JeanMarc Etienne had an impressive debut for Stevenson on Friday night in Palatine.
The sophomore rushed for 147 yards on 20 carries and scored 2 touchdowns to lead Stevenson past 14-7 in a nonconference high school football season opener in matchup of two teams with high hopes.
"It was really fun," Etienne said. "My teammates were lifting me up the whole game. It kept my energy level up the whole game."
When starting quarterback Grayson Kubow went down last in the first half, Stevenson began to lean on Etienne -- and the sophomore didn't disappoint.
"It is a great one to get under your belt," said Josh Hjorth, who was making his debut as Stevenson's head coach. "It was impressive to watch JM as a sophomore. He did a great job. He could have been like a deer in the headlights out there. The more times we gave him the ball, he took off."
Along with a new head coach in Corey Olson came a new-look Palatine offense. The Pirates, who have been deadly through the air the last few seasons, decided that the ground was the way to success -- at least early in the year.
On the very first series of the game, Palatine moved the ball from its own 35 to the Stevenson 2 on 13 consecutive running plays. But the Patriots defense stiffened from there, forcing the Pirates back 2 yards on the next two running plays.
The Pirates came up empty when they missed a 28-yard field goal, which foreshadowed many of the drives that left the Pirates frustrated.
"You have to execute in the red zone," Olson said. "You have to convert on third and short and fourth and short. We have to learn from that and grow as a football team."
Stevenson also had a chance to take the lead before the end of the first half when Cole Okmin took the Patriots to the Palatine 21. But a 38-yard field goal attempt was wide.
"I had to be ready," said Okmin, who finished the game 9-of-14 passing for 75 yards. "I had to step in. But look at the blocking out there. It was the run game that won it for us."
Etienne got things started for Stevenson when he broke off a sweet run off of a counter to race 54 yards for a touchdown with 8:45 left in the third quarter to put the Patriots up 7-0.
Palatine finally put a scoring drive together late in the third quarter. The Pirates were able to lean on Johnny O'Shea (7 receptions, 88 yards) to help them move the ball down the field. DJ Angelaccio capped the drive with a 1-yard run to tie the game at 7-7 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Etienne was not done.
Again the sophomore carried the load as the Patriots marched right back. Etienne scored on a 5-yard run with 7:37 to play to make it 14-7.
Etienne and Stevenson helped salt away some of the clock late in the game. Running behind the offensive line of Jeff Zuraitis, Ivan Gleyzer, John Maskalunas, Jordan Caselberry and Max Blatt, Stevenson was able to push the ball to near mid-field with just over a minute to play.
Palatine was able to get a final opportunity to tie when an errant snap on a punt, gave the Pirates the ball at the Patriots 35. Angelaccio moved the ball down to the Stevenson 14, but he fired a pair of incomplete passes to end the threat.
"It was just two teams that played some old fashioned football tonight," Hjorth said. "It was exciting to see. I thought our guys stepped up well when we needed big plays."
Despite the loss in his first game as a head coach, Olson took away some positives from his team's performance.
"The biggest thing I wanted to see was for our team to compete," Olson said. "And I think we did that. We will grow as a football team from it and move forward."