Stevenson’s football roster might be stocked with future potential, but nothing — not even promise — eases the pain of losing.
Head coach Bill McNamara’s mind still is firmly set in the present, regarding a Patriots team that he admired for chemistry and in-practice intensity. Next season will come in due time, but for a week or two, McNamara’s thoughts will be with the team that finished its season with a 23-14 loss to Glenbard North in the Class 8A playoffs Saturday.
“Looking back, I think of how well this team played together,” said McNamara, who led Stevenson (8-3) to its 24th consecutive playoff appearance. “This group was a lot of fun to be around.”
Along with a playoff win against Warren, McNamara is proud that his team was the North Suburban Conference Lake co-champion. McNamara spoke of team chemistry that filtered down from the top, beginning with the oldest players.
“We’re excited about our young players, but really, the leadership of our team was with our seniors,” McNamara said. “Eight senior starters on defense, seven on offense — we weren’t as young as people give us credit.”
In looking back on the season, seniors Alan Velev and Anthony Bozin said they’re going to most miss the little things, not necessarily big wins or individual accomplishments.
“Going to practice every day was the greatest thing,” Velev, a lengthy wide receiver (6-foot-4) said. “We all had a really good bond.”
Velev, along with Bozin, is considering playing football in college.
Bozin did a lot for the Patriots on both sides of the ball. Aside from being able to teach younger teammates in practices and games, Bozin is going to miss being in the weight room.
“It’s where you build team camaraderie,” Bozin said. “I’m going to miss teammates pushing each other to their limit.”
Sophomore quarterback William Bourbon dazzled with his legs and through the air this season, and is excited to start preparing for next year. He’s quick to remember insight from this older group.
“I learned it’s about taking every day to get better,” Bourbon said.
Bourbon valued how hard the team worked, and he admired the bonds the players shared — particularly with the seniors.
“They were like a brotherhood,” Bourbon said.
Moving forward is inevitable, and for the Patriots, it’s exciting. For next year’s squad, the weight room signifies where everything begins.
“Championships are often made in the offseason,” McNamara said.
He’s not placing expectations, but winning the conference championship — as the Patriots did did this year — is always one of his goals.
Offensively, although the team loses Velev and Bozin, Bourbon has another year remaining with Matthew Morrissey, and two more with Cameron Green. Another sophomore, athletic defensive lineman Nicholas Dillon, will be a young player to watch in the future.
Getting ready for next season already was in the works for Bourbon and some of his teammates.
“Monday — that’s when the season starts,” Bourbon said on Saturday. “That’s when we’ll be back in the weight room.”