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In 2012, after Geneva missed the playoffs after eight consecutive trips, Vikings coach Rob Wicinski held the equivalent of a three-day minicamp.
"They could have said, 'I'm done, this guy's nuts,'" Wicinski said.
Instead, he said, "They were drinking the Kool-Aid."
How sweet it is. Back in the playoffs as a No. 7 seed in Class 7A, the Vikings (7-2) face No. 10 seed St. Patrick (6-3), out of the stern East Suburban Catholic Conference. Like Geneva, coach Dan Galante's Shamrocks enter the playoffs on a head of steam, five straight victories including wins over Joliet Catholic and nonconference Bloomington.
"They're very, very physical, a power team, and they've got more size than we have," Wicinski said. "The main thing is, do they have more speed than we have. That's the critical point. If they've got the speed and the size it could be a long night."
St. Patrick tailback Jeremy Molina, the ESCC's fourth-leading scorer, was a repeat all-conference pick along with linebacker Cesar Almeida and the player Wicinski called the Shamrocks' top athlete, receiver-defensive back Mike Warner.
The Vikings' offensive line of Chris Goodale, Ryan Powers, center Joey Wagner, Sean McKenzie and big sophomore Loundon Vollbreckt will have to stifle penetration by the ESCC defensive player of the year, lineman Quentin Voce, and sparkplug tackle Joe Haniacek, 5-foot-9 and 260 pounds.
"I think we'll have some room to pitch and catch, but I don't know what kind of time we're going to have. It's an issue. Our offensive line is going to have to really play well, it's going to really be a challenge," Wicinski said.
Vikings quarterback Daniel Santacaterina and receivers Pace Temple and Kyle Brown have played pitch and catch all year. Those two receivers have combined for 77 catches for 1,403 yards and 16 touchdowns. What's also helped Geneva win six straight games is a ground game that can keep defenses off-balance. A series of 100-yard games has tailback T.J. Miller up to 946 yards and 15 touchdowns.
These were the guys at that minicamp last year. Wicinski reminded them of that.
"I told them that last year you were sitting out here with nothing," Wicinski said. "Now you've got something. It's an opportunity, and that's all you can ask for as a football player."