St. Charles North's 30-3 victory over Geneva was all but in the bag midway through the fourth quarter at Burgess Field Friday, but its defense was playing like the game was still on the line.
After giving up 42 points to the Vikings last year in a 1-point loss on the same artificial surface -- including the game-winning touchdown with 29 seconds left -- the North Stars had something to prove this time around.
Geneva marched 76 yards in 17 plays but faced fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line. On fourth down, quarterback Kyle Evert pitched to senior tailback Lance Arni, who then tried to throw a pass to the end zone.
However, cornerback Jason Shanner stepped in front of the intended receiver and picked off the pass to keep the Vikings from scoring 6 points, thereby extending an impressive streak: St. Charles North (7-1, 4-1) has not allowed a touchdown in 17 quarters.
"We pride ourselves on shutouts," St. Charles North outside linebacker Lucas Segobiano said. "Unfortunately, they got a field goal but to not give up a touchdown was big. That was a great play."
Shanner was playing in place of injured starter Tyler Nubin. The North Stars didn't miss a beat. They held Arni, a 1,000-yard rusher this season, to 71 yards on 23 carries and limited the Vikings to 202 total yards.
"Compared to last year where we let up almost 45 points, it was a big change for us," St. Charles North senior linebacker Jack Wolf said.
Geneva (3-5, 2-4) was eliminated from playoff contention for the first time since 2012 and only the second time in the last 13 seasons. The Vikings were flagged 11 times for 120 yards, they snapped a ball over Evert's head for a safety and committed 3 turnovers.
"It's the same demons we've been fighting all year, just fighting ourselves, fighting our assignments, fighting the turnover battle," Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said. "I always tell them you can't play against two teams."
The St. Charles North offense took what Geneva gave it in gaining 271 total yards. Running back Eric Lins rushed for 105 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 14 and 8 yards, quarterback Zach Mettetal completed 11 of 20 passes for 166 yards and ran for a 1-yard score and Segobiano ran for a 5-yard touchdown.
Segobiano also caught 6 passes for 111 yards, mostly on swing passes against a big cushion.
"We felt we could run a lot of screen stuff because honestly, if you look at their defense, all their safeties and corners were playing 8-to-10 yards off (the line of scrimmage), so if you got it out there real quick we'd have a solid 8-to-10 yard gain every time with the blocking."
St. Charles North took a 2-0 lead on the bad snap for a safety and followed up with a Lins touchdown and Adam Durocher's extra point to take a 9-0 lead with 9:19 left in the first quarter
The North Stars took a 16-0 lead on Segobiano's touchdown run, and their defense stood tall on Geneva's next drive. The Vikings drove 63 yards in 18 plays, but the push stalled at the North 16-yard line. Bradley King kicked a 33-yard field goal for Geneva's only points with 5:30 left in the second quarter.
"At the start of every week we talk about keeping the integrity of the defense," North coach Rob Pomazak said. "Yards and points bother us. It's really great to see our kids have their backs to the wall and respond to the moment."
Any hopes of a Geneva comeback were dashed early in the third quarter when the Vikings fumbled on their opening drive of the second half.
The North Stars scored 4 plays later on a 1-yard keeper by Mettetal to extend their lead to 23-3. They added a fourth touchdown with 44 seconds left in the third quarter when Lins capped a 5-play, 40-yard drive with an 8-yard run.