Stormy start : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Geneva leads 20-0, holds off Oswego comeback in 29-27 opener|
|by Laura M. Medina|
The Oswego football team expects a tough non-conference schedule each season, and one game into the 2013 season, the team is already experiencing its first challenge of the year.
After mounting a late-game comeback, the Panthers were unable to secure the victory and dropped a difficult 29-27 game against visiting Geneva on Saturday night in a rescheduled contest. Heavy rain storms and threatening lightning in the area cancelled several IHSA season-openers on Friday night, forcing all - if not most - to play the following day.
Like many schools, Oswego has scheduled some heavyweight competition within its first few weeks of the season so as to keep it at the top of its game from the start to the finish. Last year, the Panthers topped the Vikings 47-21 on the road on Aug. 24, but things did not pan out quite as successfully this year.
"You can't come out against a team like Geneva and spot them 20 points," Oswego second-year head coach Brian Cooney said. "We can't afford to play them and ourselves, but once we made the adjustments, I was very proud of our kids for digging themselves out of that hole.
"We got to the point where we had a lead, and that lead fell away. It's not how we wanted it to go, but we've got to come out of the gate stronger than that. With the schedule that we have and the conference balanced out, you've got to come out stronger than we did. You cannot spot someone 20 points and expect it to go well."
Following a sack on its opening possession, Geneva regrouped and moved the ball down field for an eventual 5-yard strike from quarterback Daniel Santacaterina to Jeremy Hanson roughly 4:05 into the first.
Oswego lost a fumble on the third snap of its first series, and the Vikings turned it into another scoring chance, as Santacaterina found T.J. Miller open from 27 yards out. Nathan Balettie faltered on the point-after to keep the lead at 13-0 with 4:04 to go in the quarter.
Though Geneva spotted the Panthers a few yards in the ensuing series on a pair of ill-timed penalties, the home side made it to just the 33-yard line in Vikings territory before turning the ball over on downs to end the first quarter.
Three snaps later, it was Hanson heading into the end zone again, this time on a 53-yard pass from Santacaterina, who racked up 349 yards (16-for-31) and four touchdowns on the night. With the extra point, Geneva moved to a 20-0 lead with 10:51 left in the second.
But Oswego finally made the most of its chances on the next series. Senior Charlie Jakubowski took the kickoff 60 yards down field to move the offense to the Geneva 36, and three plays later, it was senior Tyler Walsh taking it in from four yards out to cut the deficit.
Senior Jason Kaney's point-after kick was tipped, but the Panthers were on the board, 20-6.
After the Vikings were unable to convert on their next possession, the Panthers put together another successful set that resulted in sophomore quarterback Steven Frank's 19-yard touchdown pass to Walsh with 4:51 left in the quarter.
Frank went 7-for-17 for 129 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing five times for 47 yards.
Geneva again struggled to score on the ensuing series, but it took advantage of Oswego's miscue and moved the offense within field-goal range, setting up Balettie's 32-yard try to make it a 23-13 game with 4.1 seconds left in the half.
Oswego wasted little time mounting its comeback in the opening minutes of the third quarter, as Walsh's six carries moved the chains to stage Frank's 31-yard touchdown pass to Jakubowski with 7:44 left.
Both teams traded the next four possessions, and Geneva was in a great position to score with 10:23 remaining in the game, but a bad snap during its field-goal attempt ended up putting Oswego at an advantageous spot on the field.
At their own 35, the Panthers again relied on Walsh (21 carries for 165 yards and two rushing touchdowns) to carry the load of the offense, and he was able to tally the touchdown from 11 yards out with 4:38 to go. That score gave Oswego its first lead of the game, 27-23, but it was short-lived.
Set up at their own 20-yard-line, the Vikings' Santacaterina found receiver Kyle Brown (6 catches for 137 yards) wide open on his left side, and the 6-foot-4 junior took it 80 yards for a touchdown just 19 seconds after the Panthers' go-ahead play.
"On that particular play, obviously Brown had been hurting us all day, so we rolled some coverage to him, and Jakubowski was in a great position," Cooney said. "Unfortunately for Charlie and our team, Kyle Brown is just a bit taller.
"Kudos to Geneva - they had a great game plan. Santacaterina is a great quarterback, and they have a very talented group of receivers."
Balettie missed the point-after try, but the 29-27 lead was all that the visitors would need to seal the game. Oswego had another scoring chance on its next possession, but the series ended with an interception with 2:08 left on the clock.
Geneva managed its time well and walked away with the victory, but there were still plenty of positives from Cooney's perspective.
"I'm proud of a lot of the kids for their come-back attitude," he said. "Walsh kind of rolled his ankle during the game, and after we taped it up, it was hard for us to keep him off the field. He's a captain, and he leads by example.
"Senior Bryce Holm did well going both ways, and Steven Frank stepped it up. Through the bad, there are a lot of positives, and I'm glad our kids played the way they did for those last three quarters."
In spite of the positives from last week, Oswego's schedule doesn't get any easier in the games ahead, as Waubonsie Valley is on the docket tomorrow (Friday) night. The Warriors took a 54-28 victory from the Panthers at home last season in Week Two.
"Our non-conference schedule is legit, but those are the kinds of teams that - God-willing - we will see in the postseason," Cooney said. "We just have to regroup and understand that we're capable of playing teams of Geneva's caliber and the teams in our conference.
"We made a lot of Week One mistakes, but we've got to make adjustments when we need to and limit inopportune penalties. Waubonsie Valley is a different animal. Everything is different about Waubonsie. They've got the skill and the talent, and they're well coached. They've got a good thing going over there, and it will definitely be a challenge for us, but I know our guys are up for it."