Jayden McFadden had three opportunities to score a touchdown on Saturday. After two close calls, he finally crossed the goal line with the ball.
The Stevenson junior accounted for one of four Patriots touchdowns as Stevenson defeated Waukegan 27-0 on Saturday at Weiss Field.
The Patriots (4-3, 4-1 North Suburban Conference) moved within a game of playoff eligibility.
“We’re excited about the win, and any time you are playing a conference game you are trying to get a win and get better every week,” Stevenson coach Brent Becker said.
McFadden, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound wide receiver, caught a pass in the opening minutes of the second quarter that appeared to be a touchdown. However, he fumbled at the goal line and Waukegan recovered. Later in the quarter, junior quarterback Liam Crawley overthrew an open McFadden on a play that likely would have resulted in a touchdown.
Then, with the Patriots leading 14-0 before halftime, McFadden caught a pass in the right flat, made the first defender miss and sprinted to the end zone.
Stevenson senior running back Jean-Marc Etienne said he admires his teammate’s elusiveness in the open field.
“Once (McFadden) gets the ball in his hands, he can make anyone miss,” said Etienne, who had two touchdown runs against Waukegan. “He’s like a running back out there.”
It should come as no surprise that McFadden, a wide receiver, has the skills of a running back . He played running back as a freshman and on the sophomore team. After being called up to varsity in 2018, he switched to wide receiver.
This fall, McFadden is the Patriots’ most productive receiver. McFadden has 18 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns despite missing two games with an ankle injury. He was injured during a kickoff return in the week two loss to Neuqua Valley.
“My strength was there but not my flexibility," McFadden said. "When it first happened, I thought I’d be out for the rest of the season. It was really disappointing.”
Rigorous rehabilitation with the Stevenson training staff yielded fast results. McFadden went from thinking he might miss the season to returning to action against Lake Zurich on Sept. 27.
Fully healed from the ankle injury, McFadden can beat man coverage with pure speed and gain valuable yards after contact.
“My speed and route running is what I bring to this offense,” McFadden said.
The Waukegan game marked the fourth straight start for Crawley. Senior Justin Hiller, who won the quarterback job in the preseason, remains out with a shoulder injury. Becker gave no timetable for Hiller’s return.
Up next for Stevenson is a home game Friday against undefeated Warren. The Blue Devils have given up one touchdown in North Suburban Conference play and have outscored their seven opponents this season 249-21.
“I don’t think anyone is pleased with how we executed (against Waukegan),” Etienne said. “We’ll get ready this week for Warren.”
“We have two great contests coming up,” Becker added. “We want to continue to play our best football in October and November. That’s been our goal since the beginning, and we’ll keep striving to get better.”
Jon J. Kerr is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.