As soon as Vito Cannizzaro safely secured the ball in his hands, the Loyola sideline erupted.

Everybody, it seemed, was screaming and jumping up and down, encouraging the 6-foot, 240-pound senior defensive lineman to stay on his feet.

Cannizzaro obliged, and he punctuated his first-ever varsity interception by running it 25 yards into the end zone with 7 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the second quarter of Friday’s 51-8 win over Leo in Chicago. He immediately was mobbed by his teammates, and the on-field celebration was fit for a game-winning touchdown.

“I remember I caught it, and I saw two linemen in front of me,” Cannizzaro said. “I knew they were tired, so I got around them. Once I did that, I made an inside move and scored.”

Loyola defensive line coach Beau Desherow said it was the first touchdown by a lineman since 2016 graduate Jack Hough scored during last year’s Maine South game in Week 2. But Michael Scott is the benchmark for big guys. He scored two TDs as a senior during the 2011 season. Coincidentally, Scott’s dad was at Friday’s game, according to Desherow.

“He brought some good mojo with him,” Desherow joked.

Cannizzaro’s pick-six came one play after he sacked Leo senior quarterback Aamir Holmes for a 3-yard loss. On second-and-18, Cannizzaro said his job was to provide outside containment. When senior linebacker Anthony Romano yelled out “screen pass,” Cannizzaro said he spied the play and spotted the running back next to him.

“I threw my guy to the ground, robbed the pass and started running,” he laughed. “You always dream about something like this. It was big for me.”

Loyola head coach John Holecek said he was impressed by Cannizzaro’s running ability.

“He’s not the biggest guy or the tallest guy, but he has good feet and is a competitor,” Holecek said. “You don’t see defensive linemen make those type moves against an athletic team like that. That was pretty special, and I was happy for him.”

Senior Omar Mendez, who plays with Cannizzaro on the line, felt differently.

“I was actually more jealous than I was proud,” Mendez said with a big smile. “But I was proud of him. I mean, it’s a dream come true for players like us. I want to do it now.”

Game notes: Loyola improved to 7-0 with its 24th consecutive win. … After a slow start, senior Tommy Herion connected with senior receiver Jack Martinus for a 30-yard TD pass on Loyola’s third series to put the Ramblers up 7-0. Herion also threw a 3-yard TD pass to senior receiver Jake Marwede early in the second quarter to increase the lead to 23-0. Junior quarterback Quinn Boyle relieved Herion midway through the second quarter and threw two TD passes, a 35-yarder to sophomore receiver Noah Jones and a 28-yarder to senior receiver Jack Moran. The last TD came with nine seconds to go in the first half and gave the Ramblers a 44-0 lead. … Loyola played without several starters Friday. Senior center Paddy Kotowski, senior receiver David Terrell Jr. and junior linebacker Anthony Rodriguez all didn’t dress out. Holecek said none of them have anything seriously wrong, but Friday’s game was a good opportunity to rest them. … Senior linebacker Mickey Kane had a big night. He finished with three sacks, one of which resulted in a safety, and broke up a pass. … Junior receiver Alec Brownlee returned a kickoff 80 yards for a TD during the third quarter.

Photo credit: Geoff Scott