A joyous celebration to end the season didn't seem like it was in cards for the Geneva Vikings this year. After all, they weren't going to compete in the state football playoffs for the first time in eight years.
But celebrate they did after stonewalling a Streamwood 2-point conversion attempt at the goal line in the second overtime Friday night to seal a 35-34 Upstate Eight River victory at Streamwood's Millennium Field.
It was difficult to tell which Geneva player made the key stop on Sabre running back Kyle Strong right at the goal line after Streamwood coach Cal Cummins decided to go for 2 points after matching Geneva's touchdown in the second extra frame.
"I think (defensive lineman) Jake Boser got in there first, but we just plugged it up," defensive end Billy Douds said.
Geneva coach Rob Wicinski had another interpretation of the season's final play after his coaches told him at least five defenders were in on the stop.
"It was a company of tacklers, so they went out together," Wicinski said.
The key stop allowed Geneva (4-5, 3-3) to enjoy a happy ending on a night that Streamwood (3-6, 2-4) gave the Vikings all they could handle by scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter on two long pass plays to send the game into overtime tied at 21-21.
Mason Polich (7 of 9 passing for 157 yards) came in at quarterback in the third quarter for an ailing Tyler Hendershot, trailing 13-0. But he changed the momentum quickly for Streamwood by engineering an 8-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ended on a reverse play in which receiver Deji Giwa flipped a 7-yard pass to tight end Kushtrim Berisha.
Geneva responded with a backup quarterback of its own when TJ Miller came in for Nick Derr and promptly ripped off runs of 49 and 10 yards to set up his 6-yard scoring burst to start the fourth quarter. When Pace Temple ran in a 2-point conversion on a fake extra point try, Geneva had a 21-7 lead.
But Polich found Blake Holder for a 44-yard scoring strike right down the middle of the field and followed it up less than five minutes later with a 55-yard heave to a wide open Giwa to tie the score with 5:35 left.
The Vikings shot themselves in the foot with penalties on their final drive. But it was only fitting, considering Geneva had 13 penalties for 100 yards in the game.
Each team had an opportunity to score from the 10-yard line in overtime play.
Running back Bobby Hess, held in check for the most part all night even though he gained 147 yards on 29 carries, had a hand in both Geneva touchdowns in the overtimes. He scored on a 1-yard plunge in the first overtime and tossed an 8-yard option pass to tight end Connor Feeney in the second overtime.
Streamwood had scored in the first overtime on Strong's 5-yard run, and Polich connected with Holder on a 5-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone in the second overtime.
But when Streamwood went for the 2 points and the victory, Geneva wouldn't budge.
"When we got down there, we decided we should go for two," Cummings said. "Mason (Polich) was playing well and we figured, why not?"
Cummings was proud of his team's effort, considering as many as five players competed on both sides of the ball.
"I thought we moved off the line pretty well on both sides of the ball tonight," Cummings said. "But we get a little gassed, and it shows up a little more on the defensive side, when they had a few good runs there."
Geneva kicker Kevin Dunlop played a big role in the victory, kicking a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter and 29-yarder in the third quarter to go along with 3 crucial extra points.
Though the Vikings won't have a chance for any playoff thrills this season, Wicinski said this team gave him all it could down the stretch run.
"This has been really refreshing and not a downer at all," Wicinski said. "I would have loved to see them continue playing, but there's a reason why it's not to be, but that's OK, too."