New Trier can't break through against top seed Stevenson
There were moments Friday night when the New Trier football team, the No.16 seed in the Class 8A playoffs, showed it could play with top seed Stevenson – whether it was moving the ball into Patriots’ territory early or forcing two big turnovers on defense.
But in the end, the Trevians (5-5) could not muster much offense and failed to stop Stevenson’s powerful running attack, resulting in a 21-0 victory for the Patriots in the first-round playoff matchup.
“We played our hearts out, but we just couldn’t get anything going offensively,” New Trier coach Dan Starkey said. “We had a few good drives, but we needed just a little more tonight.”
Stevenson (10-0) scored on its second possession starting from the New Trier 37-yard line when a 20-yard pass from quarterback Kevin Earl to Troy Radtke moved the ball to the Trevians’ 17. On the next play, Patriots’ running back Joseph Cassata (102 yards, 12 carries) broke free and sprinted into the end zone to put Stevenson up 7-0 with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first quarter.
New Trier responded by moving the ball 52 yards on 10 plays the next time it had the ball. Thirty-nine of those yards came on the ground, including a 17-yard run by quarterback Connor DeLoach and 16 yards from running back Jack Nykaza. An 8-yard pass from DeLoach to Henry Falter moved the ball to the Stevenson 23, but DeLoach was sacked for a loss of nine by Ryan Chapman and then lost another five yards on a DeLoach pass to Nykaza. An incomplete pass ended the drive.
“We moved the ball a long way, but we didn’t pick up their blitz well,” Starkey said. “They were able to get some sacks on us and it hurt some of our drives.”
On its next possession, Stevenson picked up 31 yards on three straight runs, two by Cassata for 22 and one by Earl for nine. Then Anthony Bozin’s (102 yards, 10 carries) 55-yard touchdown run made the score 14-0 with 9:38 to go in the first half. Stevenson rushed for 319 yards in the game.
“They have a lot of outstanding backs,” Starkey said. “And they have a solid offensive line that eventually wore down our defense. They come off the ball real well and it’s tough to stop.”
New Trier’s defense kept it in the game, however, as things could have gotten much worse. A roughing the passer call on New Trier and a 19-yard run by Cassata helped Stevenson get to the Trevians’ 21. But on fourth-and-3, New Trier recovered a Stevenson fumble at its own 14, ending the drive with 1:30 remaining in the first half.
New Trier could only answer with a quick three-and-out, however.
Its defense stepped up again after the half as Stevenson picked up 58 more yards on the ground and along with a facemask penalty marched to New Trier’s 15. But Earl was intercepted in the end zone by Scott Schoder with 6:20 left in the third.
“I was proud of how our defense played,” Starkey said. “They did a great job of keeping us in the game for as long as they could. They gave us some chances that we, unfortunately, weren’t able to take advantage of.”
As New Trier once again went three-and-out after the turnover, Stevenson finally made the Trevians pay.
Earl hit Radtke for 26 yards to move the ball to the New Trier 1-yard line, where Nathan Kahn (75 yards, 17 carries) punched the ball into the end zone, making the score 21-0 with 25 seconds left in the third period.
In the fourth quarter, New Trier looking for some energy, went to quarterback Benji Cohen, who was intercepted by Dominykas Bickus with 5:30 left in the game to stall yet another drive.
DeLoach was 9 of 15 for 62 yards through the air and added 17 yards rushing. Nykaza rushed for just 29 yards on 10 carries.
Despite the loss, Starkey, in his first season as the Trevians’ head coach, believes they are on the right track to becoming a more successful team.
“We’re building for the future, but our senior leadership began to pave the way for the program this year,” Starkey said. “They’re a great example of sticking with the program throughout their high school careers and that’s what we need to have. We had some ups and downs, but I believe we’re headed in the right direction.”