Loyola’s defense wasn’t perfect Saturday, but it was good enough to earn the top-seeded Ramblers a 22-3 win over No. 16-seeded Oswego East in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs in Wilmette.
The Wolves had six plays of 22 yards or longer — including four of 31 yards or longer — converted seven of their 14 third downs and had two first-and-goal situations. Yet, the defending Class 8A state champion Ramblers didn’t allow a touchdown.
“The biggest thing was we kept them out of the end zone,” Loyola senior linebacker Anthony Romano said. “We had one or two defensive lapses every possession, and they got some first downs on big plays on third down. But overall, we had a good game.”
Winners of 28 in a row, the Ramblers advance to play 24th-seeded Huntley on the road Nov. 12 in the quarterfinals. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Loyola’s defense set the tone on Oswego East’s second series of the game.
After the Ramblers scored to go up 8-0, the Wolves used a 39-yard kickoff return by senior running back and Iowa commit Ivory Kelly-Martin to put themselves in good field position. They faced two third-and-18s and got first downs on both, the second setting them up at Loyola’s 5-yard line.
On third-and-goal from the 2, Kelly-Martin, whose 22-yard catch got the Wolves into scoring position, gained one yard. Oswego East went to the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Kelly-Martin again on fourth down, and the Ramblers stopped him short of the goal line with 9 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
“We knew they were going to give it to their playmaker,” Loyola senior linebacker Graham Repp said. “That would have been a huge momentum-changer if they scored. But it turned out to be a huge momentum change for us.”
Romano, who made the initial hit on Kelly-Martin, said it was a play the Ramblers had seen Oswego East run on film.
“I saw the motion and called it out, and the guys were able to adjust,” he said. “We shot the gaps, and we were able to wrap him up.”
Leading 16-3 at the half, Loyola was forced to punt on its first possession of the third quarter. Starting at its own 18, Oswego East senior quarterback Jaylon Banks completed a 69-yard pass on third-and-2 to senior tight end Colin O’Reilly to Loyola’s 5.
On first down, Kelly-Martin ran for three yards. But the Ramblers tightened up after that. Banks was sacked on second down and threw an incomplete pass on third down. On fourth down, Oswego East brought out senior kicker Chase Bruns, who made a 42-yarder in the second quarter, to attempt 26-yard field goal. The Ramblers broke through the line and blocked the kick.
“We had a breakdown here and a breakdown there,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said of the defense.
But he said once the Wolves got close to the end zone, the Ramblers were able to negate their athleticism. That especially was the case when Loyola stopped Kelly-Martin at the goal line in the second quarter.
“We loaded up the box and came through with great tackling,” he said. “Fourth-and-inches against a Big 10 back? That’s not in our favor. Our defensive line played really well this week.”
The defense’s final statement came when senior Ryan Lin-Piestrup (No. 37 in picture above) intercepted a pass with 9:38 to go in the fourth quarter and gave the Ramblers good field position at their own 49.
Loyola senior receiver Jake Marwede did the rest. The 6-5, 240-pound Duke recruit kept the drive alive by catching a 12-yard pass from senior quarterback Tommy Herion on third-and-9. Later on, Marwede ran for 22 yards on fourth-and-1 to the 8. He scored his third TD of the game on the next play, giving the Ramblers a 22-3 lead with 5:17 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“We struggled a bit once in a while, but we stepped up when he had to,” Repp said.