Stevenson sports winning look against Conant
They just got their new, crazy playoff haircuts.
Stevenson quarterback Jack Sorenson and his teammates wanted to show them off a little more. They also wanted to play football together a little longer.
They were not about to go down easily Friday night.
That was the emotion behind the Patriots' big rally in Class 8A first-round playoff action in Lincolnshire. The defending state champions overcame a deficit that had swelled to as many as 16 points in the third quarter and somehow put together a 43-35 victory over visiting Conant.
No. 16 Stevenson (7-3) will next face the winner of today's first-round game between No. 1 Loyola and No. 32 West Aurora. No. 17 Conant ends its season at 6-4.
"We have such an emotional attachment to each other, you know, like my haircut right here," said Sorenson, pointing to a crazy new 'do that featured lines shaved into the sides of his head and a mohawk in the back. "We all went over to my house and we gave each other haircuts, just for the playoffs. It's those goofy things, but it brings everyone closer.
"We didn't want that to end. We wanted another week of that, and another week after that. We never want it to end. I said going into the game and again at halftime that I don't want my season to end. There are too many (more) memories to make."
Sorenson certainly made some great memories in the second half against Conant.
With Stevenson down 35-19 with 6:10 left in the third quarter, Sorenson scrambled and willed his way to one score after another. He helped the Patriots score on four of their final five possessions.
An 11-yard touchdown run by Sorenson with 4:13 left in the third cut the Stevenson deficit to 35-26. Then Sorenson engineered a 9-play, 83-yard drive that ended with him hitting Henry Marchese (10 catches, 140 yards) with 3-yard touchdown pass. That cut the Patriots' deficit to 35-33 with 9:13 left in the fourth quarter.
"Jack is the heart and soul of our offense, the heart and soul of our team," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said of Sorenson, who completed 22-of-35 passes for 329 yards and 2 touchdowns. "He's an incredible player, and an incredible athlete and I think you saw that tonight. He put the ball where it needed to be tonight."
After forcing a Conant punt with 7:22 remaining in the game, Sorenson led another long drive that spanned 13 plays and ate up nearly four minutes. It ended with kicker Peter Drozdzewicz nailing a 27-yard field goal. That gave the Patriots their first lead of the game (36-35) with 3:49 left.
It was only the second field goal and the second field goal attempt of the season for Drozdzewicz. He made a 30-yarder earlier this season against Lake Zurich.
"It was great," Drozdzewicz said of his game-winning score. "I took it, pretended I was in my backyard with no one around me. I drilled it, and once I drilled it, I was just like, 'Now, let's finish this game. Let's do it.'"
Stevenson did just that, stopping Conant on its next possession, and then scoring an insurance touchdown with 59 seconds left, a 34-yard run by Anthony Sibo.
Conant essentially let Sibo score in order to get the ball back more quickly. But the Cougars' final attempts at the end zone proved fruitless.
It was a sobering end to a game that looked to be in the bag for Conant. The Cougars were on fire in the first half, up 14-0 in the first quarter and up 28-19 at halftime.
Quarterback Kyle Bradley was on point. He passed for 342 yards, ran for 72 yards and had his hand in all five of Conant's touchdowns.
He was in shock after the game.
"I have to give props to Stevenson because they made some really good adjustments at halftime to slow our offense down," said Bradley, who connected particularly well with Palmer Graham (9 catches, 198 yards). "They were blitzing me more and containing me and jamming our receivers, which made it tough for them to run their routes. But I don't know. We just came up short.
"This is tough. You really can't describe how this feels. We all gave everything in our hearts. We left it all on the field and gave everything we had. We just came up short."