Story by Mike Felish

The undefeated and top-seeded Ramblers were in search of a play to turn the tides in an unexpectedly-close matchup against O’Fallon in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs.

Down 14 points early, senior linebacker Anthony Romano answered the call in the team’s 42-14 win.

After Loyola responded to the Panthers’ two touchdowns with a pair of touchdowns of their own on short runs from Kyle Rock and Tomas Henning, Romano broke open the game. With 9 minutes, 52 seconds to go in the second quarter, the captain ran back an interception 30 yards for a touchdown.

“That’s a big pick six for Anthony,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said. “We talked about getting to that spot and finding that curl and he did. It was a heck of a play. I thought he was going to drop it, he juggled it a little, but he’s been a steady player all year.”

Following the interception, Romano’s first of the 2016 season, the Panthers failed to score again. Loyola went on to score 21 unanswered points en route to their 10th win of the season.

“We were feeling a little down,” said Romano. “We were just trying to get a play to give us a little momentum and luckily I was able to make that play.

“I was reading the quarterback’s eyes, and I know they like that skinny curl,” said Romano. “I was able to read it and get under it.”

The Ramblers scoring continued in the second half with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Herion to David Terrell, Jr. and two short-yard touchdowns from Rock, who finished the day with three rushing touchdowns.

Holecek credited Romano’s pick six as the turning point of the game.

“They don’t score after that,” Holecek said. “Anytime you get a defensive score it’s huge.”

With the win, Loyola extends its winning streak to 27 games, dating back to the Prep Bowl playoffs in 2014. Romano has been a starter the last two seasons.

“I’m just so proud of what we’ve been able to do over the past two years, building up all of these victories, it could not have happened under a greater group of guys and head coach,” said Romano. “I’m just so happy to be able to play here at Loyola. Looking forward, it’s just one game at a time with the state championship as our final destination.”