St. Francis grinds out second-round win
Facing a team Saturday that focuses on running the football, St. Francis had to show it could battle in the trenches.
It was a fight the host Spartans won, prevailing over Genoa-Kingston 21-12 in a Class 4A second-round playoff game at Naperville North High School.
Next up for the 10-1 Spartans is a quarterfinal trip to 11-0 Coal City, which beat Kewanee 25-0 Saturday.
"Our offense and defense can grind it out with anybody," said St. Francis quarterback Mike Baffa, who ran for two touchdowns and threw another as regular QB Tommy Rittenhouse remained sidelined with an injury.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Cogs (9-2), who have used mostly a running attack this season, got their biggest ground gain of the afternoon using that attack. Jacob Stojan ran for 38 yards on a counter play to put Genoa-Kingston on the scoreboard on the first play of the second quarter.
St. Francis followed with a 10-play drive that fell short and then went three-and-out on its next drive. The Spartans were trailing as the first half wound down and in need of some momentum.
They got it when Tyler Duzansky recovered a fumble on a botched Cogs punt return. It put the Spartans on the Genoa-Kingston 26 and that's where Baffa ran it in from on the first play of the drive. Josh Winslow kicked the first of three extra points on the afternoon.
"We needed that and got the offense back out there," Duzansky said. "We did everything we usually do (on the punt return)."
The scored remained 7-6 at halftime. St. Francis had an edge in total yards 149-140 with the Cogs finishing with no passing yards.
"The (fumble recovery) was a huge play. We definitely needed a spark," Baffa said.
The Spartans struck again on their second drive of the third quarter. Baffa lofted a deep pass that Jackson Gerard caught just a few yards from the end zone for a 51-yard TD pass and 7:03 left in the quarter. St. Francis led 14-6.
Genoa-Kingston responded immediately. Stojan returned the kickoff 85 yards to pull his team within 2 points.
It remained a cliffhanger until St. Francis got the ball back with 7:17 remaining in the game. The offense did a good job of eating clock and nine plays later, Baffa pushed his way into the end zone from the 1 with a few Genoa-Kingston defenders trying to bring him down. St. Francis kept Genoa-Kingston idle for the 2:48 remaining in the contest.
Baffa threw for 217 yards with his main weapon being Jake Tangorra, who caught 7 passes for 111 yards.
"We kept fighting today and the defense was phenomenal," said Spartans coach Bob McMillen. "Our game plan was to force them to throw the ball more. I think they threw more today than they have all season."