LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. -- Maine South's three-year reign atop Class 8A came to a halt on Saturday as the Stevenson Patriots upset the second-seeded Hawks 24-22 in the second round of the IHSA state tournament.
Despite being injured on his first play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Matt Micucci threw pair of touchdown passes and added a field goal to lead the Patriots to their first victory over Maine South in seven tries. All six of Stevenson's previous losses to the Hawks were season-ending defeats.
"Knowing how many Stevenson seniors have gone home because of these guys, and how good of a team that is, it was just a great experience for us to win," said Micucci, who finished 20-for-32 passing for 243-yards and two touchdowns.
Micucci's first touchdown came late in the first quarter as sophomore Matt Morrissey hauled in a five-yard slant. Senior running back Kevin Foley gave the Patriots a 14-0 advantage early in the second with an 11-yard run over the left side just three minutes later.
Though Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti would get the Hawks on the board with a 35-yard touchdown pass to senior Jimmy Frankos, Stevenson responded on the ensuing possession. Micucci led the Pats on a 10-play drive and drilled a 28-yard field goal as the first half expired, giving his team a 17-7 lead at the break.
"I thought Matt Micucci played great tonight," said Stevenson head coach Bill McNamara. "He showed great character, great poise, he found open [receivers] and made unbelievable decisions. He showed that he's a top-caliber quarterback."
Stevenson's lead grew to 24-7 as Micucci found fellow senior Troy Radtke on a 20-yard fade to the back corner of the end zone on the first possession of the second half, and despite a pair of Alviti touchdowns over the final two quarters, the Patriots held on for perhaps the biggest win in Stevenson history.
"I don't know if this is the biggest -- we went to the state finals one time -- but this is a big one. It ranks right up there with them," McNamara said. "But our hats are off to Maine South -- they're the defending state champs. There was no quit in those guys, we knew we needed to play four quarters of football. They had a great year, but we're very proud of our kids and we get to play on."
Saturday marked just the third loss in the past four seasons for Maine South, whose seniors finished with three state championships, four Central Suburban League South titles an astounding record of 50-3.
"They played hard, they had a great game plan and they made plays when they needed to," said Maine South head coach Dave Inserra. "We were right there until the end. Our guys battled. They didn't get it done in the end, but I'm just very proud of these seniors and their efforts. We challenged the entire team at halftime and they responded. It was our game to win and we just didn't get it done today."
Though Alviti passed for 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also adding a 15-yard touchdown run, the Patriots were able to limit Hawks running back Paul Preston to just 84 yards on 12 carries.
"We tried to keep a very close eye on Preston and Alviti and tried to take our chances with everybody else," McNamara said. "Our defensive coordinator, Josh Hjorth, had an unbelievable game plan and spent countless hours preparing and our kids were ready to play."
Morrissey finished with seven catches for 105 yards and Foley had 23 carries for 79 yards for Stevenson, which will now play the Palatine-Glenbard North winner in next week's quarterfinal. But in the meantime, Micucci and the rest of the Patriots certainly plan to enjoy the feeling of taking down the three-time defending state champs.
"I went to every one of those Maine South-Stevenson games, and to finally be here and win it, it's unbelievable," said Micucci. "After the 2003 game, my dad put his arms around my shoulders and said as we were walking away, 'One day you're going to beat Maine South.' And it's kind of amazing how life goes full circle like that."
Players of the game: Stevenson senior QB Matt Micucci: 20-for-32 passing, 243 yards, 2 TDs, INT / Maine South junior QB Matt Alviti 16-for-25 passing, 214 yards, 2 TDs, INT and 17 carries for 49 yards, TD.
Stat of the game: This was just the third Maine South loss in the past four seasons. The win was also Stevenson's first over Maine South in seven tries.
It was over when: With less than a minute to play and just one timeout remaining, Maine South was called for encroachment on second-and-5 from its own 33-yard line; the Patriots received a first down and Micucci would kneel twice to run out the clock.
Quote of the night: "This is something I've been waiting for my whole life. My brother lost to Maine South and it's always been a goal in our family to beat them, and now that we've finally done it, I just can't believe it happened." -- Stevenson sophomore WR Matt Morrissey