When you have a quarterback like Stacey Smith, there is never a need to panic.
Steady was the course for Schaumburg as it faced St. Patrick at Chicago's Hanson Stadium in the second round of the Class 7A football playoffs on Saturday afternooon. The second-seeded Saxons found themselves trailing the host Shamrocks 10-0 in the second quarter when things began to change.
St. Patrick had been consuming much of the clock for the first quarter and a half. But when the Shamrocks were forced to punt from the 50 and Schaumburg took over at its own 13, Smith and company calmly went to work.
The Saxons drove 87 yards in 10 plays and scored on the first of 5 touchdowns by Smith in a 42-24 victory over St. Patrick.
"Even though they had won six games in a row and beat Joliet Catholic," said Smith, "it did not faze us. We just kept our game plan going and it worked for us."
The Saxons' reward is a home game against perennial power Glenbard West next weekend in the Class 7A quarterfinals.
Schaumburg (10-1) score on each of its next five possessions, which included turning three Shamrock (7-4) turnovers into scores. That helped open a 42-10 lead before Thomas Sliwak and Jeremy Molina scored touchdowns late in the game for St. Patrick.
"Their tackles were crashing down on us, taking away the inside game," said Smith. "When we picked up some yards on the outside that opened up the inside and we were able to run our three backs up the middle. Our offensive line played physical. They did not hang their heads when we fell behind early. They just stepped it up."
Michael Bruno, Justin Sanchez, Matthew Stopka, Matt Zolper, and Aleksander Piotrowski began to neutralize the Shamrocks' defensive line by consistently opening the holes.
Following a fumble recovery by Michael Fan at the Shamrocks' 40 plus a 15 yard personal foul on St. Patrick, the Saxons went to work at the 25.
On fourth and 2 from the 17, Ryan Tuma scored on a end-around play that gave the Saxons a 14-10 lead with 1:04 left in the first half.
"Tuma (9 carries, 118 yards) was really kind of a unsung here," said Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling. "He came up with some really big plays for us."
Smith took the second-half kickoff and returned it 48 yards to the St. Patrick 37. Five plays, later Smith scampered in from the 5 for a 21-10 lead.
Following the kickoff, St. Patrick took a gamble on fourth and 3 at the Saxons 42, but Shamrocks quarterback Zach Fuller was hit by Fan for a loss. On Schaumburg's next play, Smith scooted 48 yards for a 28-10 Saxons lead.
Ryan Woloszyk intercepted Fuller (10-for-36, 237 yards, 2 interceptions) in the end zone and returned the ball to the Saxons 19. Six plays later Smith scored from the 14, and Schaumburg was up 35-10.
"That interception by Ryan and the ensuing touchdown was the clincher," said Stilling.
"We knew we had to stop Warner and then their running back, Molina, " said Woloszyk. "Our defense is good and people don't think we are as physical as we are. Today we showed what we could do."
Smith finished the scoring with a 23-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
The Saxons gave up 407 yards to the Shamrocks, many early and then another chunk of it late. The Saxons finished with 327 yards.
"We knew we had to contain Smith," said St. Patrick coach Dan Galante. "He's fast, cuts well, and made their offense go. Very talented."
"Before the game and during practice we talked about playing like champions and not giving in," said Stilling. "Other teams might have at that point. It's unbelievable how well our kids responded."