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Published: Thursday, 10/11/2007

Sidelines: Return of the Comets Vicars leads Genoa back to the top of SLL

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Genoa s Derrick Vicars has rushed for 1,033 yards on 173 attempts. The senior leads the SLL with 19 touchdowns. Genoa s Derrick Vicars has rushed for 1,033 yards on 173 attempts. The senior leads the SLL with 19 touchdowns.
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GENOA He may be a little sore from so many pats on the back, but coach MikeVicars simply passes the praise on to the playersresponsible for the dramatic resurgence of the Genoa football program.

Vicars has been the architect of impressive turnarounds at three other schools, including his last stop in Delta. He s worked his mojo again in his first year with the Comets, who have already won as many games as they had in the previous two seasons.

Blair Skilliter, a junior, gains yardage against Oak Harbor. SKilliter has been instrumental as a punk/kick returner. He had an 83-yard kick return for a touchdown against Eastwood. Blair Skilliter, a junior, gains yardage against Oak Harbor. SKilliter has been instrumental as a punk/kick returner. He had an 83-yard kick return for a touchdown against Eastwood.
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I can t tell you how many slaps on the back I ve gotten over the last few weeks, Vicars said. They say, Thanks for taking a chance on us. And I say, No, thanks for taking a chance on me.

This group of guys has been phenomenal, Vicars said. We talk about the successful things you have to do each day to drink from the cup and they re buying into it.

Genoa (6-1) is 4-0 in the Suburban Lakes League, punctuated by a thrilling 21-14upset of powerhouse Eastwood last Friday. The Comets have not lost since dropping the season opener to Oak Harbor 14-7.

The town is just buzzing. More than any school I ve ever been at, said Vicars, who turned a winless program at Delta into three-time Northwest Ohio Athletic League champs.

Although a playoff berth is not yet guaranteed, the Comets look to be in good position to qualify for the postseason for the first time in school history.

More than 4,000 spectators watched Genoa knock off five-time defending champion Eastwood and seize control of the SLL race. Genoa s remaining opponents have a combined record of 3-18.

That scene afterwards was unbelievable. It was overwhelming, Vicars said. When we went into victory formation, I called a timeout and I walked into that huddle and there were kids who were bawling. I had to calm them down. That s how emotional that whole thing was.

Genoa, which is ranked 13th in the Division IV state poll, has outscored its opponents 198-76.

Mike s son, Derrick, a senior, has played a major role on the team. Derrick has rushed for 1,033 yards on 173 carries and leads the SLL in scoring with 120 points.

Vicars other son, Marcus, a junior, has run for 216 yards. The Vicars brothers are both linebackers on defense.

Senior lineman Ben Cowell admitted he was skeptical before Vicars arrived.

I figured we d be 5-5 at best, Cowell said. I didn t believe it would change this drastically. [Last Friday] was one of the best moments of my life. I couldn t believe how many people were there.

Senior right offensive tackle Nate Diekman said he hoped Vicars would bring back the Genoa spirit.

We just all came together, Diekman said. It s a good vibe. The atmosphere has changed so much. We re having a good time. Coach is like your dad or best friend.

Diekman said the team continues to feed of each success.

No one could have fathomed something this big. No one could have predicted the playoffs, Diekman said. I ve never seen a program change this quickly. The whole town is cheering for us.

Genoa had won just two SLL games in each of the last three seasons and was winless in 2003.

The Comets have won eight SLL titles, but their last came in 1994 under coach John Boles. A title this year would put Genoa in a tie with Eastwood for the most in the history of the league, which started in 1972.

Eastwood coach Jerry Rutherford said he was impressed with Genoa s aggressiveness.

This might be more of a typical Genoa team like when John Boles and Jim Firestone coached there, Rutherford said. They ve always had potential. Mike has a goodphilosophy. You start winning, you startbelieving. Good things happen.

Sophomore Connor Wendt has rushed for 251 yards and sophomore QB Matt Bassitt has thrown for 366 yards and three TDs.

The Comets were picked to finish fourth in the league after going 2-5 last season. Over the last four years, Genoa was 4-21 in league play and 9-31 overall.

Senior tight end/defensive end JustinAdkins said the group of 18 seniors went 1-6 as eighth graders.

It s so much different than the last couple years, he said. It s so much more intense. You can achieve something every Friday night.

Senior safety Zach Skees credited the coaches for emphasizing aggression on defense.

We all go to the ball much harder, Skees said. He wants us to be perfect.

Skees agreed that the win over Eastwood was the best sports moment of his life.

We beat the monster, he said.

Junior Blair Skilliter, who had two pivotal returns in the win including an 83-yard kickoff return for a TD, said the coaching staff has high demands.

It s a complete 180, Skilliter said. It has to be perfect for them. But it s always constructive criticism. It s unexplainable. There s a sense of urgency now.

Vicars said he continues to preach the fundamentals of blocking and tackling.

The past few years, Cowell said, someone would score on us and we would give up as a team. Coach Vicars has not allowed us to do that.

He said the turning point came in the third week when Genoa pounded Port Clinton 61-14.

Then we just exploded against Elmwood with 33 points in the first half, Vicars said. It just kept going from there. Every week we can push them harder because we re winning. They are willing to give you more. We re very fortunate to be in that position.

Derrick Vicars said his father demands a lot out and gets a lot out of players.

I wasn t sure what to expect. But I trusted my dad. We came here to have success, Derrick Vicars said. This has meant so much to the community. That makes it definitely worth it.

Contact Mark Monroe at:mmonroe@theblade.comor 419-724-6354.



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