The St. Edward offense and special teams fumbled the ball away five times in the season opener, but the Green Wave probably could have turned the ball over 10 times and still won considering how well their defense played in a 21-0 victory over Genoa-Kingston at Greg True Field in Elgin Friday.
St. Edward held the Cogs to 69 yards rushing, 10 yards passing and 5 first downs, forced 8 punts, recovered 2 of 3 forced fumbles and intercepted a pair of Genoa-Kingston passes.
"That's what we're planning on: shutouts every week," said senior two-way lineman Evan Finnane. "We don't want them to score at all. That's just old news for us. It was just total domination on defense for us."
Genoa-Kingston lost yardage on 10 of its 46 offensive plays. Five of those tackles for a loss, including 2 sacks, were recorded by Finnane, who has full scholarship offers from Air Force and Army.
"He's the real deal, especially on the defensive side," G-K coach Justin Fredrick said. "We started thinking about going the other way more often, no doubt. "
Despite their offensive woes the Cogs trailed just 7-0 entering the fourth quarter. That's when St. Edward senior running back Luke Duffy finally found some room to run and helped the Green Wave score 14 fourth-quarter points to seal the victory.
Duffy ran for 140 of his 162 yards and both of his touchdowns in the second half.
"They were filling all the gaps and their linebackers were stepping up hard," said Duffy, who also intercepted a pass on defense. "At halftime we knew we had to adjust and that's what we did."
St. Edward coach Mike Rolando explained the adjustment.
"We had no success running to our tight end side earlier because they would overload and they had us outnumbered there," he said. "We started spreading them out and running to our twins side. Once we figured out how to spread them out a little bit and give ourselves a little bit of an advantage we were able to run the ball."
St. Edward took control of the game early in the fourth quarter when Duffy spearheaded a 6-play, 58-yard drive. The senior carried the ball 4 times for gains of 18, 11, 23 and 5 yards, the last of which was a touchdown run that put the Wave ahead 14-0 with 8:09 left in the game.
Duffy wasn't done. Two possessions later he followed fullback Ryan Johnson's lead block to the right side of the line, broke though and raced 66 yards to account for the final score.
"I have to give credit to my offensive line and my fullback for blocking in front of me," Duffy said. "The holes were opening up."
The game started ominously for the Green Wave when they were unable to field the opening kick. It was squibbed off a St. Edward front-row player and recovered by the Cogs, however, they couldn't capitalize and were forced to punt.
Duffy immediately fumbled the ball right back to G-K at his own 14-yard line.
"I know they have all the faith in the world in their defense," Rolando said of his players. "They certainly tested them tonight."
Again, the Green Wave defense stiffened. G-K kicker Chris Camargo was set to attempt a 24-yard field goal, but the good snap slipped through holder Adam Price's hands. The loose ball was picked up by Camargo, whose desperation pass to a release man was intercepted by Duffy at his own 15-yard line.
The St. Edward offense finally broke through on its fifth possession of the first half. Duffy returned a punt 29 yards to the Genoa-Kingston 31-yard line and subsequently reeled off an 18-yard gain.
Facing third-and-5 from the Genoa-Kingston 8-yard line, new St. Edward quarterback Bob French rolled to his right and connected with Matt Brockner on a crossing pattern for a touchdown with 5:26 left in the second quarter. French completed 5-of-10 attempts for 123 yards and a touchdown. Brockner made 3 receptions for 92 yards.