Stevenson weathers Wauconda's sustained attack
The rolling thunder and extended lightning almost put the game in doubt. Neither Stevenson nor Wauconda were about to budge.
A one-score game when a torrential downpour took hold of the gridiron, the two squads braced for two hours before play resumed Friday night.
From that moment forward, the game of breaks simply fell Stevenson's way. The Patriots defense stalled two pivotal Bulldog drives in the fourth quarter with turnovers and used another strong outing from quarterback Jack Sorenson to hold off Wauconda 20-7 in a North Suburban Conference crossover.
"Our defense is getting better every week and that's what we need out of them," said Stevenson coach Bill McNamara, whose squad improves to 3-1 on the season. "We came out a little flat, but they got much more aggressive as the game went on. You've got to give credit to Wauconda too. They're big up front, have two good running backs and a great quarterback in (Kevin) Malisheski. You've got to honor them in so many ways."
Wauconda (1-3) opened play with a clock-eating 80-yard drive to pay dirt. Runs from Jacob Bicknase and Malisheski moved the chains twice to set up an 18-yard strike to tight end Connor Mitchell. The throw was aided by a personal foul that led to a two-yard Bulldog push into the end zone by the quarterback.
Stevenson overcame a 15-yard loss on its third play from scrimmage via a 22-yard gain from Sorenson to set up a fourth-and-1. A push by Anthony Sibo stretched the chains, but a Mitchell sack pushed the Pats backward again.
Sorenson went to the air. Finding an 11-yard strike to Mike Marchese, the duo paired up again the following play on an inner slant that covered 59 yards and a score.
A fumbled snap plagued the visitors' following drive and gave Stevenson solid field position from the 28. Two plays later, Sorenson raced 26 yards across the goal line and a 14-7 lead at the end of one.
Defensive plays keyed the second quarter. Mitchell broke up a fumbled handoff to detour a Patriots drive, whereas Charlie Bourbon played the role of hero with an interception of Malisheski.
Stevenson followed the pick with a push into the red-zone, but the squad was held to four downs.
Wauconda no much returned its offense to the field when a bolt of lightning triggered the 112-minute delay that included officials taking wire cutters to the turf at midfield to release a pair of air pockets.
"We started the game at 6 (p.m.), so we had time on our side," McNamara said. "We had almost a half of football in. The conditions were pretty good. I'm proud of the coaches and administrators for waiting it out and finishing the game."
When play resumed, weather held up and so did each team's defense. The first two drives of the second half ended in punts, but the Pats found a break at the top of the fourth quarter when Sorenson placed a perfect deep ball into the hands of Henry Marchese, who galloped 58 yards for six.
"It kept our momentum going," said Sorenson, who completed 10 of 15 for 214 yards with two scores in the air along with 73 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. "We didn't have the offensive game we wanted to have. Not every game is going to go the way you want it to go, but every single person on the offense kept fighting and didn't get pushed back."
Wauconda was left asking 'what if?'
Its following drive saw a push into the plus side of the field when a fourth-down fumble to Ethan Masters spelled doom. After holding the host squad to a punt, Wauconda thought it had six points when a blocked kick landed into the hands of Mitchell, who raced toward the goal line.
Yellow laundry proved otherwise. And, following an perfectly placed dropped pass from Malisheski into the end zone, Bourbon delivered his second pick of the night two plays later and the game was in hand for the Patriots.
"We were two plays away, the punt that was blocked and could've been a touchdown and another close one there at the goal line," said Wauconda coach Dave Mills. "We're one, two plays away. That's what I'm trying to get our guys to understand. We've played a very tough schedule. Stevenson's as good a team as you're ever going to find. We just need to find a way to make an extra play."
Aside from Sorenson, Henry and Mike Marchese were the key offensive weapons for the victors on the game. Henry finished with 5 grabs for 121 and a score while Mike totaled 87 yards on four catches with the first half touchdown.
Bicknase provided a solid ground effort for the Bulldogs, churning out 107 yards on 24 carries. Malisheski finished with 46 yards passing on a 4 of 7 night with 2 picks, adding 21 yards on the ground with the team's lone score.