Loyola’s performance in the third quarter Saturday could be used as a teaching tool at offseason clinics across the country.
In a one-score game, the top-seeded Ramblers did almost everything right in those 12 minutes. The result was a 42-13 win over No. 20-seeded Glenbard West in the semifinals of the Class 8A playoffs. The victory — the Ramblers’ second in a row on the road — earned Loyola (12-0) a trip to Champaign next weekend and an opportunity to defend its Class 8A state title.
Loyola plays Maine South at 7 p.m. Saturday at University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium. The Ramblers beat the Hawks 44-43 in Wilmette in Week 2.
“We were firing on all cylinders, offensively and defensively,” Loyola senior linebacker Anthony Romano said of the third quarter.
The second half started with Loyola junior Kyle McGarvey’s 31-yard kickoff return to the team’s own 44-yard line. After a penalty on first down, the Ramblers inched down the field and faced a fourth-and-2 from the Glenbard West 35. Senior Jake Marwede went under center in the Wildcat formation and ran for 20 yards. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Duke recruit followed with a 15-yard touchdown run on first down to put the Ramblers ahead 21-7 with 8 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The defense did its job when the Hilltoppers (10-3) received the ball. Glenbard West gained 18 yards on first down. On second-and-5, Loyola junior safety Jake Gonzalez sacked senior quarterback Cole Brady for a 9-yard loss. The Hilltoppers couldn’t get another first down and were forced to punt.
“That was a big [series],” Loyola head coach John Holecek said. “I was very surprised we could limit them. We shut them down for the most part. We played pretty physical.”
The Ramblers took over at their own 29 and methodically marched down the field in 14 plays, scoring on senior quarterback Tommy Herion’s 1-yard run to up the lead to 28-7 with 52 seconds left before the fourth quarter.
On the second play of the ensuing possession, Romano recovered a fumble at Glenbard West’s 44 with 8 seconds to go in the third. The Ramblers scored early in the fourth quarter on Herion’s 31-yard pass to senior receiver David Terrell Jr. for a 35-7 lead.
In the third quarter, Herion (pictured above) went 6-for-6 for 63 yards. Senior running back Kyle Rock ran nine times for 26 yards, and Marwede had five carries for 43 yards and caught two passes for 18 yards. Defensively, the Ramblers held the Hilltoppers to 29 yards, one first down and forced one turnover in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
“Collectively, it was our best quarter of the year,” Herion said. “We’ve had flashes like that all year. But everything is clicking all together at the right time. It shows we are a total team and what we are capable of doing.”
Herion was back in the lineup after leaving the quarterfinal game against Huntley at the 3:21 mark of the first quarter following a hard hit near the goal line. He was put into concussion protocol and missed practices Monday and Tuesday. The doctors cleared him to resume practice Wednesday, and he was named the starter for the semifinal game.
“I will put our training staff up with anybody’s in the state,” Loyola offensive coordinator Tyler Vradenburg said. “They made sure he was ready, but they made sure he was safe. That was the main focus. They did a great job getting him ready to play.”
After sitting out last season due to transfer rules, Herion will be among those leading Loyola into the Class 8A state final in one week.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been talking about all spring and summer. But we aren’t done yet. We have one more game to win.”
Game notes: Herion looked liked his old self Saturday, finishing 15-for-20 for 180 yards. He threw two TDs and didn’t turn over the ball. Terrell Jr. had seven receptions for 96 yards and one TD. Marwede caught five passes for 58 yards and one TD, which came with 18.4 seconds left in the second quarter and gave Loyola a 14-7 lead going into the locker room. Marwede rushed six times for 46 yards and one TD. “Jake makes great plays,” Holecek said. “He had a couple of drops early, but you can’t go away from your best player. You run with your thoroughbreds. I don’t know how he can’t be in the picture for best player in the state.” Rock ran 28 times for 161 yards and one TD. What might have gone unnoticed was his block in the backfield on Loyola’s drive late in the first half that freed up Herion to complete a 39-yard pass to Marwede that set up the final TD before the break. The offense totaled 438 yards, went 8-for-14 on third downs, didn’t punt and had no turnovers. … The defense was on point against another talented offense. The Hilltoppers managed 237 yards and turned over the ball twice. They were 1-for-8 on third downs. Glenbard West’s TD at the 1:32 mark of the second quarter snapped Loyola’s 12-quarter streak without allowing an opponent in the end zone. “This was a game our entire defense shined and not just one person,” Loyola senior linebacker Mickey Kane said. “We had our nose to the grindstone. That was a very good team, and I never thought that would be the score at the end of the game. I am so proud of all of us.” … Holecek echoed his players who declared Saturday was a total team win. “On film, I didn’t think [Glenbard West] had any weaknesses,” he said. “It’s a really complete team. So when we come into their place and put on this performance, hats off to us.”
Photo credit: Geoff Scott