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Data. Geneva coach Rob Wicinski needs data.
He doesn't have much on paper or film yet of a team where returning starters are sparse. Wicinski sited only defensive end Billy Douds as a returning starter on defense and the receiver tandem of Kyle Brown and Pace Temple plus offensive guard Quinn Einck and quarterback Daniel Santacaterina as returning offensive starters.
"We had great commitment in the off-season. We've got some good football players, we're just so raw and just inexperienced," said Wicinski, 91-58 through 14 seasons as the Vikings' head coach. "It's one of those things where we've got to grow fast. We've got to get old fast, is what I've been telling the coaches."
He doesn't even have a full log on junior quarterback Santacaterina, who went down with a broken collarbone against Batavia in Week 3 last season after completing 28 of 58 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown. From then on Geneva mainly rode the crazy legs of since-graduated tailback Bobby Hess, who ran for 1,496 yards and 22 touchdowns and added 231 yards on kickoff returns with a 93-yard touchdown jaunt.
"Santa" is back, and the return of Temple and the 6-foot-3 Brown should make that passing triumvirate a team strength. Brown returns 24 catches for 457 yards and 6 touchdowns; Temple caught 19 passes for 187 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"We definitely have to get the ball to Pace and Brown, and 'Santa's' got to be in the middle of it offensively," Wicinski said.
That's contingent upon a couple things.
One, is the ability of tailbacks T.J. Miller and speedy Justin Nebel and fullbacks Max Woodworth and Liam Burns to pave the way on the ground. Miller, a senior, is the only one among them to return varsity carries, 19 of them for 144 yards and a touchdown.
Two, a nearly all-new offensive line headed by seniors Einck and Ryan Powers must consistently get the job done and stay healthy after 2012 turned into a medical ward up front. Wicinski and line coach Gale Gross are looking at senior Chris Goodale, juniors Joey Wagner and Ben Baker and sophomore Loundon Vollbreckt to do so. Wagner has heft at 275 pounds, Vollbreckt great size at 6-6, 265.
Though Wicinski named the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Douds as his sole returning defensive starter — he made 39 tackles last season with a sack and caused a fumble — Miller also made 37 tackles with a sack. Joe Boenzi, a co-captain along with Einck, Brown and Miller, won't be shy. He started at fullback last season but is moving to linebacker, which Wicinski said is a more natural position for this downhill slammer.
Junior defensive end Matt Loberg and sophomore linebacker Stephen Kemp have also made an early impression.
Impressions, good impressions, are mainly what Geneva's staff has at this point. An opening three games of Oswego followed by highly regarded Wheaton North and Batavia will quickly display how far the Vikings can go toward another playoff season after their string of eight straight appearances snapped in 2012.
"I've got good football players at a lot of different positions," Wicinski said. "I just need some data, and the only way to get data is to go out under the lights."