Preseason No. 16: Stevenson

Stevenson is aiming for a trip to the playoffs for the 22nd straight season. Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.com

Last season: 11-1 overall, 6-0 North Suburban Lake, lost in the Class 8A quarterfinals to Maine South, ranked No. 15 in the final ESPNChicago.com 2010 poll.

Season ahead: Stevenson took a hit in graduation. The Patriots lost their star quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebackers and a few others.

For some programs, losing that many players would mean a rebuilding season. Not at Stevenson. Seeing a number of their top players graduate is nothing new for the Patriots. They’ve been through it before, and they’ve prevailed, qualifying for the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons.

“We’re proud of our accomplishments,” Stevenson coach William McNamara said. “It’s tough to do that year in and year out. We have many goals [this season.] This year we’re going to have to take it game by game. The schedule is really difficult.”

Star power: Matt Micucci is one of the area’s elite kickers, making all 47 of his extra points last season, and he was 7 of 8 in field goals. While Stevenson expects him to keep up his performance in the kicking game, he’ll also be looked to lead the offense as the team’s starting quarterback. “Matt has a lot of physical attributes,” McNamara said. “He can throw the ball well. He moves the ball well. He can run the ball if needed. He’s worked very hard in the offseason.”

Breakout performer: Troy Radtke was Stevenson’s No. 3 receiver last year and also saw the field as a defensive back. He’s been bumped up to the No. 1 receiver this season and will likely be the Patriots’ only two-way player. He’s athletic and has size at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. He could make an impact on both side of the ball. “This year should be a big year for him,” McNamara said.

Defensive difference-maker: Dominik Bickus shifts over to the middle linebacker spot this season to fill in for last season's defensive leader Brion Wood, who graduated. Bickus is expected to have a similar impact. “He’s looking great,” McNamara said. “He’s in great shape, making all the calls. He was one of the junior leaders and now is going to be a senior.”

Newcomer to watch: Sophomore Matt Morrissey, the son of former Chicago Bear Jim Morrissey, has a chance to be a special one. He’ll see time this season at free safety. His older brother, Mike, played at Stevenson and Boston College. “He’s just a good-looking, athletic kid,” McNamara said. “He’s young, but he’s very athletic.”

Schedule breakdown: Stevenson’s schedule will be difficult. The Patriots open with back-to-back tough games in Lyons and Glenbrook South. The North Suburban Lake should be competitive again as well. Lake Zurich is the favorite, but Lake Forest, Libertyville and Warren have talent back, too.

Key game: Oct. 6 vs. Lake Zurich -- Stevenson defeated Lake Zurich 24-23 in one of the best games of the 2010 season. This year’s game could be another in-state classic.

What they’re saying: “That pain losing to the state champs pushes you in the offseason,” McNamara said. “Every kid remembers that feeling. That motivated them in the weight room and offseason training.”