His defense had his back.
Geneva quarterback Daniel Santacaterina had to feel fortunate after Saturday’s 26-20 win over Hononegah in the second round of the IHSA Class 7A playoffs.
The senior’s third touchdown pass of the game, a 4-yard toss to fullback Max Woodworth five seconds into the fourth quarter, had given his team a seemingly comfortable 26-7 lead.
Two Hononegah scores sandwiched around a successful onsides kick followed by the QB’s second lost fumble gave the Indians the ball at the Geneva 33 with plenty of time to drive for the winning score.
On both turnovers, it appeared as though one of his offensive linemen may have stepped on his foot, forcing Santacaterina to stumble as he began dropping back.
“I’m not sure what happened,” he said. “We’re gonna figure it out. It was a bad situation, I guess, but we got a W. In playoff football, it’s win or go home and we’re moving on.”
They are, thanks largely to a Matthew Loberg sack on third-and-15 that followed a holding penalty on the Indians. Then, Brock Perry sealed it with an interception of Dakota Chandler’s pass with 1:19 on fourth-and-17.
Fourth-seeded Geneva (10-1) moves on to face first seed Cary-Grove (11-0), a 35-14 winner over St. Charles North, in the quarterfinals.
“I’ve had (Santacaterina) for three years and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him do that before,” Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said of the miscues. “It’s out of his system now, so let’s just move on.
“Our defense did some great stuff down the stretch, but we put them in some bad spots.”
RB Justin Taormina (22 carries, 91 yards) capped the opening 59-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run but the Indians (9-2) ran on 17 straight plays to match it with a 7:44 scoring drive capped by Marcos Reyes 2-yard TD run.
Then came Santacaterina’s first fumble.
Hononegah drove to the Geneva 17, but the Vikings’ defense held on fourth-and-2.
“That was a big turning point, when we couldn’t score down there in the red zone,” Hononegah coach Tim Sughroue said.
Santacaterina then marched the Vikings 84 yards, eating up the final five minutes of the first half and capped by a 2-yard TD pass to Pace Temple (5 receptions, 66 yards).
Geneva’s defense stepped up again in the third quarter, forcing two quick three-and-outs by the Hononegah offense and Santacaterina
(10-13, 131 yards passing) added an 18-yard TD to Jack Wassel before the Woodworth score.
“We wanted to get more athletes on the defensive side of the ball and we weren’t built for this (Rockton) team, we were built more for a spread team,” Wicinski said.
“Missing (Jack) McCloughan (broken hand last week) hurt. He’s a big part of our defense and I thought Collin Lee stepped up and did a really great job, especially against this team. Lee is more of a spread type of an end, not a pounder type end, but he sure showed some nice speed.”