Defense lifts Coal City to victory over Geneseo
By DAn Angell For Sun-Times Media November 3, 2012 7:14PM
Player of the game
Ryland Tondini scored on a 46-yard punt return for Coal City’s only touchdown in the Coalers’ 12-10 win.
GENESEO — When he chose to defer after winning the opening coin toss in Coal City’s 12-10 win over Geneseo, Coal City coach Sam Vota knew he was taking a gamble.
Vota knew from Geneseo’s first-round win over Interstate Eight rival Sandwich that the Maple Leafs were excellent at controlling the clock and giving them the ball first was risky. Vota also knew he had an outstanding defense at his disposal and if the Coalers could open the game with a three-and-out, Coal City could control the game.
With a little help from punt returner Ryland Tondini, the Coal City defense made sure their coach’s trust was the right decision.
Tondini took a second-quarter punt 46 yards for the Coalers’ only touchdown and took another punt 41 yards in the final quarter to set up Lane Cowherd’s game-winning field goal. Coal City’s defense did the rest, shutting down Geneseo to advance to the Class 4A state quarterfinals with a narrow win Saturday at Bob Reade Field.
“It’s a great win for us and our program,” Vota said. “I had confidence in our defense and wanted to get the three-and-out because it does scare me very much that this type of team, it’s not unusual for them to eat seven or eight minutes off the clock. We came out there and we were the team that had the possession in the first half. We didn’t account for a whole lot, but it was enough today.”
The Coalers (10-1) had their defense to thank for winning the battle of field position against the Maple Leafs (6-5). Outside of Cowherd’s 25-yard field goal in the first quarter, Coal City was never able to drive into scoring position, but it didn’t matter because its defense consistently forced Geneseo to stall deep in its own territory.
That set things up for Tondini to make things happen. Before both of his long returns, the Coalers had stopped the Maple Leafs inside their own 15-yard line, forcing Geneseo to focus on merely getting the punt away, which gave Tondini the room he needed.
“I had great blocking,” Tondini said. “We ran the ball and got our first downs, but special teams was what it came down to. I think we came down here and did a great job.”
The Maple Leafs’ only touchdown came on a fumble recovery when the ball popped loose in a pile at the start of the third quarter, but the Coalers made sure the score didn’t matter. When Kevin Wolak’s 44-yard field- goal attempt sailed wide in the final minute, the Coalers had a berth in the quarterfinals and a meeting with Rock Island Alleman.
“We’ve been in that situation a lot where we’ve had to rely on our defense,” Vota said. “I think the kids have handled it and we’re pretty playoff-strong now. We’ll see how we do next week.”