As New Trier players and coaches departed Park Ridge on Friday night, an all-too-familiar feeling set in.
For the third time in six months, the Maine South Hawks reigned victorious over New Trier, once again leaving the Trevians searching for answers. But Maine South’s latest win cut even deeper, as it ended New Trier’s season.
The Hawks dominated New Trier from start to finish during their 51-7 win Oct. 29 on a rain-soaked night in the opening round of the IHSA state playoffs. One week after a seven-point win over the Trevians, Maine South left no room for doubt in the rematch, opening the game with 37 unanswered points in under 20 minutes of game time.
“The weather can play a factor in a game, but let’s be honest, they played better than us in pretty much every aspect of the game tonight,” New Trier head coach Brian Doll said.
Maine South’s offensive barrage started the moment it first touched the ball. It took the Hawks just two plays to open the game’s scoring after their defense forced a New Trier three-and-out on the opening possession.
The Hawks All-State senior running back Mike Sajenko broke free for a 20-yard touchdown run, foreshadowing what would be an extraordinary performance from the tailback. Sajenko finished the night with six rushing touchdowns.
New Trier had no answers for Maine South’s offense, allowing the Hawks to rack up 362 yards of total offense in the first half.
“They were not only efficient tonight, but they were just locked in with what they were doing, and Sanjenko made plays when things weren’t there; that’s what great players do,” Doll said.
“ … The scoreboard lit up pretty quick on their end, and it was tough for us to handle that.”
The Trevians got on the board late in the first half when senior quarterback Nevan Cremascoli rushed in a 2-yard touchdown but it was the only score New Trier’s offense managed.
New Trier’s season ends with a 5-5 record, a fitting summation of the team’s up-and-down campaign that started strong with a 3-1 nonconference showing but slowly stalled during a three-loss conference season.
But the Trevians still found plenty of positives throughout the year, including a return trip to the postseason after missing the playoffs in 2019 — the last season the state tournament was held — for the first time in more than 15 years.
“We’re back playing football, that is the most important thing; and we had a playoff game, so those are just great things to kind of build on,” Doll said.
The Trevians will look different on both sides of the ball next season as several key senior contributors including Cremascoli, tight end Finn Cohan, wide receiver Josh Kirkpatrick, wide receiver and linebacker Alex Mendes, running back and linebacker Jack Cummings, defensive lineman Charlie Zieziula, and offensive linemen Jesse Mendoza and Luc Elias will all graduate.
But despite their exit, the senior class will leave its mark on the program.
“They’re really good kids, and they’ve overcome a lot,” Doll said. “I think they really care about each other.”
The departure of Cremascoli, who finished the regular season with more than 2,600 yards of total offense and 24 touchdowns, leaves a vacancy at the quarterback position for the first time in three offseasons.
While replacing a quarterback the caliber of Cremascoli will be challenging, Doll believes New Trier enters the offseason with talented options to do so.
“We’re going to have two young kids that are going to be competing, we have a sophomore and a freshman that will complete, and then who knows, we might have another kid (Graham Mastros) come back out,” he said. “ … We know we have talent there. We always do at New Trier. We have a big building, we have a lot of kids, and some really good names there.”
The Trevians will also return a promising core of starters from this year that includes defensive lineman Ty Stringer, linebacker Henry Wolfe, running back Jackson McCarey, and offensive linemen Caden Minogue and Tyler Hurley.
Sophomores Miles Cremascoli and Charlie Gardella are also expected to join the roster next season as key contributors, Doll said.
The program’s coaching staff will leave this year’s team with a message of gratitude for the seniors and a reminder that only one team gets to end the year with victory.
“You never want it to end, but only one team gets to have it end not on this note, and we always do tell them that,” Doll said. “We want to go further than the first round. We want to win playoff games. Tonight, it was not our hand. It’s a tough draw getting Maine South and playing them two weeks in a row. That’s a quality football team and a quality program.”
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.