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Steinmetz's won its opening playoff game last week. Coach Tim McNulty holds a pre-workout meeting in preparation for their next game. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
When a Public League team makes the second round of the IHSA football playoffs, there’s usually an interesting backstory.
In Steinmetz’s case, there’s more than one.
There’s the coach who got out of coaching for a while and the star quarterback who started his high school career somewhere else. Throw in a favorable draw and you’ve got maybe the feel-good story of the year in the city.
“It’s still hard to believe,” said senior quarterback Michael Harris, who was the only Steinmetz player who’d dressed for a state playoff game before last week – and that was when he was a freshman at Proviso West in 2009. “It’s like a dream.”
The Silver Streaks were coming off a tough 2011 season when they finished 4-5 after losing four conference games by a total of 16 points. With the main skill players from that club returning, including quarterback Michael Harris and running back Dominic Masciopinto, coach Tim McNulty figured the Streaks would be better this fall.
But this good? “To say we knew we would be 7-2, I would be lying to you,” McNulty said.
The road to 7-2 was anything but direct. In Week 2, Steinmetz hit the road to Ottawa and lost 51-3 to the Pirates and their Illinois-bound back Miguel Hermosillo. Two weeks later, the Chicago Public Schools teachers strike forced the cancellation of a showdown with Taft and two weeks after that in Week 6, Steinmetz lost to Foreman 30-13.
Foreman, Taft and Steinmetz kept winning, but according to CPS rules, only two of them could qualify for the state playoffs because they play in one of the Public League’s Chicago sections. McNulty was under the belief that the tiebreaker scenarios would leave Steinmetz on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
Then during Week 9, the Streaks coach got the news that his team could make the postseason after all if all the dominoes fell right. “I was shaking, reading the email, I was so excited,” McNulty said.
For Steinmetz to get to the playoffs, Foreman had to beat Taft and the Silver Streaks had to shut out Amundsen. Taft did fall 7-6 on Thursday of Week 9 with McNulty and his assistants watching. “The coach [of Taft, Matt Walsh] is a good friend of mine,” McNulty said. “It was tough to hope they would lose.”
The Taft coaches were on hand the next day when Steinmetz got the shutout of Amundsen it needed, 30-0, to earn their first state playoff berth since 2008.
Having no margin for error, even in a 30-point game, was a little nerve-wracking.
“Being on defense, I just thought to myself all week I have to play as hard as I could,” said Adrian Bautista, a mainstay at linebacker, nose guard and center.
The Silver Streaks must do that all the time to be successful, actually. “Our problem is numbers,” said McNulty, who was hoping to have 30 juniors and seniors this season but wound up with 26 or 27.
The sophomore team is almost all freshmen, and the emphasis is on development. “I told the [sophomore] coaches, ‘I don’t care if you go 0-9 or 9-0, these kids have got to play,’” McNulty said.
McNulty’s philosophy has been honed over a career that dates back to the early ‘80s and includes stops at Weber, St. Joseph and Carmel before he left education to sell trophies and awards. Encouraged by some of the Public League officials he met, McNulty got back into teaching and coaching 18 years ago at Steinmetz. He coached baseball for nine years before taking over the football program in 2007.
Now he’s guided the Streaks to their first IHSA playoff win – 26-12 last week in a rematch with Foreman – and into a second-round date with Notre Dame (6-4) Friday at 6 p.m. at Hanson Stadium. Steinmetz will be an underdog again, but the Streaks are OK with that.
“We had a lot of doubters that [Foreman] game [saying] we were going to get blown out,” Harris said.
“I know this team wants it more than any other team we’ve had here,” Batista said. “We’re tired of losing.”