Loyola head coach John Holecek reasoned there was no need to overcomplicate the defense this week.
According to him, as long as the Ramblers executed the game plan, they would be in good shape against St. Rita on Saturday. Holecek’s strategy was spot on, and it resulted in a 35-3 victory on a rainy afternoon in Wilmette.
“We kept it basic,” he said. “I saw [teams] getting outnumbered and [St. Rita’s] unbalance really hurt people, so we kept it really simple. There were a lot of adjustments, but there were not a lot of calls. We simplified things, but we practiced a ton on their offense. We got a lot of reps in, and it showed.”
Loyola didn’t allow the Mustangs into the end zone and held their high-powered offense to 237 total yards and 3.8 yards per play. St. Rita entered the game averaging 41 points a game and 428 yards of offense. Its lowest scoring output came in last week’s 31-28 win over Mount Carmel.
“We had a great week of game planning,” Loyola senior linebacker Anthony Romano said. “We saw what they were able to do in the first five weeks. Things are starting to click, and I’m starting to feel good about us.”
Loyola made sure St. Rita’s key players — junior quarterback Jake Zylman, senior running back Shaun Rule, senior receiver Tim Zaleski — didn’t do much damage. Zylman ran the ball nine times for 12 yards, Rule had 14 carries for 60 yards and the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Zaleski caught three passes for 37 yards, which included one reception for 25 yards.
Romano said a point of emphasis during practices was stopping Zylman on the ground. Mission accomplished: Five of his nine runs Saturday were for negative yardage, and his longest gain went for six yards.
“We really focused on the quarterback counter and shutting that down,” said Romano, who finished with two tackles for loss. “We watched a lot of film on them. We wanted [their runners] to go east and west, and we wanted to make tackles.”
The win moved Loyola into a two-way tie with Brother Rice at 2-0 for first place in the Catholic Blue standings. The loss dropped the Mustangs to 2-1 in league play. The Ramblers and Crusaders play in Chicago in Week 9.
Loyola scored on its first three possessions of the game to grab a 21-0 lead with 10 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The Mustangs snapped the shutout on Gavin Mottl’s 40-yard field goal at the 6:13 mark of the second quarter.
With 1:15 left in the first half, Loyola senior running back Kyle Rock scored on a 2-yard run — his second touchdown run of the game — to give the Ramblers a 28-3 lead at intermission.
Loyola’s final points came on senior quarterback Tommy Herion’s 1-yard run at the 4:32 mark of the third quarter. After that, the Ramblers rested most of their starters for the rest of the game.
“We studied and attacked what we thought they did best,” Holecek said. “Everybody executed the game plan. I’ve said before that if we minimize our errors, we are athletic enough to be a good defense.”
Game notes: Junior outside linebacker Anthony Rodriguez enjoyed another big game Saturday. He had an interception, a tackle for loss and broke up a pass on fourth-and-5 on St. Rita’s first series of the second half. Senior Mickey Kane also shined at outside linebacker, finishing with a sack and a tackle for loss. … Herion went 15-for-27 for 170 yards. He threw one TD and ran for one. He’s now gone 120 passes without an interception. Rock ran 18 times for 101 yards and two TDs. Junior running back Hamid Bullie had 10 carries for 56 yards and one TD. Senior receiver Jake Marwede caught nine balls for 97 yards, and senior receiver Jack Moran had two receptions for 11 yards, including a 4-yard TD catch. … Loyola totaled 368 yards of offense and didn’t turn over the ball for the second consecutive game.
Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola