Geneva-Thiel preview

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Geneva College Golden Tornadoes (0-0)
Thiel College Tomcats (0-0)

September 2, 2006
7:00 pm
Reeves Stadium-Beaver Falls, PA

The 2006 college football season kicks off Saturday night with a battle between two of the best teams in the region from 2005. While Geneva College was busy qualifying for the NAIA Championship Series for the first time in seven years, Thiel College was simply having its best season in school history. Geneva finished the campaign with a record of 8-4, while Thiel completed an undefeated regular season, a PAC championship and a trip to the NCAA post-season. The Golden Tornadoes saw their season come to an end with a heartbreaking 36-35 loss at Georgetown, KY, while Thiel was defeated 24-13 to Bridgewater College in the second round of the play-offs to finish the season with a record of 11-1.

Geneva fans enjoyed one of the most exciting seasons in quite some time. The Golden Tornadoes won their final five regular season games, including three one-point victories to qualify for the post-season. In all, Geneva was involved in five one-point decisions. Unfortunately, the last of those decisions ended Geneva′s season at Georgetown. Despite the loss, the Golden Tornadoes have laid the ground work for what hopes to be an equally successful season in 2006. Geneva returns 19 starters from a year ago, including ten returning starters on the offensive side of the ball. Senior quarterback Justin Sciarro is back for his fourth season after leading Geneva′s offense to 331 points (27.6/gm), which was the fourth highest single season total in school history. Sciarro connected on 22 touchdown passes, which was also the fourth highest single season total in Geneva history. Sciarro has most of his weapons back from last year, including senior receiver Michael Lehman, who set career highs in catches (41), yards (590) and touchdowns (8). Brian Dvorsak, Luke Duriancik and Tim Sawyer are also back to provide additional weapons in the passing game. On the ground, Geneva features fifth all-time leading rusher Brandon Nathan. Nathan rushed for 863 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago and has compiled 2,280 yards in his career.

On defense, Brian Hall′s long awaited return is finally upon us. After injuring his knee two games into the 2005 season, Hall is set to return for his final season. Geneva′s leading tackler from 2002-2004, Hall will be the centerpiece of a very solid Golden Tornadoes defense. With the likes of Bradley Roman, Greg Eberhart, Kevin Host and Gabe Gordan in the middle of the Geneva defense, opponents should have their hands full in 2006.

As for the Tomcats, one of the most potent offenses from a year ago, will return several of its key components. Most notably, junior tailback Steve Minton is back after rushing for 1066 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2005. Senior quarterback Billy Blankeship will have big shoes to fill after the graduation of Darrell Satterfield. All Satterfield did was pass for 2804 yards and 25 touchdowns in 12 games for the Tomcats. Thiel will also have to find a way to replace 144 receptions. Brandon Chamber and Tom McEntire combined for 144 catches and over 2000 yards a year ago. Look for Mark LaScoloa and Tim Van Horn to pick up some of the slack.

On defense, Thiel allowed just 16.5 points per game a year ago. Senior linebacker Mike Wagner is back after leading the Tomcats with 75 tackles last year. Defensive end Chris Lorber is also a returning starter that posted six sacks in 2005. Darious Thompson returns after a stellar campaign last year at free safety. Thompson had a team best six interceptions in 2005.

The series between Geneva and Thiel dates all the way back to 1899 with the Golden Tornadoes holding a 20-8-3 advantage in the 31 meetings. Thiel did, however, win the first meeting between the schools by the score of 6-5 in a game that was played 107 years ago. Most recently, Geneva rallied from 16 points down in the second half to escape with a 41-26 victory in a game played at Thiel in 2002. Geneva scored 24 unanswered points to secure that victory four years ago.