Warrens Davonte Willcox, left, tries to get around Stevensons Ian Burns during round one of the Class 8A football playoffs Friday night at Stevenson.
Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer
Stevensons Zach Novoselsky celebrates with Anthony Bozin after scoring in the first half against Warren during round one of the Class 8A football playoffs Friday night at Stevenson.
Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer
Anthony Bozin was chosen.
By Stevensons football team.
By Patriots quarterback Willie Bourbon.
We got a lot of guys that can make plays on offense, Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. (Warren) just seemed to be giving us Anthony Bozin tonight. Our quarterback did a good job distributing the ball to the guy that was open, and tonight it happened to be Anthony.
Anthony Bozin: The Chosen One.
The 5-foot-9 speedster with the jitterbug moves made plays all over the field Friday night in leading No. 5 Stevenson to a 26-13 win over No. 12 Warren in a Class 8A state playoff opener between North Suburban Conference rivals in Lincolnshire.
Bozin rushed for a pair of touchdowns, caught a career-high 10 passes for 90 yards and even intercepted a pair of Adam Reuss passes. The wingback/cornerback has been a varsity player since his sophomore year, but this might have been the likable seniors best game, especially considering the stage.
Great guy. Great personality. One of the nicest kids youll ever meet, Stevenson senior linebacker Nick Costantini said of his teammate. Fast as lightning.
Im a senior. Im trying to play as much as I can, Bozin said.
Stevenson (8-2) gets to play again next week, as the Patriots will face the winner of todays 6 p.m. game between No. 4 Glenbard North and No. 13 Fremd in Palatine.
Warren, which never led but got within 20-13 after three quarters, finished 5-5. The Blue Devils had lost to Stevenson 39-7 in Week 5.
All week we were thinking about how they beat us the first time, how we needed to get back out and come out strong and get on them, said Warren senior wide receiver Connor Iwema, who caught 9 passes for 75 yards. But theyre a great team. Theyre going to do well in the playoffs. I bet they do.
Stevenson, which had been struggling in the red zone the last couple of weeks, employed Bozin early and often to help solve its woes. He caught 3 passes on a quick, eight-play, 57-yard drive, which he capped with a 9-yard touchdown run with 2:52 left in the opening quarter.
As the game progressed, Bourbon (23-of-33 passing, 244 yards) kept throwing simple screens to Bozin, who used his elusiveness after the catch to gain positive yards.
They were all stacked in the box, Bozin said of Warrens defenders. It was perfect for me because (Bourbon) could just lob it out to me and I could do what I can out there.
Warren got a 24-yard field goal from Matt Massong early in the second quarter to pull within 7-3, but Stevenson answered immediately. It took the Patriots only five plays to march 65 yards, with Bourbon hitting Cameron Green in the end zone from 13 yards out with 7:57 left before halftime.
Stevenson got a 10-yard TD run by Bozin (5 carries, 36 yards) on the first possession of the second half to extend its lead to 20-3.
Anthony Bozin is a great player, McNamara said. Anytime you get the ball in his hands, he has the ability to make plays. That kid plays a lot of football for us. He plays defense, as well. Hes just a great athlete. Hes very hard to pull off the field.
Warren went to a hurry-up offense in the second half and started moving the football. But the Blue Devils offense stalled again inside 10 and had to settle for Massongs second field goal from 24 yards out.
We just couldnt get our feet on the ground or get a grip in the turf, it seemed, in that first half, Warren coach Dave Mohapp said. We couldnt get anything going, and we needed to do that to help our defense a little bit. In the second half, man, we had a burst of energy.
Stevensons defense played relentlessly all night, especially tough in the red zone. The Patriots came up with 5 turnovers, recovering 3 fumbles and getting Bozins 2 interceptions. They also held Warren running back Davonte Willcox to 26 yards on 11 carries.
I mean, its playoffs, said Costantini, who recovered a pair of fumbles. You got to put everything on the line. I love this game. I love my team. Ive been looking forward to the playoffs ever since the end of last year when we got knocked out by Glenbard North (in the quarterfinals).
Our defense was flying around, McNamara said. Our defensive coordinator, Coach (Josh) Hjorth had a great game plan. It was big holding (Warren) to field goals early. I thought, defensively, our kids played their hearts out.
Reuss (22 of 35, 187 yards) completed a perfectly thrown 20-yard TD pass to Zack Rappel with 1:27 left in the third to pull Warren within 20-13. But Stevenson answered again, as Bourbon found Green from 7 yards out early in the fourth for the sophomores second TD catch of the night.
Warren lost 2 fumbles in the fourth, while Bozin came up with his second pick.
We couldnt really get the ball moving, at first, but when we did, we were driving, Iwema said. Unfortunately, we just had turnovers and penalties that just killed our drives. We had one touchdown. We should have had three.