After losing its first two games of the season, host Stevenson definitely wanted to get back on the winning track and make a statement Thursday night against Zion-Benton.
And the Patriots accomplished both of those tasks in grand fashion as they bolted to a 20-0 lead after one quarter before taking a commanding 34-0 advantage over the Zee-Bees heading into halftime of the North Suburban Lake Division opener.
From there, Stevenson cruised to a 48-13 victory over Zion-Benton (0-3). The Patriots sat most of their offensive starters the entire second half.
A blocked punt by Ryan Mass got Stevenson going early It gave the Pats great field position on the Zion-Benton 31.
After a loss of 3 yards on the first play from scrimmage, junior quarterback Willie Bourbon got the Patriots' offense rolling. Bourbon ran right up the middle of the field, bouncing off many would-be tacklers on the way to a 34-yard touchdown run and a 6-0 lead with 8:31 left in the first quarter.
Stevenson defensive back James Mahoney followed with an interception of a Doug Gates pass. The ball went off Zion-Benton's Quintell Wilson and into the arms of Mahoney, who made a short return to the Zee-Bees 20-yard-line.
On the next play, Bourbon hit senior teammate Matt Morrissey with a perfect pass on a fade pattern to the left corner of the end zone. The first of 4 extra points by Mike Gambino made the score 13-0 with 6:21 remaining in the opening quarter.
With Zion-Benton's offense unable to sustain any drives, Stevenson took over again with great field position at the Zee-Bees 29.
This time Bourbon went off left tackle on a third-and-9 play before he exploded with a burst of speed en route to the end zone and a commanding 20-0 lead with 3:05 to go in the period.
The Patriots' next scoring drive took a little bit more work as they went 47 yards on 10 plays with Bourbon hitting Morrissey with a quick 6-yard TD pass into the left corner of the end zone to boost the lead to 27-0.
Stevenson coach Bill McNamara, Morrissey, and the rest of the Stevenson team was happy with the performance knowing there is still a long season ahead of them.
"It was a great week of practice, we had to come out here and execute each play, and it was a team win," said Morrissey, who is headed for Michigan State. "Those were a tough two games for us (to start season), but we had to bounce back and hopefully we'll have a good game next week against Libertyville."
The Pats got on the scoreboard one more time before the intermission. Junior running back Tim Vestuto ran right and made a late spin move into the end zone for an 8-yard TD and a 34-0 lead 58 seconds before the half.
Junior Jake Ruksakiati started at quarterback for Stevenson in the third quarter and the Pats' first drive ended when Cody Bickers' 41-yard field goal attempt was blocked at the line of scrimmage.
After a scoreless third quarter, Zion-Benton broke up the shutout when Eric Gilmore took a shovel pass from Gates and went 41 yards for the touchdown with 11:37 to play.
Stevenson senior Jack Dreyer returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for the TD 12 seconds later before Bickers' extra point boosted the lead back to 41-7.
A 55-yard fumble recovery by Zion-Benton's Devaughn Miller made the score 41-13 with 7:15 left.
Then Ruksakiati hit Andrew Pena with a 4-yard TD pass over the middle to account for the final score.
"Our goal is to get better every day, every week, and we had a few tough opponents our first two weeks," said McNamara. "We didn't play that well the first two weeks but we're getting better.
"Our backs were against the wall and we needed to win," added McNamara. "I'm very proud that all of our players got a chance to play, and it's very nice to get everybody in."