Stevenson defensive end Michael Kuhn will be the first to tell anyone that is willing to listen that he loves to play football and loves the pressure of the playoffs.
But one thing he and his Patriot teammates didn't want was to get yelled at by coach Bill McNamara.
So when visiting South Elgin lined up for a potential game-tying field goal late in the Class 8A second-round game at Stevenson on Saturday, Kuhn knew he and his teammates had work to do. Not that McNamara is a taskmaster or even a mean guy. Kuhn just didn't want to get yelled at.
"We knew if we didn't get in and challenge that field goal, coach would yell at us," said Kuhn with a smile. "We just looked each other in the eye and said let's get it done now."
The kick by South Elgin went wide left, helping Stevenson survive an upset from the No. 8-seeded Storm. The top-seeded Patriots proceeded to run out the clock and hang on for a 10-7 thriller in Lincolnshire.
Stevenson (11-0) is back in the quarterfinals for the first time in three years and will face No. 4 seed and defending 8A champions Maine South on Saturday at Stevenson. South Elgin closed out its season 7-4.
"This was a great high school football game between two great high school football teams," McNamara said. "South Elgin is well-coached, has great athletes and played physical. I was proud of how our kids stepped up on defense and helped us make the plays we needed to get us the win."
The Patriots did get a little offense on the way. The combination of Kevin Early to Steven Salata was prolific throughout the day, and while the pair did not reach the end zone, Salata's 9 catches for 149 yards was the best option against a very stingy South Elgin defense. The Storm was ruthless on the Stevenson offense, forcing 1 interception and sacking Earl six times.
"I didn't have any catches last week and that put a fire in my belly," Salata said. "I knew I would come out and have a great game."
Stevenson hit the end zone on its second drive after Kuhn forced and recovered a fumble on the Storm's second drive of the day. After a 17-yard completion from Earl to Salata, Joe Cassata took it in from a yard out for a 7-0 Stevenson cushion.
The Storm responded to start the second quarter when senior quarterback John Menken rumbled 54 yards for the tying score.
"We gave it our all today against a great football team in Stevenson," Menken said. "It's been a great season for the seniors and we have left something for the juniors and others in this program to shoot for."
The Storm drove again in the third quarter but was halted time and time again by the Stevenson defense. The fateful drive that resulted in a missed 32-yard field goal was followed by another that drove deep into Patriots territory.
But Kuhn was there again. His second forced fumble was recovered by Joseph Squaglia with 4:25 to go and Stevenson survived.
"All of our kids gave it everything they had today and I couldn't ask for anything more," said Storm coach Dale Schabert. "They all saw an opportunity to play a great team like Stevenson and took full advantage of it."