By Mark Maxwell
Offense calls them turnovers. Defense calls them takeaways. We know them as game changers.
In what proved to be a tale of two halves, the No. 6 Stevenson Patriots emerged victorious over the No. 3 Glenbard North Panthers by a score of 20-16, winning their ninth straight game and advancing to the Class 8A state quarterfinals.
Patriots running back Jack Joseph recorded the first score of the game, rushing 20 yards for a touchdown. The open turf was primarily credited to a strong downfield block by wide receiver Cam Green.
Enter Justin Jackson.
Jackson, star Panthers running back and Northwestern commit, tore off in a frenzy of offense that could only be stalled by the sound of the halftime horn. Before heading to the locker room for the intermission, Jackson had bolted for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
Just before the half, Patriots receiver Green attempted a pass into the end zone that resulted in an interception. Down 14-7, the Patriots had a tall task ahead of them.
Momentum is difficult to quantify. It is even harder to manufacture. But when it shifts, everyone knows it.
Early in the third quarter, Stevenson’s Jason Vravick ripped the ball out of Jackson’s arms. The Patriots recovered the fumble and proceeded down the field on an 11-play scoring drive, highlighted by Willie Bourbon’s 1-yard touchdown carry. The score would remain tied at 14 until the Panthers defense took advantage of a bad snap into the end zone that resulted in a safety.
Immediately after the safety, Jackson appeared to be carrying the Panthers to another score. A long drive that included a 42-yard rush would end in remorse as Jackson fumbled the ball before crossing the goal line. Stevenson recovered the ball in the end zone and the referees signaled for a touchback.
The Patriots failed to convert the turnover into points and instead engaged in a struggle for field position. Just as the game clock crept under the five minute mark, Green revenged his earlier interception as he returned a Glenbard North punt 70 yards for a touchdown. The Patriots failed to convert on a two-point conversion, leaving the score at 20-16.
With time waning, the Panthers took to the air on their ensuing possession, but junior quarterback Brett Gasiorowski couldn’t connect on four straight pass attempts. With one final chance to reclaim the lead, Glenbard North committed their fifth turnover of the second half as Gasiorowski threw an interception.
The Panthers season ends with an impressive record of 9-2. The Patriots (9-2) won their ninth straight and will advance to the quarterfinals to face No. 2 Barrington (10-1).