Junior running back Justin Taormina had a splendid day, running for 153 yards and five touchdowns, but give a big thumbs up to the Geneva defense for this one.
The Vikings came up with fourth down stops twice in the second half Saturday and Pace Temple picked off his second pass of the game to thwart Hersey’s comeback bid and seal a 41-27 win in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
“Our defense wasn’t used to giving up that many point at half,” Temple said of a precarious 27-20 lead at the break.
The Huskies then tied it 27-27 on Joe Caputo’s 13-yard TD run with 4:12 left in the third. The rest, though, was all Geneva (9-1).
“We woke up in the second half and caused some chaos,” Temple said. “Those interceptions came from those guys up front getting in the quarterback’s grill. Letting him make that rough decision led to me getting that pick.”
The Vikings answered the tying score with a methodical 71-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard scoring run from quarterback Daniel Santacaterina (15-for-22, 182 yards passing) that gave the Vikings the lead for good with 9:50 remaining.
Junior defensive lineman Stephen Kemp forced a punt with an eight-yard sack of Hersey quarterback Eric Portenlanger (10-for-24, 163 passing) to force a punt.
“He’s one of the best defensive tackles in the state,” Temple gushed. “Nothing but heart. The kid takes a double team every time but still makes plays.”
The Vikings then wrapped it up with a 55-yard march, capped by Taormina’s longest run of the day, 26 yards for another score to go with his TDs of 2, 1, 4 and 1 yards, all in the first half.
“The offensive line was blocking very well. I don’t think I’ve ever had a game with five scores, but it was a fun run,” Taormina said, who carried the ball 31 times.
“We’ve got the two twin towers in (6-7 and 6-6 tackles) Loudon Volbrecht and Ben Baker. They can block pretty much anyone. I feel comfortable running to either side.”
Geneva piled up 464 yards, 264 on the ground.
“We felt like we had momentum down there but couldn’t quite punch it in,” Hersey coach Joe Pardun said.
Hersey (6-4) had 303 yards and got scores from Will Trossen on a 35-yard pass and runs of 5, 13 and 2 from Joe Caputo, who rushed 10 times for 90 yards.
“There’s always times in the game you need to control the line of scrimmage and I thought today was an important step for our offensive line,” Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said. “I thought they controlled it when they had to.
“And then, we asked the defense for stops and they got ’em, even though we weren’t always able to do anything with them.”