Loyola’s bid for a second consecutive Class 8A state championship came up short with a 27-17 loss to Maine South at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
Turnovers and field position were two factors that contributed to Loyola’s first defeat in 31 games and first loss to Maine South since 2010. It was Loyola’s third runner-up finish in Class 8A since 2011.
“They made plays when they needed to,” Loyola senior Jake Marwede said, simply.
Marwede gave the top-seeded Ramblers (13-1) a 14-10 lead at the half on his 1-yard run with 13 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
But the second half belonged to the 26th-seeded Hawks (10-3). Maine South forced a three-and-out on Loyola’s first series and started its possession at the Ramblers’ 45-yard line.
On third-and-9, Maine South senior quarterback scrambled out of the pocket and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Luke Hinkamp to go up 17-14 with 8:28 left in the third quarter.
Loyola tied the game with 12 seconds to go before the fourth on senior Patrick Kramer’s 34-yard field goal. But it came after the Ramblers had first-and-goal from the 9.
On the ensuing possession, the Hawks went three-and-out. But Maine South senior Sean McNulty kicked a 66-yard punt, which tied a record for the Class 8A state championship game, and pinned Loyola at its own 7. McNulty averaged 41.5 yards on six punts and four of them landed inside Loyola’s own 20. He also kicked two field goals.
After a 10-yard run on the first play, Loyola senior quarterback Tommy Herion fumbled the ball. Maine South quickly capitalized, scoring on its first play on Leongas’ 17-yard run with 10:22 remaining in the fourth for a 24-17 lead.
“This is a new experience for us,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said. “Offensively, defensively and special teams we got beat. These guys hadn’t lost in two years. It’s new to us. That’s why it’s painful.”
Loyola senior Kyle Rock ran 21 times for 154 yards and scored the team’s first TD on a 56-yard run in the first quarter. He also caught four passes for 40 yards. Senior receiver David Terrell Jr. finished with five receptions for 76 yards. Senior linebacker Anthony Romano had nine tackles and two sacks, and senior linebacker Graham Repp had nine tackles.