Stevenson football focused on beating roadblocks of 2013

Stevenson’s Jack Joseph (right) scores a touchdown during the second quarter of a game against Indian Trail (Wis.) Friday. | Michael R. Schmidt/for Sun-Times Media
Stevenson’s Jack Joseph (right) scores a touchdown during the second quarter of a game against Indian Trail (Wis.) Friday. | Michael R. Schmidt/for Sun-Times Media

Stevenson’s football team is making a point of overcoming obstacles this season.

The Patriots knocked one barrier over Friday night, but another one looms in Week 2.

Stevenson’s lightning-shortened 35-0 victory over Indian Trail (Kenosha, Wis.) Friday represented a decided turn from a season ago, when it lost a 15-14 stunner in its opener at Indian Trail. The next week, the Patriots — flummoxed by Homewood-Flossmoor’s multiple offensive sets — dropped a 28-21 game. With 11 total turnovers in the first two games of 2013, the team looked disjointed on several fronts.

Stevenson scheduled the same two teams to start this season. Indian Trail is down, and Homewood-Flossmoor is up next week.

“We are determined to get our redemption from last year,” senior nose tackle Blake Drazner said.

That road to redemption is paved with disciplined football, and Stevenson got off to a rousing start in Week 1.

All preseason, coach Bill McNamara said the Patriots’ offense would be more balanced. He’s shifting to a run-oriented attack designed to put the team in more manageable second- and third-down situations. That should help quarterback Willie Bourbon’s pass efficiency.

That’s how things turned out against Indian Trail. In just 15 minutes of action before the game was called, Bourbon completed six of 10 passes for 137 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Four of the Patriots’ five touchdowns came on the ground, with one by Bourbon, two by senior Jack Joseph and one by junior Tyler Vincent.

“We came out pretty hot [scoring on five of six drives],” Bourbon said. “We had a few things clicking for us. We have depth we haven’t had in past years, a big, well-oiled machine. You can take one [player] out, put one in and it runs the same. There’s not a drop off.”

The Patriots’ rematch with Homewood-Flossmoor Friday presents different challenges.

Stevenson was breaking in a new defensive scheme in 2013, changing from its traditional 4-3 with four down linemen and three linebackers to a 3-5 alignment. The learning curve associated with the switch was exposed as Homewood-Flossmoor controlled the line of scrimmage.

“They ran a couple of formations we hadn’t seen before,” Drazner said. “It was weird.”

One year later, Stevenson is more comfortable in the 3-5. Senior Pat O’Connell is back after losing his 2013 season to injury. He, along with Drazner and Nick Dillon, give the Patriots three linemen who can win one-on-one battles and allow linebackers Jason Vavrick, Jimmy Marchese and Rory Koenig to run through lanes and make tackles. That was missing a season ago against the Vikings.

The Indian Trail victory was just one game, but it was significant in healing a year-long wound. Now the Patriots move on to the next obstacle.

“You want to have the best possible impact on each game,” Vavrick said. “You are only granted nine of them. We can’t take it easy or take plays off. We haven’t proved anything.”

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