The Geneva Eagles are close. At 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the Premier Athletic Conference headed into a conference clash at state-ranked Chardon on Friday night, Geneva is knocking on the door toward becoming a good team.
In a 29-10 PAC loss at 5-1 Riverside last week, coach Tony Hassett’s squad fought the good fight, but didn’t have quite enough to stay the course against coach Dave Bors, the area’s most improved team this season from last.
“We played hard. We had a few mental lapses, but we did not quit,” Hassett said. “We are proud of the efforts, just not the crucial mental error we seem to continually make.”
Things will be complicated this week in the form of not only facing coach Mitch Hewitt’s Hilltoppers (5-1, 2-1), who are coming off their first loss of the season — a 35-14 verdict at four-time defending PAC champion South — but still hold the second spot in the Division II, Region 5 computer ratings, but also by the health of Aaron Rossi.
Rossi, a sophomore, leads the Star Beacon coverage area with 905 yards rushing on 154 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and has scored 12 touchdowns.
However, he played with an injured shoulder at Riverside, though he still had 83 yards rushing on 22 carries against a defense designed and focused on containing him.
Rossi’s status for the game at Chardon is fluid, Hassett said. Shane Herter and Marshall Lariche are out for the season.
“We are waiting to see about Aaron’s shoulder,” he said. “We will wait until gametime to make that decision.”
Chardon actually led at South, which has now won 25 PAC games in a row, at halftime last week, 14-13. However, led by stud running back Kareem Hunt, the Rebels outscored the Hilltoppers in the second half, 22-0.
“They have a good number of players back from last year’s team,” Hassett said. “They are big up front and a number of good, hard-running backs. Their quarterback, T.J. Benenati (6-foot, 170-pound senior) handles the ball very well in the wing-T.
“They are good on both sides of the football.”
Hassett said deciphering Chardon’s plethora of fakes and counters will be crucial in this matchup, which will be the 15th all-time meeting between the schools. The Eagles lead the series, 9-5, the Hilltoppers registering a 44-18 triumph last fall at Spire Stadium.
“They are a traditional wing-T, with a couple of wrinkles,” he said. “It is a game where you must read your keys, get off your block and find the football.
“They carry out their fakes well.”
Hassett said Hewitt, now in his second season at the helm of his alma mater, where he starred and earned a scholarship to Bowling Green State University, where he played for Urban Meyer, puts most of the impetus for Chardon on the line of scrimmage.
“They will throw the ball maybe 5 times in the game,” he said. “Their offensive and defensive lines are what makes them go. They really get the job done.”
One play can make all the difference in any competitive matchup. Last week at Riverside, the Eagles trailed the Beavers, 15-10, with less than 5 minutes to play in the third quarter and Riverside facing a third-and-10 from its own 24.
However, Riverside quarterback Maxx Brubaker his Matt Milostan in the middle of the field and he sped 76 yards for the touchdown that broke the Eagles’ collective backs.
That’s the type of “crucial mental error we continually seem to make” Hassett referenced.
“We will have to play mistake-free football, control the ball on offense and control their offense and defensive lines,” he said. “If we can do that, we will have a shot.
“Our players will be ready. The seniors have done a good job of leading.”
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