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Eisenhower holds on to beat Stevenson, 12-6 PHOTO GALLERY & VIDEO

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(Photo Gallery by Kevin Lozon)

Football games are all about offenses trying to score and defenses trying to stop teams from scoring. Sometimes the special teams play gets lost in the mix.

Eisenhower punt returner Nick Sedlock showed that special teams play is still one-third of the game on Saturday night in the Eagles' MAC Red Division opener against host and rival Stevenson.

Sedlock, a junior, returned a Titan punt 71 yards for a score midway through the first quarter, giving Eisenhower a 6-0 lead. The Eagles then added two 30-yard field goals by Robert Smith, before holding on late to defeat Stevenson 12-6 in a hard-fought game scheduled to be played on Friday night, but postponed until Saturday night due to thunderstorms.

"We've been great on special teams the last two games, especially on the punt return," Smith said. "Nick's unbelievable. He's a great athlete and he's been doing that in practice. We knew if the ball got back to him, he would have a chance to make a big play and he did.

"It's a huge win," Smith added. "Stevenson is our biggest rival and to come to their place, especially when everything was messed up for both teams (because of the postponement on Friday night). Both teams were ready to play and to go home and come back and get ready again; both teams played hard and gave it everything they got. We just happened to come out with a win."

Players from both sides will wake up on Sunday with bumps and bruises as the game was filled with hard hits by both defenses.

"We're disappointed with the outcome, but our kids fought a heckuva game tonight," Stevenson coach Kevin Frederick said. "I'm proud of the way our offense responded after a sluggish first half. We moved the ball in the second half. We cut a couple of unfortunate mistakes and it could've been a different outcome."

The first half ended with Eisenhower leading 9-0 as Smith booted his first field goal with six seconds left in the second quarter. The first 24 minutes of the game was marred by many penalties on both sides.

"I thought it was sloppy on both sides in the first half," Smith said. "It's not typical of how we should play. But, it's a rivalry game and these guys were pumped up. They have to be more mature."

Eisenhower increased its lead to 12-0 when Smith booted his second 30-yard field goal with 7:35 left in the fourth quarter.

Stevenson wouldn't quit fightin, marching 60 yards in 10 plays, capping the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Frankie D'Ascenzo. The PAT try was no good, leaving the score at 12-6 with 3:54 left.

The Titans defense forced Eisenhower to punt on its ensuing possession, giving the offense the ball back at their own 43 with 2:20 to play.

Stevenson marched down to the Eagle 35 before a pass to the end zone on the final play was intercepted by Eisenhower's Brendan Rybicki.

"Our guys fly around and hit," Smith said. "We played a great game last week (against Rockford) and again this week. That's where the strength of our team is right now. We're learning a new offense and making a lot of mistakes right now. We need the defense to carry us through some games until the offense starts to click."

Eisenhower was led by running back Kadari Johnson, who had 52 yards on eight carries. Eagle quarterback Jake Bradsher added 28 yards on 19 totes. He also completed 6-of-11 passes for 52 yards. The win improved the Eagles' record to 1-1 overall, 1-0 league.

D'Ascenzo led Stevenson, completing 7-of-14 passes for 87 yards. He also rushed 19 times for 32 yards. Levi Jackson chipped in 44 yards on six rushes, and had four receptions for 32 yards.

"I see the maturation process that we expect from Frankie and it's coming," Frederick said. "I'm proud of how he fought tonight and how he's starting to take that leadership role as a junior."

The loss dropped the Titans' record to 1-1 overall, 0-1 league. Stevenson will travel to Chippewa Valley next Friday night for another MAC Red Division battle.

"The one thing I saw from our kids tonight was the unity and the teamwork," Frederick said. "They had each other's back."

Last Updated: 9/6/2014 11:38:50 PM EST