“They didn’t know we’d be this good”

Stevenson ends 5-year playoff drought with win against Waukegan

The Stevenson Patriots marched over the Waukegan Bulldogs on October 14, beating them 28-0 to secure a playoff spot for the first time since 2018 and making them 5-3 for the season. 

Despite the rain, Stevenson played almost perfectly the whole game. Playing impeccable offense, Stevenson saw notable performances from running backs Michael Maloney ’23 and Daniel Castro ’23, who both scored two touchdowns. On the other hand, Waukegan struggled to get anything going both offensively and defensively.

Stevenson’s strong performance began with their first possession. Starting from the 35 yard line, quarterback Matt Projansky ’23 handed the ball off to Maloney, who ran the full length of the field for the quick touchdown. With over 10 minutes left in the first quarter, it was clear Stevenson was going to continue their run of strong offensive performances from previous games.

The team celebrates after a Maloney touchdown to start the game off. Maloney set the tone early on in the game and made it clear the Patriots would run away with this game.

On the first Waukegan possession, Stevenson played stellar defense and held the Bulldogs to within the 15-yard line. Stevenson forced a fourth down punt to get the ball back in their hands after defensive stops from defensive ends Tamer Dalloul ’23 and Jacob Youkhanna ’23.

Starting at the 50-yard line for their second drive, within just one play Maloney showcased his abilities as a running back once again, scoring another touchdown for the Patriots. In only two touches, Maloney raised the score to 14-0 with six minutes left in the first quarter. 

Complementing Maloney’s performance on offense, the Patriots’ defense completely shutdown Waukegan running back Amari Brown and quarterback DJ Brown for the rest of the first quarter with key contributions from defensive-end Colin Schultz ’23. 

Running Back Maloney scores his second touchdown of night to make it 14-0 with a made PAT. With two touchdowns in only two possessions, Waukegan’s defense had no answer for Maloney and the Patriots.

To start the second quarter, Ben Fawcett ’24 checked in for Projansky. Handing the ball to Daniel Castro ’23, he ran it to the endzone for another effortless touchdown for the Patriots. With a missed PAT, the score was 20-0 with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter.

With yet again poor execution on offense from Waekegan, Stevenson started at their 30-yard line for their fourth and final drive of the half. After the snap, Castro ran the Patriots’ ball up the middle, veered out to the right and broke a few tackles for his second and the team’s fourth touchdown of the first half. 

In the following PAT, the ball was fumbled, but with quick thinking Jake Federman ’23 picked up the ball and threw it to Schultz, waiting in the endzone now as a receiver to score the two points.

“It was completely accidental,” Schultz said. “I saw an opportunity and I capitalized [on it].”

With a faltering offensive performance on both sides, neither team scored for the rest of the game. While Stevenson’s exceptional defense has been the key to their three-game winning streak, Danny Djokic ’23 believes the Patriots still need to work on playing the game strong from start to finish.

“We have to make sure we can play [well in] the full four quarters,” Djokic said. “We usually play strong in the first half, but we taper off towards the end when it matters the most.” 

Despite Stevenson’s strong performance, defensive lineman Shun Yamato ’23 says there’s still work to do. 

“We have to make sure we execute in all aspects of the game,” Yamato said. “We have to stop their passing game like we’ve been doing to many teams all year.” 

Stevenson’s rigid defense has made them a force to reckon with this season. Their success has been widely unexpected since last year they were second to last in the northern suburban conference with a record of 3-6. 

“People have been looking down on us,” Djokic said. “They didn’t expect us to be this good, so the pressure’s on us to prove them wrong.”  

Stevenson has been proving everyone wrong during this 4 game winning streak. Being playoff eligible for the first time has felt great for the players given all the work they’ve put in. 

“Being playoff eligible is a great feeling for the team with all the work we put into the off-season playing a big role in our success this year,” Yamato said. “But the job’s not finished.” 

Alongside an amazing Patriot win, drum major Shrenik Balaji ‘23 and seniors in marching band were acknowledged before the game for Senior Night. This upcoming home game against Libertyville, the football team will have their senior night, where they will be acknowledged for their hard work and dedication.