Just past the halfway point within the regular season, the undefeated Loyola Academy Ramblers have indicated that they’ve the appropriate stuff to make a run for a second straight IHSA Class 8A football championship.
They placed on one other powerful performance before a homecoming crowd at Hoerster Field on Saturday, Sept. 23, scoring their fifth consecutive victory and recording their first shutout of the season in overwhelming St. Patrick’s 38-0.
Indicative of the Ramblers’ dominance, that they had 474 net yards to 156 for the visitors. Effective within the air and on the bottom, they were 8-for-11 on third-down conversion attempts and 1-for-1 on fourth down, versus 1-for-8 and 0-for-1 for the Shamrocks.
The one problem was penalties — the Ramblers were charged with 8 for 65 yards.
A 19-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald was invalidated by a holding penalty within the second quarter; they lost excellent field position as a consequence of an infraction following an interception by senior strong safety Kenny Langston in the ultimate minute of the primary half; and Colin Scheid’s third quarter end zone fumble recovery was erased by a face mask penalty.
Under recent coach Beau Desherow, the Ramblers’ five-game vital statistics compare favorably with those under their achieved long-time former coach, John Holecek, last season. They’re averaging 37 points per game and are giving up a mean of 8.8 versus 47.4 per-game on offense and 13.8 on defense at the identical point in 2022.
“We definitely need to wash up and never have those penalties,” Desherow said, who overall, though, was pleased with the way in which the Ramblers played, adding: “Our line of defense as a unit has been outstanding. Our linebackers played thoroughly. (Senior linebackers) Ethan Hogg and Colin Scheid continued to point out why they’re amongst one of the best within the Catholic League, and Kai Calcutt, a sophomore (defensive lineman) who played rather a lot within the second half, showed me something today.”
Fitzgerald got the second half off after completing nine of 16 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns and running 3 times for 27 yards in the primary half.
So did several other regulars, making the dominance of the Shamrocks (1-4) in every phase of the sport much more impressive.
Senior running back Finn Miller, who has gotten a variety of playing time as junior Drew MacPherson’s backup, played his best game, amassing 92 yards on seven rushing attempts and scoring on a 25-yard run for Loyola’s second touchdown within the second quarter.
Miller is a lacrosse player who played freshman football for the Ramblers, transferred to Culver Military Academy, and was on the football team there as a sophomore after which returned to Loyola as a junior.
“I just played lacrosse last yr,” he said. “It was a last-minute decision to play football this yr, and I’m glad I made a decision to. I’m so grateful for the chance.”
“Finn has been an awesome addition to our team,” Desherow said. “He’s a tough runner, a pleasant change-up. Drew is a bit of bit more of a slasher, while Finn is lower to the bottom and may get the hard yards. He also made a pleasant play on a screen pass (for a 15-yard gain).”
Profiting from their second-half stints that gave them their first prolonged playing time this season, two other running backs made an impact. John McGowan contributed 66 yards in six carries, while fellow junior Francis Corrigan had 31 yards in six carries, including a 3-yard TD trip with 25 seconds left within the third quarter, and was on the receiving end of a 31-yard pass from Freedom Ali.
Lucas Holubar and Ali, the senior backup quarterbacks, played well. Ali was 1-for-1 passing and picked up three yards in his only rushing attempt, while Holubar was 4-for-4 passing for twenty-four yards and went to the top zone from 3 yards out on his only run for the ultimate touchdown late within the fourth quarter.
Of their five games, the Ramblers haven’t thrown an interception or fumbled the football. Fitzgerald has 56 completions in 87 attempts for 818 yards; Holubar is nineteen for twenty-four for 171; and Ali is 7-for-7 for 68.
After gaining 57 yards in nine rushes against the Shamrocks, MacPherson stays the leader of the bottom attack with 273 yards in 55 carries, followed by Miller with 245 yards in 38.
Senior wide receiver Nicholas Arogundade continued to offer the Ramblers a dangerous weapon with five catches for 69 yards against the Shamrocks. After being out of bounds on two outstanding receptions in the appropriate corner of the top zone, Arogundade slanted to the center of the top zone to catch Fitzgerald’s 36-yard pass and enable the Ramblers to take a 10-0 lead early within the second quarter.
“Our offensive line gave me a variety of time to throw the longer passes and he made nice moves,” Fitzgerald said. “One he caught out of bounds was my fault — I overthrew him.”
“Fitz is an awesome leader, and I feel that he and I are all the time on the identical page,” Arogundade said. “I need to be a receiver who can go up and get the ball, they usually seemed intimidated by my vertical presence.”
Eight other Ramblers caught passes. Junior tight end Brendan Loftus grabbed two for 18 yards, and senior wide receiver David Pezza capitalized on his only opportunity, teaming with Fitzgerald on a 24-yard play with 41 seconds to play in the primary half.
It was followed by the third of Michael Baker’s five extra-point kicks, and it gave the Ramblers a 24-0 lead at intermission. Baker also put the Ramblers on the road to victory when he kicked a 29-yard field goal for the sport’s first points late in the primary quarter.
One other dynamic component on offense for the Ramblers has been Donovan Robinson, the junior who returns punts and kickoffs. Normally refraining from playing it secure and calling for a good catch when defenders are bearing down on him, Robinson was limited to 14 yards on three punt returns, but he returned the second-half kickoff 44 yards to midfield and looked like he was on his approach to the top zone before being tripped.
Robinson runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds, and he said the rationale he defies charging defenders by fielding the football and making spinning moves as an alternative of settling for fair catches is “because I need to get as many yards as I can and put our offense in position.”
“He has no fear,” Desherow said. “He’s all the time trying to make that big play and take it to the home.”
The Ramblers have 4 games left on their regular-season schedule. They’ll travel to St. Rita (4-1) on Friday night, Sept. 30, and visit defending IHSA Class 3A state champion Immaculate Conception (5-0) in Elmhurst on Friday night Oct. 6 before returning home for Saturday afternoon games against Benet Academy (3-2) on Oct. 14 and defending Class 7A state champion Mount Carmel (5-0) on Oct. 21.
In 2022, Mount Carmel put the one blemish on Loyola’s 13-1 record by defeating the Ramblers 42-37 within the last game of the regular season.