This win means so much to so many in community
Former Geneva quarterback Shaun Ratay kept referring to the Vikings football team as "we" as if he was still playing for the team.
Ratay, who last played high school football in fall 2006, couldn't help it. He was at Geneva Friday for the Vikings' Class 7A semifinal game against Crystal Lake South as a fan, but it was as if he never left.
Ratay, who currently plays football at Elmhurst College, was among many former Geneva football players present to witness their old team beat the Gators 25-21 and advance to state next Saturday.
"We are part of the tradition," said Ratay, whose baby brother Michael is a big reason why the Vikings are heading to state. "I'll always be a Geneva Viking. It doesn't matter who I play for or what I do. I'll do anything for any of these guys (on the team). They are all a part of my team and all a part of my family."
Ratay was on the 2006 team that was just one game away from qualifying for state. So was Pat Schiller, who currently is in his sophomore season on NIU's football team. Friday's game was the first Schiller had seen live all season, due to the Huskies' season.
"It's great to see these guys doing well and trying to accomplish something we tried so hard to do but fell short," Schiller said. "Seeing them do this is really unbelievable."
Ratay and Schiller played football at Geneva at a time where the program was really on the rise and winning was pretty much expected. Now, the Vikings are an established program and losing - at least not this season - is not an option, as they are 13-0 heading into Champaign next weekend.
"The program really started with guys like (Alex) Pokorny and all those guys," Schiller said, giving credit to players from the 2004 season. "They showed us anything is possible and we can follow in their footsteps."
Around that time, players like Nick Hererra were getting used to winning at Geneva. Like Schiller, Hererra was present Friday for his first game back all season due to his busy football schedule at Elmhurst College, where he is one of three former Vikings on the roster.
"It's a good feeling knowing they have finally come through," Hererra said. "This is just awesome."
Turn the clock back and you will find former football players like Matt Rodewald, class of 1998. He played on the 1996 and 1997 teams where winning didn't come easy for the Vikings. Still, he, just like many other former players, found himself at chilly Burgess Field, cheering for his former team.
"I talked to a lot of people from 10 years ago, on those 1-8, 0-9 and 2-7 teams and they aren't jealous of the success (the current Vikings) have," he said. "Maybe a little envious, but they are proud they can see this. I've dreamed of a game like this since I was seven years old, and to see an atmosphere like this is really cool... as a fan, I'm into it. It's fun."
The community can't get enough of these Vikings, can they? It doesn't stop with former players. One local coach in particular, former St. Charles and current West Aurora football coach Buck Drach was at Friday's game. He still has ties to the Geneva community, but really just wanted to see a great football team play one last Friday night in the Tri-Cities.
"I'm excited for them," Drach said of the Vikings. "They have a great football team... it's neat for a local team to keep going."
In the end, everyone, no matter what connection they had to Geneva, saw a great game. Isn't that what this time of year is all about?