As a junior, Geneva’s Charlie Winterhalter began to emerge because the season moved alongside.
Now, the 6-foot, 195-pound senior linebacker will not be solely making issues occur because the group’s main tackler, he’s additionally directing the site visitors on the sector for the Vikings.
“My first job is to make sure everyone is in the right spot,” Winterhalter mentioned. “It’s some strain, however I known as a little bit little bit of the performs final yr. During the week in observe, we make certain everybody is aware of what they’re doing.
“I just make sure everyone is on the same page.”
The resolution to place that accountability in Winterhalter’s palms was a straightforward one for coach Boone Thorgesen.
“He’s the smartest kid on the team,” Thorgesen mentioned. “We knew he could possibly be the man that would make the requires our protection. He’s taken that accountability and ran with it.
“I don’t think he makes a wrong call in a game. He’s that smart. It’s that attention to detail during film work. He’s just going to be successful in anything he does.”
Winterhalter’s productiveness has been important as Geneva (9-2) heads into Saturday’s Class 6A quarterfinal at Cary-Grove (9-2). He leads the Vikings with 83 tackles, 45 solo. He additionally has a fumble restoration and a blocked punt.
His availability additionally been a key for the protection. That unit has been banged up all season, however the one fixed week in and week out has been Winterhalter.
“He’s the man in the middle of our defense,” Thorgesen mentioned. “He’s been the one consistent guy in terms of playing every game. He’s so important.”
Geneva began 5-0 earlier than slender losses to Batavia and Wheaton North compelled a reset to the season. The Vikings have allowed solely 45 factors throughout a four-game win streak, resulting in their first quarterfinal look since 2014.
“The injuries stunk, but we were able to get some new schemes,” Winterhalter mentioned. “We had a rough spot with Batavia and Wheaton North. We knew if we played our best game that nobody could beat us.”
Thorgesen is pleased with the way in which the protection responded to its midseason setback.
“I can’t say enough about our defensive staff and the players on that side of the ball,” Thorgesen mentioned. “The means they had been in a position to come again is a testomony to the coaches.
“They worked extremely hard. They’re playing really well, and I’m super proud of those guys.”
One of these assistants is linebackers coach Pat Schiller. The Geneva graduate went on to star at Northern Illinois and later spent three seasons on NFL observe squads with the Atlanta Falcons and St. Louis Rams.
“I love him,” Winterhalter mentioned. “He knows so much information about how to read an offense. He’s a really established guy and knows a lot. Absorbing as much information as possible is the real key. He’s really good in-game, too.”
Schiller, in the meantime, mentioned Winterhalter is so good that typically he catches issues the teaching employees doesn’t see.
“He’s keeping us on our toes,” Schiller mentioned. “He’s somebody we can rely on and somebody we trust that, if we can’t get the call in, he can put the defense in the best position for what he’s seeing.”
Another factor Schiller hopes to impart is how essential it’s to benefit from the right here and now, no matter the place issues could lead you sooner or later.
“He talks to us about playing on Burgess Field,” Winterhalter mentioned. “He says we have to make the most of our high school experience.”
And that leads as much as Saturday’s quarterfinals.
“That’s what it’s all about, games like these,” Winterhalter mentioned. “It’s cool we’re able to get this far. It’s the farthest we’ve gotten with coach Thorgesen. I just think it’s great.”
Paul Johnson is a contract reporter for The Beacon-News.