Stevenson's Mikey Kuhn, a defensive lineman, and cousin Steven Kuhn, a senior quarterback at Lake Zurich, are in the playoffs in different classes battling for the same goal a championship trophy.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
At the risk of finding themselves in a replay of last year's Thanksgiving Day tiff, Mikey Kuhn and Steven Kuhn will soon attempt to settle another burning question.
Turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes will try their best to be the mediators.
Last November, the hot topic at the dinner table was: the 2010 football season, and which team in the Kuhn family was more successful. Neither Mikey nor Steven, who are cousins because their fathers are brothers, were budging from their position.
Mikey Kuhn, now a senior defensive lineman, argued that his Stevenson Patriots got the nod. Meanwhile, Steven Kuhn, now a senior quarterback and wide receiver, was convinced that his Bears from Lake Zurich were the better team.
Mikey happily pointed out that Stevenson defeated Lake Zurich head-to-head in their North Suburban Conference Lake Division tilt en route to winning the division title with an undefeated record.
"We won in overtime and it was a great game," Mikey said of Stevenson's 24-23 victory over LZ last October. "It was the third time in three years that our class had beaten his class."
But Steven quickly countered that while Stevenson was eliminated in the Class 8A quarterfinals of the state playoffs, Lake Zurich went on to advance to the Class 7A state championship game in Champaign.
"Yeah, I'm trying to forget about that overtime loss to Stevenson last year, it was painful," Steven said. "But even though Mikey has the head-to-head advantage, I've got a pretty good comeback in saying that we went to state and they lost in the quarters. I don't know how you can argue that."
And yet the two cousins, who rib each other (and love each other) more like brothers than cousins, do argue. About football, mostly.
Trash-talking each other and each other's teams is kind of just their thing.
"Last year, it went back and forth so much that we ended up getting into a pretty heated argument about who had the better team," Mikey said with a chuckle. "After Thanksgiving, we actually didn't talk to each other for a week."
But this past Saturday, Mikey, Steven and their families were talking to each other constantly.
Mikey's parents were texting Steven's parents as they watched Mikey's game in Lincolnshire. Steven's parents were calling Mikey's parents as they watched Steven's game in Glen Ellyn. Later on, Mikey and Steven called each other.
Both Stevenson and Lake Zurich were embroiled in exciting playoff games against two of the best teams in the state, and the families wanted minute-by-minute updates.
Stevenson, thanks in large part to a top-notch effort by Mikey and the defense, wound up knocking off three-time defending Class 8A state champion Maine South, a team that it had never beaten in the playoffs in six tries. Meanwhile, Lake Zurich, with Steven taking over at quarterback for injured starter Zach Till, knocked off top-seeded and undefeated Glenbard West on the road.
"We kept going back and forth with the calling and texting. We were asking them their score, they were asking us ours," said Claudia Kuhn, Mikey's mom. "We had a lot of family pride going that day."
Indeed, what a day for the Kuhn family. Two games, two big wins.
And what a potential topic for discussion - or trash-talking, if you will.
Can't you picture it?
Which win was better? Stevenson's win over Maine South? Or Lake Zurich's win over Glenbard West? The Kuhn cousins better buckle in tightly to their dining room chairs on Thanksgiving Day. This one could take awhile to sort out.
"Umm - maybe we just shouldn't bring it up at all," Mikey said wryly. "We don't want things to escalate again."
They rarely do.
As competitive as Mikey and Steven are, and as much as they enjoy a clever exchange of one-upmanship, they are genuinely each other's biggest fans. Mikey said he couldn't have been happier when he heard the Lake Zurich-Glenbard West score last week. And Steven said the same when he heard about how Stevenson upset Maine South.
"Our relationship is so cool," Mikey said. "It's like we're each other's rivals and supporters at the same time."
The week that Mikey and Steven gave one another the silent treatment last year is probably the longest they've gone without speaking for their entire lives.
Normally, these cousins couldn't be any closer.
They hang out at each other's houses. They meet up for lunch. They watch football together.
"We like to trash talk and we'll post things on each other's Facebook pages about who's better in this or who's better in that, but this goes way beyond a sports rivalry," Steven said. "This relationship I have with Mikey - it's something special. It's something we'll remember and have for the rest of our lives. It's something we'll tell our kids about.
"Not many people have cousins that they're so close with, that are the same age and that love the same things they love. Mikey's like that brother to me."
Steven's only sibling is his little sister Rachel, a 16-year-old sophomore at Lake Zurich.
He holds he relationship with Mikey, his pseudo brother, especially dear because he's seen firsthand how cool it is when brothers are close, and stay close through adulthood.
His dad Ken is the older brother of Mikey's dad Randy. Like Steven and Mikey, they strengthened their relationship through football.
Ironically, both Ken Kuhn and Randy Kuhn played football at LZ, back in the 1970s. And ironically, Ken was a quarterback and wide receiver just like his son Steven, and Randy was a lineman just like his son Mikey.
"I always joke with my uncle (Randy) that he is a big traitor when he roots for Stevenson over Lake Zurich. I mean, he went to Lake Zurich," Steven said with a laugh. "He'll kind of get his little comments in. And my dad's always in on it (the trash-talking), too.
"Really, I think it's the dads who fuel this rivalry. They kind of share the same kind of relationship and Mikey and I have seen that and I think it's part of the reason we've ended up as close as our dads are."
Mikey and Steven would love to finally join forces and play for the same college team. They've looked at schools like Wisconsin-Whitewater and Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
"We've actually thought a lot about that," Mikey said. "I knew that he was interested in Wisconsin-Whitewater so I went there last April to visit. I think it would be so great if we could go to the same school, and I really think it could happen."
Steven is up for rooming with his cousin, too.
"Well, Stevenson beat us again this year, so Mikey went 4-0 against me in high school," Steven said with a sigh, and then a laugh. "He just looooooves to bring that up. Loves it. If we were rooming together and he brought that up too much, I might just have to kick him out and get a new roommate."