Back from what he called a "rest week," Stevenson quarterback Aidan O'Connell showed he's ready for the rest of the season, which the Patriots hope will last well into November.
And if there were any concerns about his throwing shoulder, the senior's performance in Stevenson's 47-6 win over host Warren on Friday night should have alleviated them. O'Connell completed 17 of 23 passes for 282 yards, including 268 in the first half, and 4 touchdowns, all to wide receiver Henry Marchese.
Alas for Warren, the lopsided loss means the Blue Devils will have plenty of rest before they play another game.
While Stevenson (8-1) clinched the outright North Suburban Conference championship with a 7-0 record and likely secured a home game in the first round of the playoffs next week, it was a different story for Warren (4-5, 4-3). The Blue Devils, who had won their last three games, will miss the postseason for the first time since 2011 and just the third time since 1999.
"Everyone gave 100 percent, so there's nothing more you can ask," Warren senior lineman Cameron Shaw said. "(The seniors were) a lot more responsible this year. Everyone was more bought-in. Everyone knew what they were doing and had 100 percent trust in Coach."
Blue Devils coach Bryan McNulty had nothing but praise for his seniors.
"They're such a bunch of great kids," McNulty said. "We did a lot of things in the off-season to really change the culture. When you change the culture, sometimes you lose kids, but that's where we were at. We'll always be indebted to these seniors."
O'Connell dedicated Stevenson's win to last year's seniors, who suffered a crushing loss to Warren when Blue Devils star Jalen Powe returned a kickoff for a touchdown late in the game. O'Connell sat out the Patriots' 36-7 win against undermanned Waukegan last week.
Against Warren, O'Connell looked like the QB who piled up 2,129 passing yards in the first seven weeks of the season.
"I feel good," O'Connell said. "(The shoulder) was a little tight, but I'm ready to go and start the playoffs."
O'Connell said his right shoulder popped out against Lake Zurich in Week 7. Stevenson coach Bill McNamara called O'Connell's injury a muscle strain in his back and said X-rays and an MRI revealed no tears or broken bones. O'Connell did not practice Monday and was limited on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"We weren't going to have him throwing the ball (in the practice)," McNamara said. "He ran all the running plays, and our other quarterback (Grayson Kubow) ran all the passing plays."
Marchese, who had 9 receptions for 168 yards (all in the first half) with coaches from Buffalo and Bowling Green watching, wasn't surprised by his QB's performance.
"Aidan prepares like no other," Marchese said. "He's really a special player. The coaches put us in great positions to make plays."
Marchese and his twin Michael were both offered by Army this week. The 4-TD game was a first for Henry.
"They always play us tough," Henry said of Warren. "This is the game they circle on the calendar and we also. They had a lot to play for -- the right to be in the playoffs -- and we the (opportunity) to be the outright conference champs. We took care of business."
Anthony Sibo's 8-yard run on Stevenson's opening series capped a 12-play drive and started the scoring. Stevenson's next four possessions ended with O'Connell touchdown passes to Marchese. Included were a pair of 22-yard receptions, an 8-yard toss and a 28-yard pass. The last TD put the visitors up 34-6 at halftime and came after Patriots defensive lineman Charles Longsworth recovered a fumble at the Warren 47.
Warren got a second-quarter TD run of 33 yards from Melvin Pettis (9 carries, 53 yards) to pull within 14-6, but Stevenson answered immediately.
Brandon Crawley, Michael Marchese and Bevin Buan intercepted passes for Stevenson in the second half. Sibo (4 yards) and Josh Ginsburg (2 yards) had rushing TDs in the third quarter. Ginsburg's touchdown with 1:13 left commenced a running clock.
"We wanted to have a more competitive game, but it didn't go our way," McNulty said. "The kids were prepared. I've never experienced a game like this before. It's something we're going to have to learn from."