Stevenson falls to Lake Forest

 
By John Bumbales
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 10/19/2018 11:17 PM
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t was a tough night for host Stevenson in more ways than one as the Patriots faced Lake Forest in the North Suburban Conference regular-season football finale for both teams.

Stevenson (6-3, 4-3) is still heading to the playoffs next weekend, and the Scouts (5-4, 5-2) should also be heading to the playoffs after pulling off an exciting 26-23 NSC victory by outscoring the Patriots 20-7 in the second half.

Stevenson senior quarterback Cole Okmin (13-for-16, 181 yards passing) was having a great game until being knocked out of the game on a roughing-the-passer penalty midway through the third quarter when the Pats held a 16-13 lead.

A 28-yard field goal by Stevenson's John Greenbury opened the scoring before Okmin hit senior teammate Ryan McElhinny with a 5-yard TD pass in the left corner of the end zone for a 9-0 lead with 9:35 left in the second quarter.

After a 25-yard field goal by Lake Forest's Carter Hiam, Okmin hit McElhinny in stride streaking down the left sideline for a 59-yard TD play before the extra point by Jack Baruch made the score 16-3.

The Scouts were able to cut the gap to 16-6 when Kai Kroeger nailed a 39-yard field goal as the first half expired.

"You've got to give them (Lake Forest) credit, they fought for their lives and we lost our quarterback," said Stevenson coach Josh Hjorth, who said Okmin may be out for the playoff game next week depending on his evaluation on Saturday. "Our kids played hard and sometimes it doesn't pan out your way, that's just the way it goes sometimes."

Three miscues in the second half were very costly for the Patriots as a blocked punt by Lake Forest led to a 6-yard TD pass from Tommy Hanson to Breck Nowik to cut the lead to 16-13.

Then came a fumble by Stevenson's Jordan Vincent when he tried to field a bouncing punt near his goal line. The Scouts recovered on the 1-yard-line, and Mac Uihlein's 1-yard TD run gave the visitors a 20-16 lead.

The Pats hung tough as backup quarterback Justin Hiller scored on a 16-yard TD run on an option play to regain the lead at 23-20 with 9:23 to play.

Then after a four-and-out by Lake Forest, Stevenson lost a fumble on a handoff exchange in the backfield and the Scouts recovered on the Stevenson 20.

Lake Forest scored what proved to be the winning touchdown when Jai Williams caught a 12-yard TD pass on a pass that was deflected off the hands of teammate Ryan Cekay with 5:25 to go.

Stevenson running back J.M. Etienne (131 yards on 15 carries) was contained for most of the game, but his 54-yard run was crucial during the Pats' fourth-quarter scoring drive.

"It was a hit after the whistle (on Okmin), and he will have to be evaluated tomorrow," said Hjorth, whose team is going to the playoffs for the 30th straight year. "You have to give Hiller credit, he scored a touchdown, and he will have to grow up pretty quickly."

It was the first time in seven years that the Scouts defeated Stevenson, and Lake Forest should be heading to the playoffs for the ninth straight year pending Saturday night's IHSA decisions for Class 6A.

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