GENOA – Last season, the Big Northern Conference’s East Division wasn’t too kind to Genoa-Kingston.
The Cogs went 0-5 in conference play, and none of the games was close. It was a tough transition for G-K, which went from being the largest school in the BNC West, to the second-smallest in the East Division.
There was also a different feeling for the team. For years, the Cogs had played teams such as Stillman Valley, Oregon and Winnebago. They had matched up against Richmond-Burton and Burlington Central in crossover games, but G-K coach Travis Frederick didn’t like getting away from what the school was familiar with.
“We always like going and playing Stillman, Byron, Oregon because that’s what we all grew up in,” Frederick said. “The bigger the conference gets, the less you’ll bump into teams you’re familiar with.”
The Cogs aren’t going back to the BNC West anytime soon, and right now it really is not something they’re worried about. G-K (2-2, 2-0 BNC East) is in the driver’s seat for a conference title after winning its first two league contests of the season. The two victories are also the first two BNC East wins in the school’s history after last year’s winless slate.
G-K and Burlington Central (3-1, 2-0) sit atop the standings at 2-0, with the schools meeting tonight in Burlington. North Boone also is unbeaten in league play at 1-0, and travels to Rockford Christian. Genoa-Kingston plays host to the Vikings in Week 7, and North Boone travels to Burlington Central in Week 9.
After a close loss to St. Edward in Week 1, and a tough 56-10 defeat by Rockford Lutheran in Week 2, G-K responded with a huge victory at Richmond-Burton in Week 3. It was the first time the Cogs had won in Richmond since 1992, and they followed that with a blowout win last week against Rockford Christian, a school in its first year in the conference.
“Once Richmond lost there, I think everybody thought that [the conference] was wide open,” Frederick said. “Because everybody’s going to pick Richmond until they lose.”
G-K came into the season with high expectations, but confidence wasn’t something that was high around Genoa after the 0-2 start. After these past two wins, there’s been a different attitude around the program, and it started with the victorious bus ride back from Richmond.
“I think our confidence went down a little bit. But yeah, definitely, that Richmond win, it’s night and day,” G-K senior offensive lineman/linebacker Ben Rabe said. “It’s completely different than what it was. We’re having fun again. You win, you have fun. It’s easy to play harder when you’re having fun like that.”
Confidence is one thing, but the main key for the Cogs’ recent success has been the lack of turnovers. After turning the ball over six times in the first two weeks of the season, Frederick said his team has been turnover-free the past two contests.
“Moving the ball then, moving the ball now,” he said. “It’s just that we’re not shooting ourselves in the foot as much.”
It’s just one reason the Cogs now feel like they have a shot in this conference race.
“At first, not really, but then we kind of came together,” running back Eli Thurlby said. “We got those two wins, and now we do have a chance.”