Features

Biggest postseason surprise? That just might be St. Patrick

Shamrocks advance to state quarterfinals for first time in program history

Alex Goworowski didn’t fully realize how important St. Patrick’s win over Rochelle in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs was until it finally happened.

Goworowski and his teammates knew they would set program history with a win Friday by becoming the first team to reach the quarterfinals in the IHSA state playoffs, but they didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the moment.

Current students rushed on to the Triton College track to celebrate with the players after the 21-14 win, but Goworowski couldn’t help but notice the support he saw in the stands.

There were current St. Patrick families that didn’t have a player on the team.

There were older brothers who played for the school in the 2000′s and fathers who played in the `80s and `90s.

There were also alumni from almost 50 years ago.

Goworowski celebrated with new school president Dan Santucci, a 2002 graduate who played in the NFL and is arguably the best player in program history. Santucci had tears in his eyes and told Goworowski how proud he was of him and the team.

The St. Patrick community was there to celebrate something it had never seen before.

“When we finally won on Friday, it was amazing, just celebrating with my teammates and finally accomplishing what we worked four years for,” Goworowski said. “It was one of the best feelings, ever.”

St. Patrick coach Adam Guerra has learned how important that community and family atmosphere is to the program since he took over in 2017. Many of his current players have had older brothers who have played for the program. He currently has a family that has had a son he’s coached, a son he’s coaching now and a son who is eighth grade and will play football for the program once he enrolls into the school.

All of them gave their sweat and tears to St. Patrick football throughout the years, but none of them ever made it past the second round of the playoffs. That’s why Friday’s second-round win was more than just a team advancing in its chase for a state championship.

“This is a community win, and that’s what I’m proud of,” Guerra said. “I think football is the greatest sport for high school because of what it means for everybody, because everybody is a part of it and I’m really proud of the St. Pat’s community is enjoying our success as much as we are.”

The push for the playoffs started in the Shamrocks’ final regular season game against St. Viator. St. Patrick needed to win the game to earn its fifth win of the season and qualify for the playoffs.

Guerra told his players that week’s prep was the start of the postseason for them. If they lost, it was all over.

The Shamrocks beat St. Viator, 17-7, to qualify for the playoffs as the No. 13 seed and then took down Sterling, 44-14, in the first round before earning its second-round victory.

Guerra credited his team’s tough schedule for being a reason why the Shamrocks have played so well in the last three weeks. St. Patrick started the season with a loss to De La Salle Collegiate, one of the top teams in Michigan, and lost games to St. Rita, Fenwick and Loyola throughout the season.

The lumps the Shamrocks took against those larger teams prepared them for what it takes to win playoff games, and made sure to reinforce to the players within the team that despite their seeding, they’re not underdogs.

“The focus has been on the quality of our opponents, practicing well and being ready to focus on what they do,” Guerra said. “Once the whistle starts and the kickoff happens, the seeding, the rankings, all that stuff doesn’t matter, you’ve got to play the game. We really have not, we haven’t had the underdog mentality.”

Guerra will rely on the consistent play he’s gotten from Goworowski and his other players as they prepare for Sycamore in the quarterfinals. Getting the running back going early will be a key, as well as quarterback Jermaine Young.

He’ll need free safety PJ Summers to continue to do his film review like he has all season to help prepare the defense. Guerra hopes defensive linemen Kevin Ward and Jayden Griffin continue to play well like they have since they returned from injury earlier in the year in order to stop a tough rushing attack Sycamore features.

The Shamrocks are proud of what they accomplished this year, but they are also back to focusing on how to survive another week.

“Every week we’ve been working harder and harder,” Goworowski said. “This should be our best week, heading into Sycamore.”

If it is, there will be more unforgettable moments the St. Patrick community will have to rally around.