By DAVID NEGIN
For the Star Beacon
HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP —
With his team wearing down in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s Premier Athletic Conference opener against South, Geneva coach Tony Hassett had a big decision to make.
The undermanned Eagles were trailing the Rebels, winners of 30 consecutive PAC games, just 20-14 with just under seven minutes to play.
Hassett’s choice didn’t quite work the way he wanted and the Rebels made him and the Eagles pay as they extended their PAC winning streak with a 34-14 victory at Spire.
Facing a fourth and 10 from midfield, Hassett decided to go for it, hoping to keep his defense off the field.
Quarterback Brandon Pakkala’s pass was batted down at the last second and the drive stalled.
South tailback D.J. Greene took the next play to the house (51 yards) and tacked on another touchdown late.
“We felt that if we pick this up, we keep going,” Hassett said of the decision. “Our kids go both ways. We were getting tired on defense. We felt if we don’t do it now, then we’re not (going to win). It was my decision, and we thought we would get it. It just didn’t happen.
“We were right there going into the 4th quarter,” Hassett, who admitted he was proud of his players and coaches, added. “They wore us down. They two-platoon. They have a few more bodies than what we have, and you can just see it. We had a chance. We had a couple of pass plays that if we could’ve caught the ball and kept the drive going, I think that could’ve been a difference so we didn’t have to go back on defense. They are a hell of a football team.”
Geneva had the Rebels on the ropes throughout the first three quarters.
The Rebels (4-0, 1-0) took the early lead (7-0), marching 72 yards on six plays just 4 minutes into the game, capped with a 24-yard run by sophomore Andre Smith (8 carries, 84 yards).
Geneva answered when senior Travis Blake took an out pass from Pakkala 51-yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter.
The Eagles briefly took a 14-7 lead on the opening play of the second half, when Pakkala found junior Austin Clutter for 70-yards.
That is when Greene began going to work, taking the next play 68 yards for the first of his three touchdowns, knotting the score at 14. The junior accumulated 188 of his 245 total yards on the night (24 carries) in the second half.
“My coach told me I need to make big plays.” Greene said. “Big plays win games, and that is what I went out and did.”
South coach Matt Duffy knew he needed his tailback.
“The second half we got the running game going a little bit,” South coach Matt Duffy said. “D.J. Greene and our offensive line started to play the way they were capable of. “I think DJ is a kid that is a workhorse and just gets better with each carry,” he added. “ I said to him again right before half, ‘D.J., it is coming through you. You gotta win this game.’ He just did a great job.”
The South coach also acknowledged the effort of Geneva (2-2, 0-1).
“You have to give credit to Tony (Hassett) and those guys over there,” he said. “The kids, they played a good game. We were definitely not hitting on cylinders. We were playing sound defensively and offensively just couldn’t get things going. And, they (Geneva) did some nice things to take things from us. We didn’t play real well, and it’s nice to get a W, but credit’s got to go to them.”
Geneva standout tailback Aaron Rossi was held to just 72 yards on 19 carries. South had 328 yards rushing, while holding the hosts to just 92 yards on the ground.
Negin is a frelance writer from Madison Township.