This is one time that Matt Morrissey isn't hoping for game day to hurry up and get here.
Stevenson's high-profile receiver and defensive back could use some extra time to get ready for Saturday's Class 8A state quarterfinal showdown at Barrington. Last Wednesday, Morrissey strained his left hamstring running routes in practice and he missed the Patriots' second-round win against Glenbard North on Saturday.
Since then, the 6-foot-3 Morrissey, who has committed to Michigan State and is one of the leading receivers in Lake County, has spent every minute possible treating his hamstring in the hopes that he'll be ready for the Barrington game. But he confirmed on Thursday night that his status is still up in the air and that his availability will be a game-time decision, made by Stevenson's doctors, trainers and coaches, as well as himself.
"I just want to be at top speed without feeling pain," Morrissey said. "I want to know I can do what I need to do without holding back. Until I get to that point, I don't think I'll play."
The good news for Patriots fans is that Morrissey is close to hitting the markers he's looking for. He says he's still sore but is feeling much better than even a couple of days ago.
"I can walk fine and I'm getting stronger but it's still tough to run full-stride, and that's frustrating," Morrissey said. "But I'm staying optimistic that I will be a quick healer so that I can be ready (for the Barrington game)."
The last time Morrissey missed a game for an injury was two years ago, against Glenbard North in the playoffs, ironically enough. He suffered an ankle injury halfway into the game and did not return.
This time, Morrissey had almost reached the end of practice when the injury bug bit.
"I was warm, I had my leggings on, it wasn't like I was cold," Morrissey said. "I just planted my left leg and I felt something right away. It was a pretty bad pain."
Morrissey's teammates seemed to share in that pain.
Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said the practice field never sounded quieter.
"It was silent for like 15 seconds," McNamara said. "And you could see it on Matt's face that he was upset. I think he knew then that the opportunity against Glenbard North probably wasn't going to happen for him.
"It's been frustrating for him to have to sit out and watch, but right away, he was telling us that he'd be back. He's been doing everything he can to get back."
If Morrissey is cleared to come back on Saturday, McNamara probably won't use him in usual fashion, which involves him playing nearly every down on both sides of the ball.
"He won't play the whole game because that increases the likeliness of him reinjuring himself," McNamara said. "If he's healthy and he can play, we'll be very careful and we'll look closely at how we play him.
"Matt definitely has equal value on both sides of the ball, but I think it's really going to depend on the needs of the game in terms of where he plays. If we're behind, he'll probably stick with offense. If we're ahead, he'll probably play mostly defense. We'll kind of have to see how it goes."
Meanwhile, fellow receiver Cameron Green, also a Division I prospect, is preparing to shoulder a heavier load again this week for the Patriots. And sophomore Jack Sorenson, who subbed in for Morrissey last week, is getting ready to make his second start of the season, if necessary.
"I have a lot of confidence in my teammates," Morrissey said. "They did really well last week. But I also really want to play. You always want to play in the playoffs."
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