Wow: Worwa's boot lifts Stevenson
It may sound a little funny, but Stevenson kicker Jack Worwa didn't always know that kicking was a part of football.
"Well, that was back in sixth grade," Worwa said with a grin. "That's when I found out there were kickers in football."
Worwa had always done his kicking in the other futbol: soccer. He played that sport for eight years when he was younger.
But when he started kicking footballs, he fell in love.
Now, Worwa doesn't even play soccer anymore.
"It interferes with football," Worwa said.
Worwa needed all that focus and then some on Friday night. The biggest kick of his life rested on his shoulders with just 3 seconds left at Lake Zurich.
The visiting Patriots were tied with Lake Zurich at 14 points apiece and first-place in the North Suburban Conference was on the line.
Stevenson drove from its own 20-yard line down to the Lake Zurich 12-yard line in about a minute to set up Worwa for a game-winning field goal opportunity from 29 yards out.
After an icing timeout by Lake Zurich, Worwa lined himself up, calmly drilled the field goal for a 17-14 win, and was mobbed by his teammates.
"I've never had a game-winner. This is my first one. It's an experience I really can't explain with words," said Worwa, whose range is up to 40 to 45 yards. "My teammates did a good job of keeping my nerves down. If it weren't for them (during the icing timeout), I think I would have gone crazy. I just had to keep myself calm and tell myself that I've done this millions of times in practice and I just need to drill it.
"It means a lot that I was able to help us get into the driver's seat in the conference."
Stevenson moves to 6-1 overall and 5-0 in the North Suburban Conference, alone atop the standings. Lake Zurich drops to 5-2, 4-1 in the NSC.
"It was a battle of wills and one of the things we told our kids was that we were going to need to play four quarters tonight," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. "And how ironic that the last play of the game was the game-winner with time running out.
"I'm just thrilled that the Patriots had the endurance to play four good quarters of football."
Stevenson quarterback Aidan O'Connell (18-of-40, 248 yards, 2 touchdowns) engineered an efficient final drive with quick passes to the sidelines. The Patriots were able to run 11 plays in the final 1:07 to cover nearly 70 yards. Per usual, O'Connell connected with his favorite targets, the Marchese twins, during those final moments. Henry Marchese ended up with 8 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown (6 yards) and Michael Marchese had 3 catches for 38 yards and a touchdown (17 yards).
"We knew we had plenty of time. We had two timeouts left and you stop the clock with first downs," McNamara said. "It was a matter of keeping our composure and executing plays and taking what they give you. We had a nice couple runs in the mix because they (the Lake Zurich defense) were so loose.
"Aidan orchestrates all of that. He's just an amazing player."
Stevenson got on the scoreboard first with O'Connell's touchdown to Michael Marchese, then Lake Zurich tied the game at 7-7 on a 5-yard run by Ryan McGeever early in the second quarter.
Stevenson pulled ahead again early in the third quarter on O'Connell's touchdown to Henry Marchese, but Lake Zurich came back again with a 21-yard run by Joey Stutzman (33 carries, 155 yards) to tie the game at 14-14 with 9:40 left.
Lake Zurich then had a 16-play drive that ate up more than seven minutes and took the clock all the way down to 1:07, but couldn't convert on a long third down at the Stevenson 34-yard line and punted into the end zone. That's when the Patriots began their winning drive.
"Give them credit. We tried to do some different things defensively at the end there and their quarterback got into a rhythm," Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt said. "And when he does that, it's pretty tough to stop him. I thought we did a good job defensively for most of the game, but good players make big plays.
"They made the plays at the end of the game, and we were unable to."
The Bears, who had their Homecoming game spoiled and a chance for an undefeated run through the conference, plan to bounce back.
"It (stunk) (watching Stevenson's field goal go through). But we just have to bounce back," Stutzman said. "I think for sure we'll come back. We came back from the Montini game when we lost that. I think it's going to make us want the next two games a lot. I think we're going to learn from it and come together as a unit."