Stagg’s Tyler Mackessy doesn’t look like the prototypical wide receiver.
But when coach Mike Fahey calls his 5-foot-8 senior “a gamer,” the description is spot on.
Mackessy came through with two huge conversion catches and snared a touchdown grab that sealed Stagg’s 28-14 nonconference win at Hillcrest in Country Club Hills.
The game was played Monday morning after being postponed both Friday and Saturday.
“It’s all on the coaches because they have coached me up all year,” Mackessy said. “They put me where I need to be, and (quarterback) Adam Pilota puts the ball where it needs to be so I can go up and get it.”
Mackessy finished with three catches for 80 yards, all of them key ingredients to Stagg’s season-opening win.
With the score knotted at 14, the senior converted a huge fourth and seven in Hillcrest territory to open the fourth quarter. Pilota’s throw was high, but the receiver went up and got it.
Two plays later Pilota found Dennis Egan for a five-yard strike, Stagg taking a 21-14 lead.
“All summer long Adam and I practiced, even after practice now,” Mackessy said. “We play catch, run the routes, and it’s just a good chemistry.”
With Hillcrest on the verge of scoring, Josh Cazley (20 carries, 128 yards) fumbled at Stagg’s five-yard line, linebacker Ryan Slager falling on the ball. Looking to ice the game, Pilota and waves of Charger running backs kept the ball moving downfield.
The biggest play though? Who else? Mackessy, converting a third-and-10 with a ridiculous leaping catch among three defenders, his grab good for 35 yards and keeping the drive going late in the fourth.
Running a fade route in the end zone, Mackessy capped the drive with a 27-yard touchdown catch to seal the game with 1:20 remaining.
“This win puts us in a very good position,” Mackessy said. “We’ve got to come out and play (against Oak Lawn), and that’s who wins the game.”
Pilota finished an efficient 6-of-8 for 127 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for a five-yard score in the second quarter.
For first-year coach Mike Fahey, the win was a big one.
“I try and put my heart and soul into Stagg football,” Fahey said. “We had to find our way through the early parts of the game. We made some nice second half adjustments, got some mojo and confidence going.”
Austin Kelly busted free for a 54-yard rushing score for Stagg to open the third quarter.
Devonta Brewer finished 7-of-21 passing for 109 yards and a TD (3 yards to Trent Stephens) for Hillcrest (0-1).
The game was the first for first-year Hillcrest coach Mike Leavy who was named head coach when longtime coach Earnest Sutton was fired this summer following a DUI charge.
Sutton, the head coach since 1999, was fired from Hillcrest as a dean in August.