Physically drained from pursuing York's elusive quarterback Joe Lucca all game, Stevenson defensive tackle Mikey Kuhn did what seemed only natural as teammates hustled off the field.
He laid his 6-foot-1, 240-pound frame on Stevenson's turf, his eyes aimed at a dark Lincolnshire sky that had been filled most of the night with footballs thrown by Lucca.
Luckily for Stevenson, Lucca's last pass his 51st of the game was broken up by linebacker Carl Miller near the 50-yard line with 15 seconds left, and Stevenson survived, holding off visiting York 31-28 in the teams' Class 8A state playoff opener.
"It was an exhausting win, but that's what makes high school football what it is," Kuhn said. "It was just fun, because everyone was doing their part. It was just a great win."
Kuhn and his teammates will have to rest up fast and find their energy again, as the Patriots' postseason nemesis looms. Stevenson (8-2) will next play Maine South, assuming the undefeated Hawks win their first-round game against 5-4 Chicago Curie today (12:30 p.m. at Lane Stadium).
Maine South has ended Stevenson's season six times since 2001, including in 2005 in the quarterfinals, when the Patriots took an 11-0 record into the game.
"It was actually my first Stevenson football game," Kuhn said. "It's not going to end like that for me this year. It's not happening."
York (6-4) nearly denied Stevenson the chance, staging a rally after spotting the Patriots a 14-0 lead with just 2:49 gone in the game. Kevin Foley (29 carries, 147 yards) scored from 20 yards out on Stevenson's first possession, and then outside linebacker Jon Way intercepted Lucca and returned the ball 22 yards down the York sideline for a touchdown.
"We were practicing it all week, so I knew it was coming," said Way, who had dropped Lucca for a 3-yard loss on the game's first play from scrimmage. "I dropped back in my coverage and I was able to make a play."
Lucca, who was 24-of-51 passing for 258 yards, pulled the Dukes within 14-7 on a 12-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.
But Stevenson was ahead 24-7 at halftime thanks to Matt Micucci's 15-yard TD pass to Troy Radtke and his 36-yard field goal.
After Lucca threw the first of his 3 TD passes, a 7-yard strike to Jordan Preuss (10 catches, 97 yards), Stevenson marched 80 yards. Micucci capped the drive with an 18-yard TD pass to freshman Cameron Green (2 catches, 59 yards), who was making his varsity debut and is the son of former Chicago Bear Mike Green.
"That was the backbreaker," York coach Bill Lech said, "because we had just gained some momentum, and then we give them the darn momentum back."
Down 31-14 after three quarters, York kept coming. Lucca threw touchdown passes of 20 yards to David Byerley with 2:47 to go and then 8 yards to Austin Wagner (7 catches, 66 yards) with 1:44 left after the Dukes recovered an onside kick.
"Joe is a tough kid," Lech said. "He's got one of the nastiest coaches in the state of Illinois. I'm not nice to Joe. But Joe is very thick-skinned. Joe knows that it's a game of short memories. I don't know that I've ever been more proud of a kid than I am of Joe Lucca. He's been beaten, he's been knocked out. He's had a concussion, and he just keeps coming back."
"I got to say, I give a lot of credit to their offense," Kuhn said. "They were absolutely prepared, ready to go. They battled. I got to give it to them. They were really good."
Stevenson went four-and-out on its next series, giving York one last chance with 44 seconds left, starting at its own 37.
But the Patriots' defense which also got interceptions from Patrick Breen and Anthony Bozin held.
"They don't give up," said Way, who tweaked a hamstring early in the fourth quarter and didn't play the rest of the game, but said he'd be ready to practice Monday. "They're a spread team so they're always going to be gunning. You got to play all four quarters. We pulled it out at the end, which was the most important part."