First down: Injuries aren’t interrupting Loyola’s road to another Class 8A state championship. Senior center Paddy Kotowski was the latest player to get hobbled when he twisted his right ankle on the team’s second series of the third quarter in Saturday’s 42-13 win over Glenbard West. He left the game and didn’t return. While they don’t like losing starters, the Ramblers rolled on. Senior left guard and team captain Jack Badovinac moved to center, and senior Brian McTague (No. 60 in picture above) entered as the fifth lineman. On crutches and with his right ankle wrapped, Kotowski said after the game he should be good to go for Saturday’s game at Memorial Stadium.

Second down: McTague has been an indispensable member of the offensive line. Although he doesn’t start, the 6-foot, 235-pound guard fills in when needed. The Ramblers don’t miss a beat with McTague in the lineup, evidenced by the two touchdowns Loyola scored Saturday with him at left guard. It was the third game he’s played significant downs this season. “It’s kind of difficult on the sideline, especially when it’s cold because you come into the game a little stiff,” said McTague, who can play both guard positions and center. “But I know I have to always be ready to play. I am talking to the linemen the entire game and staying engaged with what’s happening.” McTague is one of three regular linemen, along with Kotowski and senior right guard Callum Brien, who went to St. Margaret Mary on Chicago’s Northwest Side. They’ve known each since first grade and have been playing football together since fifth grade. “It’s really cool,” McTague said. “It’s even cooler because we were not very good in grade school, and we come to Loyola and we are very successful. It’s fun being able to share this with them.”

Third down: Another game, another solid showing by receiver David Terrell Jr. Son of former Bears receiver David Terrell, the 5-11, 175-pound senior had seven catches for 96 yards and scored one touchdown against Glenbard West. “He has great hands and has become our go-to guy,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said. “He has made some great sideline catches where he gets a foot down that no one expects. He doesn’t have giant size or great speed, but he does everything really well. He can dominate in high school because he has enough speed, great hands, runs great routes and has the smarts to be in the right spot.” For the season, Terrell Jr. has team highs in receptions (55), yards (886) and receiving TDs (7).

Fourth down: Kyle McGarvey was among the unsung heroes in Loyola’s semifinal win Saturday. With the Ramblers ahead 14-7, the 5-10, 150-pound junior receiver returned the opening kickoff of the second half 31 yards to set up the Ramblers at their own 44-yard line. They took advantage of the good field position to break open a close game. McGarvey got a chance to return kickoffs after junior running back Hamid Bullie’s season-ending injury in Week 9. Before that, senior running back Kyle Rock was on kickoff return, but the coaching staff decided to reduce his role on special teams to focus on offense. McGarvey has retuned only four kickoffs in the postseason because teams often don’t score against Loyola. “He’s mostly a scout team guy, but he’s got some unteachable speed,” Holecek said of McGarvey. “He’s a really focused kid. We are blessed to have a lot of kids like him at Loyola.”

Photo credit: Geoff Scott