Warren's defense picks its way to win over Stevenson
When the player that never leaves the field isn't on the field, that usually means bad news.
For Warren, multitalented defensive back and wide receiver Jailen Duffie was stuck watching the playoff first round from the sideline with his right arm in a sling. Blue Devils coach Bryan McNulty said the North Dakota State commit has torn ligaments in his hand and is likely done for the season.
Junior Dajhir Gordon filled in for Duffie at cornerback and came up with 2 interceptions as Warren held off Stevenson 26-14 in first-round 8A action on Friday in Gurnee.
Next week, Warren (9-1) will have to travel to the south suburbs to take on Andrew, an upset winner over Huntley.
"That was devastating for us, but he (Duffie) just told us to keep doing it for him," said teammate Cassius Callahan. "Me and Jailen have been since yea-high, like 4 years old. When we first started playing football and I was three years old, he was playing football. That's my cousin in my eyes."
Callahan scored Warren first touchdown, taking a jet sweep 47 yards into the end zone. The Devils scored on their first four possessions, then slowed things down.
Stevenson QB Matt Projansky kept battling and completed 13 of 23 passes for 240 yards. But with his team trailing and the pass rush in his face, Warren pulled in 4 interceptions total. Besides Gordon's two, Callahan and Quentin Reeves each had one.
"That's one of the five tenets of our program, we call it competitive excellence. When you're number's called, you have to be ready," McNulty said. "Dajhir's number was called and he was ready."
Stevenson's first four offensive plays went for zero yards or backward, but on the fifth play, Projansky lofted a deep pass. Six-foot-4 receiver Ben Snider made an adjustment to get in front of the cornerback, caught the ball in stride and sprinted for a 65-yard touchdown that gave the Patriots a brief 7-6 lead.
Snider finished off his senior year with 5 catches for 108 yards. It's an amazing story, because this was the first time he ever played football.
"I was a freshman year soccer player," Snider said. "I did play intramural (flag) football and I won the championship my freshman year, but that's about as far as my football knowledge goes."
Snider said several of his baseball teammates played football and convinced him to give it a try.
"They're like, 'Come out for football.,'" he said. "They're my brothers, they're my ride-or-dies. So I came out and I had a blast. I'm crying right now, so obviously I loved it. I do recommend trying football."
A 22-yard run by QB Adam Behrens off a fake jet sweep put Warren ahead for good. The Devils added a 1-yard run by Justin Kretz and a 25-yard dash by Charley Thompson to boost the lead to 26-7 by halftime. Projansky hit Zachary Goldman for a 29-yard TD in the third quarter and Stevenson (6-4) had a couple chances to pull closer, but couldn't finish drives.
Thompson was a workhorse, finishing with 159 yards rushing on 30 carries. But even on carry No. 30, Thompson came off the snap like he was shot out of a cannon, which has been his style all year.
"He's a stud," McNulty said. "He's a strong kid. It's surprising after 10 games he's still this fresh, but he is. He's doing a great job."
This was the third playoff game between these two North Suburban Conference rivals. Stevenson won the first two in 2004 and 2012.