There are a lot of reasons for the Genoa football team’s success over the past six seasons.
Yes, the Comets have had plenty of talented athletes, but they’ve also bought into the proverbial “team first” attitude instilled in them by Mike Vicars and, this year, first-year head coach Tim Spiess.
Players like seniors Zach Roberts, John Belsky and Nick Mortensen have, without questioning their coaches, moved from certain offensive and defensive positions to positions where the coaching staff felt they provided a better fit for the team. And there have been several players, like senior Jake Young, who have played through injuries and excelled.
|Genoa seniors Top: Nick Keller, Jake Morris, John Belsky.
Bottom: Jake Young, Nick Mortenson, Zach Roberts and Kyle
Nutter. (Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.lifepics.com
Young, for example, has dislocated his right shoulder four times this season – once each against Woodmore and Eastwood and twice in last week’s 42-21 rout of Columbus Bishop Ready in a Division IV playoff opener at Genoa.
“The coaches tell you to move (positions) for the betterment of the team,” said Young, a first-year starter at safety. “They know what’s best for the team, and we do whatever we can to make the team better. You don’t question anything. They have all the experience in the world and we’ve only been playing football for a few years. There is no ego, like, ‘I have to be the running back.’ Whatever helps the team the most is what you’re going to do.”
It’s impossible to argue with Genoa’s success under Vicars, who took over in 2007, and Spiess. Vicars is now an assistant coach on Genoa’s staff.
The Comets have reached the playoffs every year since 2007 – they were a state D-IV semifinalist in ’08 — and they won the last four Suburban Lakes League championships. Genoa relinquished the inaugural Northern Buckeye Conference title last year to Eastwood, but gained the crown this season while posting a 10-0 regular-season record and a No. 5 ranking in the D-IV state poll.
“We’re not surprised,” said Young, a first-team all-conference pick this season after recording four interceptions and 47 tackles. “Coach Spiess is still here and coach Vicars is still here, so it’s pretty much the same. We all expected to be where we are, to keep the tradition alive and keep winning. It’s expected to play your best no matter what.”
The Comets (11-0) advanced to the second round of the playoffs to face Ottawa-Glandorf (11-0) on Friday in Findlay. The Titans, champions of the Western Buckeye League, are the No. 2 seed in Region 14 and the Comets are seeded third. The winner faces either Columbus Bishop Hartley or Richwood North Union, both 11-0, next Friday.
Young dislocated his shoulder twice last week against Bishop Ready, once in the first quarter and again in the third quarter. He also had an interception in the end zone in the third quarter.
“I’ve had instability in my shoulders since I started playing football,” Young said. “I had to pop it back in myself out on the field last week.”
Spiess called Young the Comets’ leader in the secondary.
“Jake is a dedicated Genoa athlete who has built a great deal of self-confidence in his abilities over the past 15 months,” Spiess said. “Jake is a very tough, hard-nosed football player. He directs the traffic back there and makes all of the coverage calls.”
Many of Young’s teammates have made sacrifices this season, including Roberts, Belsky and Mortensen.
Roberts, a second-team All-NBC defensive lineman, has 74 tackles and two sacks this season.
“Zach is a very quiet, hard-working leader,” Spiess said. “He is a (former) running back who accepted the move to tight end. He is also a former defensive back and linebacker who accepted the move to the defensive line. Zach has become more vocal this year and has flourished in the role of senior leader on the defensive line. As Zach goes, our defensive line goes. He has a motor that never stops.”
Belsky, a first-year starter at right guard, is a former offensive tackle who earned second-team all-conference honors this season. He has graded out as Genoa’s second-most efficient offensive lineman behind Nick Keller.
“John decided to transform his body over the past 12 months and has dropped almost 40 pounds while maintaining his strength,” Spiess said. “He is one of the best blockers, technically, I have ever coached. He often is overmatched size-wise, but he uses his leverage and technique to his advantage. He’s a great leader and a great football player, and he epitomizes the character of this team.”
Mortensen, a backup outside linebacker and running back, is the team chaplain.
“Nick always has a great story to share with the team, and he is a strong-character kid,” Spiess said. “He leads the team in prayer at the appropriate times. When we were missing four quarterback candidates at practice because of injury, Nick became our quarterback in team offense during practice and he flourished in that role. Nick has been a great team player and does an excellent job of leading by example for the younger kids.”