First down: Loyola didn’t get caught looking ahead to its Week 9 marquee matchup against Brother Rice. Instead, the Ramblers earned a 42-7 win at home Saturday against Providence Catholic to improve to 8-0 overall and 3-0 in the Catholic Blue. It was Loyola’s 25th consecutive victory, dating back to the 2014 season. Senior quarterback Tommy Herion threw for five touchdowns in the first half as the Ramblers built a 35-0 lead by the break. Loyola’s final TD came on a 4-yard run by senior running back Kyle Rock in the third quarter, his 11th rushing TD of the season. The Celtics, who needed to win to extend their hopes of making the postseason, broke the shutout with a TD run early in the fourth quarter. Loyola’s defense finished with six sacks, including three by senior linebacker Mickey Kane.

Second down: It came as no surprise that the seniors starred on a day in which they were honored for their contributions to the program. They scored all six touchdowns and also played a big part on defense and special teams. Senior receiver Jack Martinus caught a team-best two TD passes, while senior receivers Jake Marwede (pictured above), Jack Moran and David Terrell Jr. each caught one apiece. Terrell Jr. finished with team highs in receptions (7) and yards (87). Herion went 16-for-26 for 233 yards. He threw five TDs and no interceptions. Defensively, the seniors combined for five of the team’s six sacks. Senior defensive back Ian Swenson had a tackle for loss for broke up a pass in the end zone. Not to be forgotten, senior kicker Pat Kramer made all five of his extra points and averaged 54.3 yards on his six kickoffs.

Third down: The playoff picture is coming into clearer focus with one game left in the regular season. The winner of the Loyola-Brother Rice game on Friday in Chicago will be the top seed for Class 8A. The Ramblers and Crusaders both are undefeated on the season and the winner captures the Catholic Blue championship. But Loyola and Brother Rice hardly are the only two championship contenders in the largest classification. Seven other teams are undefeated through eight weeks, and there are nine more teams with one loss. Evanston and New Trier both sit 6-2 and are guaranteed a spot in the postseason. The 32 teams with the largest enrollments will play in Class 8A.

Fourth down: The two best teams in the Catholic League — maybe the state — finally meet up on the field at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood. The Ramblers have faced four top-tier offenses in Fenwick, Maine South, Mount Carmel and St. Rita. But Loyola head coach John Holecek said the Crusaders will be the best of the bunch. Brother Rice leads the Catholic Blue in scoring offense at 48.5 points a game. The Crusaders have scored 61 points or more twice and 42 or more in seven of their eight games. “They are a complete offense,” Holecek said referring to Brother Rice’s ability to move the ball both through the air and on the ground. “It will be a challenge trying to stop them.” After surrendering 43 points to Maine South in Week 2 and 28 to Mount Carmel in Week 3, the Ramblers have settled into a rhythm on defense. In the last five games, opponents are averaging 7.8 points a game.

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola