Every pass that sailed or play that eluded him spelled potential doom. Willie Bourbon violated most of theperceived wisdom about how a quarterback is supposed to play on the biggest stage.
Even as the bleak moments accumulated, Bourbon remained convinced of his abilities and never lost his confidence.
The Stevenson quarterback overcame four interceptions by engineering a nine-play, 88-yard scoring drive in the final minute as the visiting top-ranked Patriots rallied past No. 2 Glenbard West 7-3 in a Class 8A semifinal Saturday in Glen Ellyn.
The Patriots (13-0) survived the clash of unbeatens to advance to the state title game next Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Stevenson qualified for its first title appearance since the 2002 team lost to Lockport in a Class 8A final.
Bourbon (21-for-37, 156 yards) was at his finest on the Patriots’ final drive as he completed four of five passes for 51 yards and also ran once for 19 yards. Running back Jack Joseph punctuated the drive with a 4-yard burst up the gut with 58.4 seconds remaining.
“I try not to let that sneak into my head, the four interceptions or whatever it was,” Bourbon said. “I didn’t want to think about that, and have it negatively affect how I played out there.”
Stevenson took over after the Patriots’ defense denied Hitters star running back Sam Brodner on forth-and-2 with just over three minutes remaining.
“It was the tempo,” Bourbon said. “We went fast, like we do in practice and we caught them off guard. We were not huddling there and we didn’t give their defense time to set up.
“In going fast, the game just slowed down for us in the final minute there,” he said. Wideout Jack Sorenson caught 14 passes for 91 yards. He connected with Bourbon three times for 35 yards in the game-winning drive.
“Jack Sorenson made some great plays on that last drive,” Bourbon said.
Glenbard West all-purpose quarterback and kicker Kyle Kramer nearly stole Bourbon’s thunder. His 33-yard second-quarter field goal gave the Hitters the 3-0 lead they held until the final minute. After the Stevenson score, Kramer completed passes of 26 and 22 yards respectively with just under half a minute remaining that advanced the ball to the Patriots’ 16-yard line.
Kramer threw a seven-yard sideline out to Aidan Gould to the Stevenson 9-yard line. After defensive back Jeremy Webb broke up a pass in the end zone and a third-down Kramer incompletion, Stevenson linebacker Jimmy Marchese secured the victory with an interception in the end zone with 3.5 seconds remaining.
“He rolled out and I saw where he was looking to go with the ball and he threw it right to me,” Marchese said.
Glenbard West had seven possessions inside the Patriots’ 20-yard line. During one 11-play stretch in the fourth quarter, the teams combined for five turnovers.
“I knew our defense would step up and make a play the way they have the whole year,” Bourbon said.
Defensive back Michael Darnell registered three interceptions for the Hitters (12-1). Linebaker Nico Gagliano had four tackles for loss in defeat. Brodner ran for 91 yards on 27 carries in finishing with more than 1,900 yards on the year.
“That was a great team, props to them, they really played well,” Bourbon said. “This game is why we worked so hard in the summer and now we’re one game away from a state championship.”