GENEVA — The Geneva High School football team methodically erased all doubts as to what this squad could accomplish as the season wore on.
First, the Panthers worked their way to a share of the Finger Lakes East title for the third straight season. Second, Geneva avenged its only loss of the year with a 22-14 defeat of Newark in the Section V Class B semifinals.
The Panthers finally squashed any doubts that remained as they captured their first sectional title since 2007 with an impressive 31-7 finals win over Wayne this past Saturday.
Now the Panthers will take the next step in their season of proving doubters wrong when they take on Section VI representative Depew in the state Class B Tournament Far West Regional round tomorrow at Rochester’s Sahlen’s Stadium. Opening kickoff is 3 p.m.
“I’m very proud of this team and staff,” Geneva coach Mike Pane said. “I don’t think many people thought we’d be here and we focused the team all year on believing that hard work and commitment would lead to good things. The kids have overcome a lot and have high character and integrity.
“A few of these kids were on varsity as sophomores — Kyle Cosentino, Christian Shepard and James Truly — and they have accumulated a 23-4 record with three FL East titles and now a sectional championship. All of us are really proud of where the program is at and it takes a whole staff of people from top to bottom and I’m really lucky to have such a dedicated group working with me.”
Geneva’s program is familiar with the Wildcats (8-2) as the Panthers defeated the Section VI squad the last time the two teams made the state tournament in 2007, 33-14. Geneva lost in the semifinals that year to Chenango Forks 14-13.
The Panthers, ranked seventh in the latest New York State Sportswriters Association poll, have used a solid mix of run and pass to excel this postseason.
Freshman running back Mark Suchewski has been the team’s go-to weapon with 388 yards and three touchdowns in sectional play. Senior quarterback Jack Wallwork has controlled the air attack when used with four touchdowns.
An added bonus is the work of finals MVP Cosentino who has scored three touchdowns this postseason, two on the ground and one on defense.
Pane believes a good recipe of run and pass will be the best option towards keeping the Wildcats defense guessing.
“Mark will be the starting running back and we will mix in Kyle Cosentino and Richie Parker as we go,” Pane remarked. We are confident with that approach. We hope to have a good mix of run and pass vs. Depew.
“They are a very, very good team, definitely the best we’ve faced this year. They have tremendous size and play very physical football. We think at times we’ll have to spread them out and mix in our run game with Mark and Kyle. We hope to try to keep them off balance.”
Helping when the Panthers use the pass will be wide receivers Dytalion Dennis and Malyk Daley-Pinkard who have scored two and one touchdowns, respectively, this postseason.
Eighth-ranked Depew, who ended Alden’s three-year run of titles in Section VI, sports its own one-two punch with quarterback Dylan Sekuterski and running back Rodney Turner.
Sekuterski tossed three touchdown passes in the Wildcats sectional final win. The quarterback now has thrown for 919 yards and eight scores. Turner has rushed for 816 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Sekuterski’s brother, Derrick, and Cody Penner have combined for 569 yards and seven touchdowns receiving. Sekuterski hit Penner twice for scores last week.
The Panthers hope to force the Wildcats into longer distances on downs to make things tougher on offense.
“Depew is very multiple on offense,” Pane commented. “They run a variety of formations and have three solid running backs. Their quarterback is tough to defend along with a top wide out.
“We have to stay very disciplined and read our keys and hopefully force long down and distances. They control the ball well and also have big play capability.”
When it comes down to it, Pane hopes that his Panthers will combine key elements on both offense and defense to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2007.
“I think from our end we need to get off the field on defense and stop their third down efficiency,” Pane said. On offense we need to hit big plays when the opportunity comes up and stay out of big down and distances. We aren’t built for that.
“I know our kids will battle and hopefully a few breaks will go our way.”