Healthy McFadden finishing strong for Stevenson
Two weeks in, and it didn't look promising. Not for Stevenson's football team.
Not for Jayden McFadden.
The junior wide receiver twisted his left ankle on a kickoff return late in the first half of the Patriots' Week-2 loss at home to Neuqua Valley. The next time he took the field was against Lake Zurich three weeks later.
"When (the injury) first happened, I thought I was going to be out for the rest of the season," McFadden said. "It really hurt when I fell. But then once I started rehabbing, I was like, 'Wow, this is a really fast rehab.' "
McFadden has recovered quickly, and so have the Patriots from their 0-2 start.
Stevenson's 27-0 win over host Waukegan in a North Suburban Conference matinee at Weiss Field on Saturday was the Patriots' fourth in five games and first shutout. With remaining regular-season games against undefeated Warren (home) and 4-3 Lake Forest (away), Stevenson needs one win to become playoff-eligible. Accomplishing that will almost surely earn the Patriots a postseason berth for the 31st year in a row.
Waukegan (0-7, 0-5) went into the game having been outscored 267-20. But the Bulldogs won the turnover battle, 2-1, against the Patriots, who committed 8 penalties for 62 yards.
"I don't think anybody on our team is pleased with how we executed today," said Stevenson running back JM Etienne, whose 2 touchdowns gave him 10 in his last five games (11 for the season). "But that's just hats off to Waukegan because they played us tough on every single down. They made us earn it."
Waukegan made McFadden work too. While McFadden had a 29-yard TD reception from quarterback Liam Crawley, he also fumbled the ball away at the 1-yard line after catching a pass.
"I was positive I was in (the end zone)," McFadden said after catching 5 passes for 88 yards.
What's important for Stevenson is that it has its top wide receiver back. McFadden, who played on varsity as a sophomore, has 21 receptions and 3 TDs in five games.
"It's great to have another weapon on the field," Patriots coach Brent Becker said. "He's a great player and works awful hard."
Justin Hiller's return to the Stevenson lineup hasn't gone as quickly. The senior quarterback, who injured his right (throwing) shoulder against Libertyville in Week 3, missed his fourth game in a row.
"Justin is not quite there yet," Becker said. "We heard some good news initially. He's been practicing a little bit this week, but it's been a little off and on. We're listening to the doctors and trying to wait and see when he might be ready to go."
In the meantime, Crawley continues to play creditably behind center. The junior completed 12 of 21 passes for 227 yards and 3 touchdowns against Waukegan. His 9-yard pass to sophomore Floyd Glinsey on the game's opening series opened the scoring. On the Patriots' next possession, Crawley and Etienne hooked up on a toss-and-score from 58 yards away.
Crawley's TD strike to McFadden had the visitors up 20-0 at halftime.
"I'd say the best thing about Liam in the last couple of weeks is the game is starting to slow down a little bit for him," Becker said. "He's starting to control the offense, and he's becoming more comfortable. He's really played a lot like what you would expect from a junior quarterback. He's learning as he goes."
A classmate as well as a teammate of Hiller, Etienne says he's had confidence in the Patriots' offense all season, regardless of who's been delivering the ball to him.
"Growing up, I knew (Hiller) was going to be my varsity quarterback when we were seniors, and that's something we looked forward to," said Etienne, whose 10-yard TD run in the third quarter completed the scoring. "This off-season, we put in a lot of work together building our chemistry. I felt really confident with him as our quarterback. But as much as Hiller and I were out there working on our routes and working on our timing, Crawley was also out there working with all of us."
Stevenson's defense held Waukegan to 85 total yards of offense. Jaden Mojica (fourth of the season) and William Collins had interceptions.