There to scout their opponent for Round Two, I learned from one of the dads that Warren had been the toughest and hardest-hitting squad the Patriots had faced all year. (I chuckled a little to myself at hearing this because the Catholic League prides itself on just those same attributes. I remember, for example, one particularly hard hit in the St. Joseph's Prep (PA) - Mount Carmel game at Toyota Field in the first week of the season. "That's Mount CARMEL football!" one of the Caravan fans shouted out.)
I talked about football with the players' dads and learned quite a bit. One of the Stevenson kids had some choice words about the Loyola team, which I can't print in this blog. Just suffice it to say, the good Jesuit Fathers in Wilmette would not be pleased.
At the half, the Stevenson players all made a bee-line (of course) for the concession stand. "God forbid they should miss a meal," one of the dads said to me. On their way back to their seats the Loyola fans taunted them, "You almost lost last night!"
"Yeah, but you're losing right NOW," they yelled back. Zing!
And it was true: the Ramblers were down, 12-10, after a half that was marred by some very questionable calls (and non-calls) by the refs. (And I didn't have a dog in the fight.) But Loyola coach John Holecek is a genius (even the Stevenson parents praised him) and the Ramblers made the necessary adjustments at halftime.
And, boy, did they ever! The North Shore squad came out after intermission with an attitude and scored four unanswered touchdowns to make it 37-12 before Warren even knew what had hit them. (One of the Stevenson parents told me that the Blue Devils "hang their heads" easily.) My Game of the Week had turned into a rout!
Shortly after the Stevenson crowd left I took a powder as well. Although I hadn't forgotten that 2010 semifinal game with Maine South on this very same field. After I had left, late in the fourth quarter (I had to go to dinner with David Letterman, for crying out loud!), the Hawks scored three times to beat the Ramblers, 29-22. But that could never happen again, I assured the Stevenson guys; Holecek will never forget that. Never.
By the time I was on the road the game was in the books: Loyola 37, Warren 20. (Should I have gone to that Mount Carmel - Batavia game instead?) But it was no time for second-guessing. My iPhone told me there was another contest at 3:30 at Lane Tech: No. 12 Sycamore (5-4) at No. 5 Westinghouse (7-2) in a 5A matchup. I had earlier thought I might drive farther up the road to the Fenwick - Highland Park game but six o'clock was a long way off. What the heck, I thought, let's check this other game out.
The skies had cleared by this point and the sun shined down on me on the home side at Lane Tech. It had turned into a beautiful day!
It was indeed a long afternoon for the Warriors. Sycamore seemed to score on pretty much every possession. At one point I turned to the guy filming for the Spartans behind me and asked, "Don't they have a running clock in the playoffs?" "Not until the second half," he responded.
But one half was enough for me. Even though, as I said earlier, it had turned into a beautiful day, and I could have sat there forever checking the other scores on Twitter, I just couldn't take watching the bloodbath on the field in front of me. So I left, but not before snapping a few more pictures of Lane in the November sun behind the stadium: