After loss to H-F, Chargers looking forward to 2014
The end is just the beginning for Stagg.
Thanks to a 42-14 loss to Homewood-Flossmoor Friday night in Palos Hills, the Chargers couldn’t advance into the state playoffs for the first time in eight years. However, Stagg came much closer to doing so than almost anybody could have imagined back in August.
“We played meaningful games in October,” first-year coach Mike Fahey said. “It was a positive year [because of that].”
In fact, had a controversial finish at Lockport not gone against Stagg on the last Friday in September, the Chargers would have had the requisite five victories to become eligible for the postseason. And with 37 playoff points in hand at the end of Week 9, Stagg likely would have garnered an invitation.
But without that earlier win over the Porters, the Chargers were forced to go through H-F in order to qualify — and that proved to be an order that was just a little too tall.
The Vikings captured the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue triumph by riding superb performances from quarterback Isaac Cutrara and running back Vashon Nutt. Cutrara completed all but one of his 17 passes for 226 yards, while Nutt delivered four of H-F’s six touchdowns.
“We just couldn’t stop them,” Fahey said of the Vikings. “They’ve got some weapons and they can attack you vertically down the field. It was kind of a bad matchup for us [in that regard].”
Nevertheless, Stagg (4-5, 2-5) didn’t go down quietly. Its defense made a goal-line stand at the outset, and the Chargers’ offense also had a few moments of glory.
The best of the latter occurred in the second half, when Adam Pilota’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Mackessy capped an 85-yard drive. Fahey resorted to a bit of gambling early on in the series, as he had Stagg run a fourth-down play while stationed on its own side of the 50-yard line.
Austin Kelly made his coach look like a genius by gaining 6 yards on an off-tackle run and acquiring a fresh set of downs for the hosts.
“It’s the last game, so you kind of have to go for it,” Fahey said in explanation of his decision to stay on offense at that juncture. “If we were going to beat H-F, we had to score every possession.
“They’re well-coached on offense, they know what they want to do, and they’ve got ways to hurt you inside and outside. They used their tight end to hit us on some routes down the middle.”
The Vikings were ahead 21-7 at intermission, with Pilota’s 3-yard run providing the Chargers’ first-half TD. After H-F stretched its lead out to 28-7, Stagg responded with its aforementioned lengthy march, but it was unable to do any further damage to its guests.
The Chargers did make headway in one other instance, but after venturing inside the Vikings’ 30, they got backed up by a major penalty. Stagg’s threat died right after that and the differential remained 21 points.
“We’re not a first-and-25 team,” Fahey said. “When we play against teams like H-F, Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East, we pretty much have got to be perfect all night. We’ve got to play four [good] quarters, and we weren’t able to do that.”
Still, Fahey’s complaints about the season as a whole were few. Considering the Chargers were playing for their third head coach in as many seasons, the rookie boss felt his club’s achievements were especially noteworthy and, more importantly, portended even better days ahead.
“You always want to establish a winning attitude in the program, and I thought we got that going in the right direction,” Fahey said. “The next step for our program is that we’ve got to win a game we’re not supposed to. And it’s got to be against a real good team.”
AAS — Adam Pilota, 3-yd. run (Athanasios Makris kick)
AAS — Tyler Mackessy, 5-yd. pass from Pilota (Makris kick)