Stevenson starts slowly, but runs past Mundelein
During the opening 18 minutes on Friday against visiting Mundelein, Stevenson's offense went nowhere. On his first six carries of the night, senior running back J.M. Etienne gained just 10 yards.
Then Etienne's next two attempts went for 31- and 45-yard touchdowns and the host Patriots were off and running. They eventually beat Mundelein 35-14 in a North Suburban Conference contest as Etienne finished with 160 yards rushing on 16 carries.
"It was frustrating, especially after last week in a tough loss against a great team in Lake Zurich, you want to come out and play a better game tonight and we didn't start off doing that," Etienne said. "The coaches got into us a little bit and I think we really needed that. From there we just took off."
The first touchdown was a sprint down the sideline. The second was vintage Etienne, with several jump cuts and missed tackles near the line of scrimmage. Etienne added a 42-yard run in the second half and teammate Jordan Vincent's fumble return for a TD put Stevenson up 28-0 after three quarters.
"Sometimes that just happens with us," Etienne said. "I don't know if we're mentally there to start the games. I know once we do get there mentally, I think we have the athletes. I believe in our linemen. Our linemen, from Week 1 to now have made huge jumps and I can't be any more proud of them. I think once we get the focus down, I think we can be a very dangerous offense."
Mundelein's last victory over Stevenson came in 1988, so there are usually low expectations for this being a competitive game. But the Mustangs took the opening kickoff, picked up three first downs on the ground and generally controlled the first quarter.
Mundelein (2-4, 1-3) punter Brock Paluch kept the Patriots pinned deep in their own territory. After starting with good field position, the Mustangs reached Stevenson's 23-yard line early in the second quarter. But on fourth-and-3, Daniel Orgler and Ryan Hynes stopped Shawn Patrick for no gain.
The Patriots (3-3, 2-2) couldn't move the ball, but punter Jayden McFadden turned the game around by blasting a 63-yard boot. Coupled with an illegal block penalty on Mundelein, McFadden's prolific punt produced a 72-yard change of field position.
This time, Mundelein was stuck deep in its own territory and couldn't move the ball. With better starting position, Stevenson finally got on the board with Etienne's 31-yard run with 7:07 left in the second quarter.
The Patriots managed just 3 first downs in the first half, two of them on Etienne's touchdown runs. Under first-year coach Vince Defrancesco, Mundelein has been using a run-oriented, double-wing offense designed to control the ball and shorten the game.
The plan worked for a good chunk of Friday's contest. Mundelein's main running back, junior Rudy Orsornio, spent the second half on the sideline after getting injured late in the second quarter.
The Mustangs (2-4, 1-3) finished with 188 yards rushing, led by Patrick with 52 yards on 15 carries, but just 7 yards passing. George Stevenson and Josh Vanengelenhoven had touchdown runs in the fourth quarter.
Stevenson quarterback Liam Crawley threw for 96 yards and scored on a 7-yard run.
"We have a lot of young players, a lot of new starters this year," Etienne said. "So focus is something we've tried to work on as the season's progressed. I think we're still taking steps toward mastering that."