Loyola returns the favor, stops Stevenson's season
As he stood looking at the Loyola football players while they celebrated, Stevenson senior Jack Sorenson wasn't quite ready to have his season come to an end.
His eyes still filled with tears, and sporting a rather unfortunate haircut Sorenson credited to injured teammate Cade Gilbert, he chose to take the good memories from the season rather than dwell on the ones he could have taken from a 49-0 loss to the top-seeded Ramblers in a second-round Class 8A playoff game Saturday in Wilmette.
"There really are no words that I can come up with to describe what I am going to miss most," said the Miami of Ohio-bound Sorenson. "Football is what has gotten us through the highs and lows of this season. No matter what, you have those guys with you all the way -- good and bad. I guess I will miss that most."
Early on, the No. 16-seeded Patriots hung around with the powerful Ramblers. Eventually, Loyola (11-0), which faces the winner of Saturday night's Homewood-Flossmoor vs. New Trier game in the quarterfinals, had success as senior Dara Laja started to find running room.
Laja, who stands 5-feet-9, was tough to locate behind an offensive line that averages well over 6 feet. He broke one against Stevenson early in the second quarter, producing a 62-yard scoring run that started a 21-point second-quarter outburst.
Laja had just one score but finished with 216 yards.
"I give all the credit to my offensive linemen," Laja said. "Without those guys up front, we wouldn't have the type of success we have had."
Laja ran behind Jack Tamisiea, Jack Badovinac, Sam Badovinac, Daniel Kurkowski, and Thomas Nute. The Ramblers' offensive line paved the way to a total of 336 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns.
"We've gone against that three years in a row now, and they are real big and real physical," said Stevenson coach Bill McNamara of Loyola's impressive offensive line.
Stevenson, which was shut out in the playoffs for the first time since a 28-0 loss to Glenbard North in 2011 and was put into a running clock for the first time in the school's postseason history, never got past the Loyola 25 and was held to under 200 yards total offense for the first time this season.
"We were worried about this game all week," said Loyola coach John Holecek. "We didn't think this game would go this way. Stevenson is a well-coached team and we talked about coming out and ending their season the way they ended ours last year."
Loyola opened up a 28-0 halftime advantage on a pair of Emmett Clifford touchdown runs. Clifford also hurt the Patriots through the air, completing all 9 of his passes for 138 yards and a pair of scores. His second scoring pass went for 63 yards to Jonah Isaac to open the second half.
Sorenson closed out a brilliant senior season by rushing for 22 yards and throwing for 79.
"Jack is a tremendous football player who will have an incredible amount of success at the next level," McNamara said. "As great a football player as Jack is, he is an even better person. He was the heart and soul of this team with the energy he brought to this group."