Playoff notebook: Stevenson helps after devastating tornado

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LINCOLNSHIRE — As the Stevenson football team prepares for its Class 8A playoff semifinal game against Loyola Saturday, the Patriots’ thoughts have been with another team.

A tornado Sunday devastated the town of Washington, located 11 miles east of Peoria. The town’s high school football team, the Panthers, won their Class 5A quarterfinal game the day before. Several players and coaches on the team lost their homes, and only Thursday did the high school resume classes.

When Stevenson’s coaches and players learned of what happened, they figured out a way to help.

“Our coach [defensive coordinator Josh Hjorth] talked to their coach [Darrell Crouch],” senior linebacker Itai Gerchikov said. “We started gathering money. Our goal is to raise as much as we can.”

Thanks to donations from players, coaches, teachers, friends and family, the Patriots raised almost $1,000 by Thursday. They plan to get the money to the school before Saturday, when the Panthers take on Sacred Heart-Griffin in the Class 5A semifinals.

“We talked about it, about how quickly things can be taken away from us,” senior offensive lineman Zach Novoselsky said. “We are privileged to have the things we have.”

Ramblin’ attack

Stevenson has played and beaten some of the best teams in the state, including Class 7A semifinalist Lake Zurich. Loyola presents a different challenge, with multiple offensive looks and skilled players all over the field.

“They are very talented and strong athletically,” Gerchikov said. “We are most impressed with how well they are coached and how disciplined they are. That’s why they are here.”

Gerchikov said Loyola’s use of their tight ends is something the Patriots haven’t seen this season.

“They’ll have multiple tight ends, go empty [backfield], run spread with different sets,” Gerchikov said. “And they have a smart quarterback [senior Jack Penn].”

On the line

Saturday’s game against Loyola will be the eighth game together for the Patriots reconfigured offensive line. Injuries to starters Henry Sise (center) in Week 1 and Novoselsky (left tackle) in Week 3 forced the team to make changes. Senior Jason Vavrick stepped in for Sise in Week 2 while sophomore Cade Gilbert replaced Novoselsky in the team’s fifth game of the season, a 52-7 win over Vernon Hills Sept. 27.

Pat Austin, the left guard, said the line feels as comfortable together has it has all season.

“It’s been tough the whole year but by practicing each and every day, we feel its been improving,” said Austin, a 6-foot, 205-pound senior.

The Patriots have run the ball more in their past two playoff games, something Austin said he hopes the team continues to do against Loyola.

“We know we can run. We can get out there and run block and get downhill and grind out the game,” Austin said.

Injury update

Senior wide receiver/safety Matt Morrissey has been participating more in drills this week as he recovers from an injured hamstring suffered two weeks ago. He is expected to play.

Junior wide receiver/linebacker Jimmy Marchese is still recovering from a right leg injury suffered against Glenbard North Nov. 9. His status is doubtful for Saturday.

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