As a sizeable American flag swayed above the track via the help of a fire truck before the game, retired military personnel were honored via the Touchdown for Troops ceremony; the celebration continued with the “Camo Out” student section, and the Stevenson Patriots took the form of an organized troop by dominating the Libertyville Wildcats 24-6.
The Patriots, who were in dire need of a victory, triumphed over the Wildcats after suffering a gut-wrenching loss at the hands of the Neuqua Valley Wildcats a week ago.
With the full moon shining on Friday the 13th, the first quarter was certainly a sloppy one.
Starting Stevenson quarterback Justin Hiller ’20 threw two interceptions before five minutes had elapsed: one to Domenic Tarello ’21 and another to Will Murphy ’20. Additionally, after receiving the ball near midfield, Libertyville gunslinger Blake Ellingson ’21 was picked off by Mikey Youkhanna ’20.
Once the Wildcats failed a fourth and four conversion, Patriot workhorse JM Etienne ’20 put on a show with a dazzling 85-yard sweep run touchdown to give Stevenson its first lead of the night—something that it would not relinquish. During the play, Etienne appeared fully healthy and was reminiscent of his 2018 form in which he consistently eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
The turning point in the game came with just mere seconds remaining in the opening quarter. After handing the ball off to Etienne on a rushing play, Hiller cradled his arm and never returned to the game.
Despite potential anxieties on the Patriot sideline, backup Liam Crawley ’21 silenced any doubters with a touchdown pass to Jordan Vincent ’21 on a fade route to give the Patriots a 14-0 advantage in the quarterback’s first taste of varsity action.
Libertyville responded with a rushing touchdown up the middle for Shaun Luce ’20, yet failed to convert a two point conversion on a nifty fake attempt by Dillon McDonald ’21.
The Wildcats continued committing unforced errors when a field goal attempt was botched after a missed hold to conclude the first half.
In the third and fourth quarters, a poised Crawley extended his connection with Vincent, Etienne and Tristan Moskovic ’21. Ultimately, a Vincent 32-yard rushing touchdown sub-eight minutes remaining put the game on ice for the Patriots.
All night, JM Etienne continued to gash the Wildcat defense; he totaled 147 yards through the ground and 44 yards receiving. Moreover, the Patriot defensive line frequently pressured Ellingson with rushers like Danny Orgler ’21 consistently collapsing the pocket—an impact which led to Jaden Mojica ’21 snaring Ellingson’s third interception of the game.
Despite the victory, injuries continue to abound for Stevenson. It is uncertain if Hiller, breakout receiver Jayden McFadden ’21 or defensive lineman Miles Williams ’20 will suit up a week from now.
Next Friday, the Patriots will welcome the Zion-Benton Zee Bees (1-2) for a monumental Homecoming clash. The Libertyville Wildcats, likewise, will play host to the streaking Warren Township Blue Devils (3-0), who are currently perched atop the North Suburban Conference.