The beet goes on for unbeaten Joseph, Stevenson
Want some of the juicy details about what's going on behind the scenes of the top-ranked Stevenson football team?
Juice, not Gatorade, is what some of the players are drinking these days.
Not just any juice, mind you. We're talking about juice in its purest form, straight from fruits and vegetables with no other added ingredients. Like many Americans, the Patriots are subscribing to the nutritional fad of juicing.
Running back Jack Joseph got it all started, and he brings in jugs of his famous, dark red beet juice before games. Yes, beet juice.
He and some of his best buddies, such as quarterback Willie Bourbon, wide receiver Cameron Green and lineman Nick Dillon, have made drinking beet juice an important part of their pregame routine.
"We think it's magical," the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Joseph said with a laugh. "We started drinking (the beet juice) three or four weeks ago and we've been playing so well, we think we should keep it going. It's just so refreshing, and you feel so good when you juice. You've got so much more energy."
That certainly has been reflected this season in Joseph's play on the field, which will be on display on Saturday (1 p.m.) when the No. 1 Patriots (10-0) host No. 8 Loyola (8-2) in a second-round Class 8A playoff game. It is a highly charged rematch of last year's state semifinal, which Loyola won in the final seconds, 15-14.
Joseph was an important part of Stevenson's offense last year, but he wasn't totally satisfied. He thought he could be doing more.
"Last year, my longest run was only about 30 yards, I wasn't really as fast as I wanted to be. I wasn't breaking big runs," Joseph said. "Then I saw an interview I did (on TV) and I was like, 'Wow, I look chubby.'
"I realized that I could probably be a lot faster if I lost some weight."
Joseph took an honest inventory of his eating habits, and realized that they weren't very good.
"I was eating a lot of proteins and sweets. I had a big weakness for my Mom's chocolate chip cookies," Joseph said. "Some of the guys from the team would come over the night before games and we'd hang out and she'd make two big plates of cookies for us and we eat all of them. Looking back, I know that slowed me down the next day.
"I knew needed to watch what I ate more, I needed better nutrition."
Chicken and fish suddenly became staples in Joseph's diet. He ate less red meat and cut out sweets. His older brother Aaron, whom Joseph calls a "health freak," got him into juicing.
Since last season, Joseph has dropped more than 20 pounds.
He's got 15 touchdowns this season, compared to only 6 last season. He's also broken many big runs well over 30 yards. He had his best game of the season last week against Lyons with 3 touchdowns and 98 rushing yards.
"He used to be 3 yards and a cloud of dust," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said of Joseph. "Now, he has a little wiggle and can break big runs. He is stronger, faster and runs with his eyes. He sees the holes and hits them full speed."
Joseph also got faster by working out harder, and dealing with his weaknesses head on.
"I know I am (a running back), but I don't love running, at least not long distances," Joseph said with a laugh. "I tried to change that over the summer. I went on long 4-mile runs. When I wanted to work out and lift at Lifetime Fitness, I would run there instead of drive, which was a 3-mile run there and 3 miles back. That was like three workouts in one.
"I think I got into great shape by doing all that cardio and that helped with my speed, too. I'm able to outrun people this year. I have that breakaway speed."
On Saturday, Joseph will try to help Stevenson break away from the poignant disappointment that has hovered over the program since last year's loss to Loyola.
"That's one of the things that was motivating (during the off-season), too," Joseph said of the Loyola loss. "That game drove me in the weight room every day. I went in there with a chip on my shoulder. I think it made me want to get into great shape and work hard on my nutrition.
"That loss to Loyola last year burned, but I think it helped make me better."