Crestview Hills, KY – Offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. That motto couldn’t be truer when it comes to the 10th ranked Thomas More College Saints. On Saturday, the Geneva football team traveled to the back to back PAC champions and got a full dose of a physical and fast Thomas More defense in a 21-12 loss. Geneva fell to 7-2 on the season while the Saints improved to 9-0 in 2009. While the Thomas More defense was impressive in victory, the Geneva defense certainly held its own by scoring nine of Geneva’s 12 points and forcing four Thomas More turnovers.
A defensive struggle on a beautiful day in Kentucky resulted in Thomas More’s first ever victory against the Golden Tornadoes. Geneva had defeated the Saints in each of the past two years including a 17-13 victory a year ago against the PAC champions. On this day, the Golden Tornadoes were unable to hold on to a 10-7 halftime lead and were outscored 14-2 in the final 30 minutes in the loss. “We certainly had our chances in the football game,” explained head coach Geno DeMarco. “The difference was they took advantage of chances and made plays and we simply didn’t do it on offense.”
Neither team was able to get on the scoreboard in the first quarter, but the Saints drew first blood midway through the second quarter on a five yard touchdown reception by Austin Studer from Trevor Stellman. Moments later, the Saints looked to be headed into the end zone again but the Geneva defense came up with its play of the day. Brian Wilson recovered a lateral pass at his own 20-yard line and ran 80 yards for the fifth defensive touchdown of the season for Geneva and also tied the game at 7-7 with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
The Golden Tornadoes came up with their fourth turnover on the next drive when Aaron Tommelleo picked off a deflected pass to put the offense in good position. Nick DiPietro took advantage of his opportunity with a 40 yard field with only 20 seconds remaining in the half to give the Golden Tornadoes a 10-7 lead heading into the locker room.
Geneva’s offense had a lot of trouble solving the Thomas More defense and was unable to get on the board in the second half. Following a Saints third quarter score that put them ahead 14-10, the Golden Tornadoes defense struck again when a misplayed snap ended up in the end zone and Geneva got credit for a safety that cut the lead to 14-12.
A David Girardi fumble on the ensuing possession ended Geneva’s threat to take the lead and Thomas More capped the victory with a fourth quarter score on the third touchdown pass of the game from Stellman that put the game out of reach. Girardi was 21-33 for 184 yards in the loss. On the ground, Gerard Muschette led the way with 57 yards on 17 carries, but the usually dominant ground game was stifled most of the afternoon by the Thomas More defense. Geneva finished with 256 yards of total offense including 72 yards on the ground on 39 carries. “We ran out of gas late in the game,” said DeMarco. “This was a play-off atmosphere and we just couldn’t maintain that intensity for 60 minutes. They are very good football team and we went toe to toe with them in what was a tremendous defensive game.”
Thomas More finished the afternoon with 355 total yards including 111 rushing yards from quarterback Trevor Stellman on 16 carries. The Saints also completed 17-24 passes through the air, but did find Geneva defenders on two separate occasions. Jake Delmonico and Aaron Tommelleo each came up with interceptions to keep Geneva in the game and set the offense up for scores. Rich Kolesar had ten tackles to lead the defense with Solomon Hejirika being credited with eight tackles and Brian Wilson seven.
Geneva will get back to work next Saturday in the final regular season game of the season when it travels to New Wilmington for the 112th edition of the Geneva-Westminster rivalry at 1:30 pm. The Golden Tornadoes will also find out their fate later this week for the 2009 NCCAA Victory Bowl which will be played on November 21st.
Geneva College is a comprehensive Christian college of the arts, sciences and professional studies. Founded in the tradition of the Reformed Christian faith, Geneva prepares students to serve Christ in all areas of society: work, family and the church. Geneva College’s philosophy of education is based on the Foundational Concepts of Christian Higher Education. Geneva is a founding member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU).