Johnsburg ends 25-game losing streak, wins for Bailey Stefka

WOODSTOCK — When Johnsburg quarterback Nick Brengman took a step backwards and let his right knee touch the grass for the second time, it became official.

The Skyhawks sideline and the student section rushed the field to join a rowdy celebration already in progress as Johnsburg, wearing its road white jerseys with blue pants, ended its 25-game losing streak in a wild 22-21 win over Woodstock North.

The excitement was boiling over as the Skyhawks offensive unit as it lined up in the victory formation for the first time since the 2010 season.

"We actually knew what we were doing during it," Skyhawks coach Mike Maloney said about the formation. "We practice it each week, expecting to win."

Added senior wide receiver Ben Stillwell: "It's unbelievable. It's what we've been working towards for so long."

The Thunder (1-4 overall, 1-2 Fox Valley Conference Fox Division) took advantage of the Skyhawks' high emotion early on, forcing a fumble on the opening kickoff and scoring on the ensuing drive as Grant Wade punched it in from the 1-yard line. North missed the extra point.

The Skyhawks answered back near the end of the first quarter as Brengman found Alec Graef for a 14-yard touchdown and a 7-6 lead. It was a lead that the Skyhawks wouldn't give up.

North threatened, however, with a dominant rushing game that totaled 276 yards on the ground including a 20-yard touchdown run by Wade followed by a 4-yard run by Jordan Plummer in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 22-21.

Johnsburg (1-4, 1-2 FVC Fox) had natural motivation each week, fighting to end the losing streak that had turned from being just a number into a large barrier.

Week by week, the pressure mounted. The losing streak followed them from the field to school and home. It also found its way into the hallways. 

Junior defensive back Bailey Stefka, last week's Skyhawks defensive player of the week, had an episode related to his Kleine-Levin Syndrome, which he has fought since 2009. It is a neurological disorder that affects sleep patterns and behavior. It had been under control until Stefka said it came back on Monday, forcing him to sit out for the foreseeable future.

So Johnsburg coach Mike Maloney asked Stefka's best friend, Steve Dixon, to wear Stefka's No. 2 jersey. Not only did the senior wear it, he nearly duplicated a play that Stefka made last week.

Dixon intercepted Thunder quarterback Jimmy Krenger with 7:19 to play in the second quarter and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown, which made Stefka's father, Dan, think of his son. It was one of four turnovers that the Johnsburg defense forced in the game.

"Just to play for Bailey tonight meant to much," Dixon said through tears after the game. "It was so emotional. This game was personal for me and wearing his jersey meant so much. It was all for him."

After the coached spoke to the players following the game, Dixon handed Dan Stefka the game ball as the team huddled around the teary-eyed father. With Dan Stefka in the middle, Dixon started the countdown and the team yelled, "1-2-3, FAMILY."

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