is dealing with adversity that Vikings teams of nearly the past decade have not.
"It's been a great life lesson for us," Wicinski said of the injuries and tough losses. "It stinks a little, but you move on."
For Elgin, Bierman said the same bugaboo struck his team again.
"It was a matter of (lack of) execution for us again tonight," Bierman said. "That's been the issue all year, but the kids played hard and we'll just keep trying to get better."