LINCOLNSHIRE — Stevenson had a clear defensive game plan Friday night against Lake Forest.
The Patriots wanted to slow down Scouts senior running back Hub Cirame, a 1,000-yard rusher through the season’s first seven games.
“We knew we had to stop him,” Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. “Hub is a heck of a running back.”
When watching film on Lake Forest, Stevenson defensive coordinator John Hjorth looked for ways to attack the Scouts’ zone block run system. In this system, offensive linemen block to a location on the field rather than a specific man. The idea is to use the flow of a defense to create running lanes at the line of scrimmage. Once the running back is into the second level, he can cut back into the space vacated by aggressive defenders.
Hjorth knew his linemen and linebackers would have to play as disciplined as they had all season against the Scouts.
“Their running back (Cirame) and quarterback (Regis Durbin) are real athletes and real runners and we put some changes in and adaptations for each formation,” Hjorth said.
It wasn’t complicated, it was just a matter of execution.
“Each zone team has gaps. We have to be able to take away those and our backside has to hustle down and take that cutback away,” Hjorth said.
From Lake Forest’s first possession, the plan worked. After the Scouts gained a first down, Cirame rushed for 2 yards. A Durbin incompletion was followed by an interception by senior defensive back Sam Oriatti, leading to a Patriots touchdown. Over Lake Forest’s remaining five first-half possessions, Cirame carried the ball six times for a total of 3 yards.
It was no surprise Stevenson led 14-6 at halftime. The Patriots continued their gap-stuffing ways in the second half, allowing only one Scouts possession to reach their side of the field. For the game, Lake Forest rushed for 83 yards, well below its per-game average of 232.
“This week was our most focused week,” senior linebacker Itai Gerchikov said after Stevenson’s 20-6 win. “We knew the backside backers and backside ends had to be there. Mainly, it was everyone doing their jobs.”
Aside from Gerchikov, there were several Patriots who did their jobs and did them well. Senior nose tackle Blake Drazner consistently held blocks. Senior linebacker Jason Vavrick knifed through double teams, taking lanes from Cirame (who finished with 25 yards on 13 carries). And senior lineman Zach Kozub — all 5-foot-8, 190 pounds of him — was also a standout.
“He’s a little pit bull. He sticks his nose in there and he comes down the line and does all he can with the physical gifts he has,” Hjorth said.
Now with six wins and a playoff berth secured for the 25th straight season, Stevenson hosts undefeated Class 7A power Lake Zurich Friday. After an 0-2 start, the Patriots control their own destiny. A win over the Bears gives them the NSC Lake Division title.
“We’re just going to go out there and play as hard as we can and not worry about who they are and what they’ve done,” junior wide receiver Cameron Green said. “We’re going to go out there and do our best.”