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|Green Machine (9-1)
Normal Community Ironmen (7-3)
NC-Blake 3 run (kick) (0-7)
NC-Trotter 1 run (kick) (0-14)
NC-Byquist 18 pass (kick failed) (0-20)
G - Leafs-Anderson 86 pass (kick) (7-20)
G-Simosky 1 run (kick) (14-20)
NC-Hospelhorn 25 FG (14-23)
G-Welge 26 pass (kick) (21-23)
G-Hazelett 27 FG (24-23)
|4A First Round - October 31, 1998 - GHS Athletic Field
|Article From The Geneseo Republic
There was nothing Normal about the Green Machine's thrilling 24-23 come from behind victory in the playoffs
Saturday afternoon, October 31. Unless you think it's Normal that the Leafs trailed 20-0 after two quarters,
20-7, after three and 23-14 early in the fourth frame. If Normality was a game winning field goal with two
seconds on the clock, then Normal is what you got as the Green Machine mounted one of the most frantic and
productive comeback flurries in Geneseo football history to topple the Normal Community Ironmen on the GHS
gridiron. JJ Hazelett knocked through a 27 yard field goal with two seconds left to cap the comeback.
Normal scored one in the first stanza on a three yard run by Brett Blake and twice in the second frame, one a
one yard blast by Matt Trotter and the other an 18 yard in a crowded endzone pass from Brian Byquist to his
twin brother Derek. But they missed an extra point after the third TD. A bouncing snap and the holder
(quarterback Byquist) tried to salvage something from nothing but the conversion pass was intercepted. It didn't
seem significant really at the time. 21-0 or 20-0, the Leafs were in a deep hole either way.
In the first half, quarterback Byquist ran wild, seemingly at will. He called his own number, sometimes on three
straight plays and he gained the majority of his 169 yards rushing in the first half (he had just 31 in the last two
periods). He ran off tackle and off guard s well as on occasion around the end. In fact, all other Normal runners
added only 20 yards to his total in the first half. Clearly, the Normal scouts and coaches had seen something on
tape or in person that they exploited with a vengeance. For the game, Byquist had 27 carries for a 6.3 average.
He also had 57 yards pass on four of 10 attempts. In the second half for the most part, Byquist was well
contained and that gave the Leafs an opportunity to mount their almost miracle fourth quarter finish.
"At halftime, I told the coaches to work out the adjustments, to talk things over." Leaf Head Coach Denny
Diericx explained. "Normally we give the kids about three minutes and then we go to work to make the
changes. Instead I went right to the locker room. I told them, I'm disappointed with your effort in the first half.
I thought that after they (Normal) scored their first touchdown, we had lost a lot of our intensity. I challenged
them." "When coach told us he was disappointed with how we played in the first half, it stirred something in all
of us", fullback and linebacker Matt Simosky revealed. "It made us angry with ourselves. I knew when they
missed the extra point, we had a chance. We just had to go out and do it." And do it they did!
Normal took the opening second half kickoff and chewed six minutes off the clock but came up empty. Then the
Leafs stormed back with quarterback Jon VanOpdorp cementing his position as one of the best passing
quarterbacks in Geneseo grid history. For the game, he connected on 10 of 19 passes for 178 yards and two
touchdowns. On the second play of that first drive of the second half, VanOpdorp lofted a perfect strike to Aaron
Anderson at the 30 who then loped 86 yards for a TD. Hazelett smacked the first of his PATs and things began to
Early in the fourth stanza, Simosky bulled across from the one, capping a 59 yard drive and the Leafs had closed
within easy striking distance at 20-14. The Ironmen may have been reeling but they weren't dead. Following a
defensive stand, the Leafs got the ball back but fumbled it away, allowing freshmen Jason Hospelhorn to kicked
a 25 yard field goal. Suddenly it was 23-14 and the Green Machine would have to score twice to win. There
didn't seem to be enough time. The Leafs however kept up the pressure......and it took a pair of fourth down
miracles in the last five minutes to seal a win!
On 4th and 12, the Ironmen drew a pass interference penalty, giving the Leafs just enough life for a 26 yard
scoring strike from VanOpdorp to Brad Welge with 2:39 on the clock. Add Hazelett's third conversion boot and it
was 23-21. The Green Machine defense stiffened and forced a punt after three plays. With 1:28 left, the Leafs
were just inside their own territory and the goal posts looked a long ways away. In that last minute and a half,
the Leafs managed 11 plays and kept breathing on a diving pass reception by Eric Schmitz on 4th & 10. "It was
just like afternoons on Sunday out playing catch with Dad." he said after the game. VanOpdorp connected on
three of seven passes in the last ditch march. He also proved Byquist wasn't the only signal caller who can run
as he scampered for seven yards and Simosky notched a 6 yarder as the Leafs moved the ball to the 11 with
seven ticks left.
"Iceman" Hazelett out psyched the Ironmen who called a timeout before JJ booted the winning FG. "I like the
pressure. That timeout helped me focus in better." Hazelett noted after the game. While the halftime score
looked like the opening two periods were all Normal, in the end that wasn't the story. Simosky led the Leafs
rushing with 82 yards on 14 carries and Bill Curnyn added 55 yards.
The Green Machine followed up their historic comeback by going on the road and knocking off Morris 26-14 in
the 4A 2nd Round and then top seeded and undefeated Aurora Marmion (who beat Joliet Catholic a week
earlier) 17-6 in the 4A Quarterfinals. Sadly, the Leafs season came to an end in the 4A Semifinals as they fell to
Chatham Glenwood 37-34 in a double overtime thriller. Despite the heartbreaking end to the 1998 season, this
season is one of my all-time favorites and I'm proud to be friends with many from this outstanding team!
See you next week for another Green Machine Classic!