Wait is worth it for Chargers vs. Hawks
In today’s instant-gratification society, delays are tougher than ever to handle.
And Stagg football players had to cope with an exceedingly long one. Not only did they get denied an opportunity to open the 2013 football season on Friday because of thunderstorms, but it was a no-go on Saturday as well, thanks to the absence of referees.
Having called his players together around 7 a.m. that morning, Chargers coach Mike Fahey decided to send them home rather than wait around any longer to play a game that probably wouldn’t have begun until the early afternoon.
“We did it for the sake of the kids,” Stagg’s first-year leader said. “It would have been tough. No good would have come out of that game for either team.”
So the Chargers’ matchup with Hillcrest was pushed back two more days. Finally, everything came off without a hitch on Labor Day, although it was a decidedly different setting than one typically sees at a season-opening contest.
“There was no band, no national anthem, the crowd was small — it was a whole different atmosphere than I’ve ever been a part of,” Fahey said. “I’ve never been involved in a Monday game.”
Nevertheless, he may want to consider doing it again, especially if Stagg can guarantee another exhibition like the one it put on in Country Club Hills. It was a far-from-perfect display, but still good enough to make Fahey’s head-coaching debut a success as the Chargers snared a 28-14 triumph over the Hawks.
“We kept preaching [to the players], ‘You can only control your actions on the field, [so] you can’t get upset about things,’” Fahey said. “It’s been a rough three days [with] three pregame speeches and three times getting off the bus.
“It was hotter than I thought it would be and it took us a while to get used to their speed, but I thought our kids did well considering everything that went on. Give Hillcrest credit — they came ready to play. They’re a tough opponent and [it was] a slugfest, but we made some big plays.”
Most importantly, Stagg also embarked on one huge drive. The timing of it couldn’t have been better, either, as it got underway with roughly four minutes elapsed in the fourth period and chewed up all but one of the remaining minutes.
The Chargers were clinging to a 21-14 lead at that juncture, having dodged a bullet at their end of the field by forcing a Hawks fumble 3 yards shy of the goal line. Dennis Egan caused it and Chioke Elmore recovered the loose ball.
That didn’t put the Chargers out of danger, of course, but they escaped the shadow of their own end zone one play later when Hillcrest was flagged for a facemask penalty. The march continued and ultimately paid off with a 22-yard Adam Pilota-to-Tyler Mackessy touchdown pass.
Pilota, Mackessy and Elmore were all participants in a double-pass play in the opening stanza that, while not leading directly to a TD, loomed large as the contest unfolded. The twin completions resulted in a pickup of almost 60 yards.
“It flipped field position for us,” Fahey said. “There was also a personal foul on the same play.”
Pilota delivered a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that, coupled with Athanasios Makris’ conversion kick, handed Stagg a 7-6 halftime lead. Austin Kelly’s 54-yard burst upped the advantage to 14-6 in the third period, but the Hawks answered with a second score of their own that pulled them into a 14-all deadlock.
Egan finally put the Chargers back in front for good with his 3-yard reception early in the fourth frame.
Stagg will try to make it two wins in a row on Friday, when it hosts Oak Lawn. The Spartans, who knocked off Kenwood Academy in Week 1, will be the Chargers’ homecoming opponent.
Also planned is an appearance by the grandchildren of football coaching legend Amos Alonzo Stagg, for whom the high school is named. It’s the highlight of an event that celebrates Stagg’s 50 years of existence in Palos Hills.
While Fahey wants his athletes to enjoy the activities surrounding Friday’s contest, he expects them to show up ready to go after a shortened week of practice.
“We don’t have as many days to correct things,” Fahey said. “We’ve got to be a little bit less physical and more mental [in our preparation].”
Stagg 0 7 7 14 - 28
Hillcrest 6 0 8 0 - 14
AAS — Adam Pilota, 1-yd. run (Athanasios Makris kick)
AAS — Austin Kelly, 54-yd. run (Makris kick)
AAS — Dennis Egan, 3-yd. pass from Pilota (Makris kick)
AAS — Tyler Mackessy, 22-yd. pass from Pilota (Makris kick)