GENOA-, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — First place in the Big Northern Conference belongs to the Byron Tigers, but there will be a heck of a battle Friday night for second place between two playoff-bound teams. 7-1 Stillman Valley will take on 7-1 Genoa-Kingston in our “Overtime” game of the week.
The playoffs start next week, but this should be a playoff-caliber game between two teams that are likely to wind up in Class 4A. The Cardinals haven’t lost since week one when they fell at Byron. During their seven-game winning streak they’ve shown a knack for winning close games. Two weeks ago, they won by a point at Winnebago. Last week they won by a point in overtime against Rockford Lutheran.
“The one thing that stands out to me is that they just don’t quit,” said Stillman Valley coach Mike Lalor. “There are times when we’re in some real, real bad situations, but it doesn’t seem to faze them., or they don’t drop their intensity level, and then they just keep playing hard and then somehow, some way some things have worked out for us.”
“We just never find a way to let ourselves fall,” said Stillman Valley receiver/linebacker Braden Shaw. “We keep ourselves keep going, going. Never giving up.”
The Cogs are on a four-game winning streak. Their only loss was also to Byron in week four. The Cogs put up quite the battle losing that game 7-3. That game demonstrated how strong the Cogs’ defense is. The Cogs are giving up only six points per game. They’ve posted three shutouts. The Cogs take pride in their defense.
“I think the kids see it as more of a challenge on defense than they do on offense,” said G-K coach Cameron Davekos. “They have something, I guess a chip on their shoulder that they have to defend their end zone, so they kind of feed off that and try to one-up each other on defense and fly to the ball.”
What is it that makes G-K’s defense so effective?
“Lots and lots of repetition,” said G-K defensive back/running back Sean Abracia-Wendel. “We really go into detail with our formations and what we need to do to get it done. Lots of film.”
“They tackle extremely well,” said Lalor. “They run to the ball extremely well. They’re real big, long kids that cover a lot of ground.”
This week the Cogs will try to stop a Stillman offense that likes to pound the ball and wear defenses down.
“They run an RPO, so it’s pretty much you have to do your assignments all week, do it during the game,” said G-K linebacker Chase Engel. “If you miss one assignment at the game that can miss the whole game, so you could lose a game just by missing one assignment.”
Stillman Valley also focuses on details.
“They handle the little things offensively and defensively,” said Davekos. “They handle those things well. Coach Lalor has them dialed-in week-in and week-out.”
Both teams will be dialed in Friday night.
NOTE: For highlights of that game and many more from around the Rockford area tune in to “Overtime” Friday night live at 11 p.m. on Fox 39.