The four players recognized at the Loyola sophomore football team’s season-ending banquet are proof the program is in good shape going forward.
Award-winners Jack Burke, Jack Fallon, Michael Kadus and Joe Naselli — all sophomores — exhibited the qualities the varsity Ramblers are looking for in their future players. The Loyola sophomore team finished 8-1, losing only to Catholic Blue champion Brother Rice in the season finale Oct. 21 in Chicago.
“We are part of the building process,” Loyola sophomore head coach Les Seitzinger said of his annual mission. “A big part of why we are successful as a program is the consistency we have at every level. The players aren’t starting from square one.”
Burke, a cornerback, was the team’s Most Valuable Defensive Player. Naselli, the left tackle, was the Most Valuable Offensive Player. Fallon, the quarterback, earned the team’s Outstanding Leadership Award. The John Hoerster Coaches Award went to Kadus, a middle linebacker.
“Program priorities are a big thing,” Loyola sophomore defensive coordinator Tony Minestra said. “At the freshman and sophomore level, we are preparing these young men for the demands of the varsity level. We try to give them as much as they can handle.”
But Burke, Fallon, Kadus and Naselli stood out among the crowd by going above and beyond the basics.
A good example came during Loyola’s 24-6 win over Mount Carmel on Sept. 10 in Chicago. Kadus noticed a vulnerability in the Caravan’s blocking scheme, and he shared his insight with Minestra on the sideline.
“He told me they are giving us a gap we hadn’t expected,” Minestra said. “We tightened up our blitz and changed up our look. [Kadus] hits the mesh and takes the ball from the quarterback when he’s trying to hand it off. That was all because of Mike’s call.”
Naselli earned his honor after switching from defense to offense during the summer. Although he was one of the team’s top defensive linemen, the Ramblers had a greater need on the other side of the ball. Seitzinger said Naselli — whose dad, Jeremy Naselli, played linebacker for Loyola in the late 1980s — was more than happy to make the move.
“We were scrambling to find offensive linemen,” Seitzinger said. “We had to find someone who could secure our quarterback’s backside. He told me he would do anything to help us be better. He had to learn a whole new position. He was a special player.”
The sophomore team’s recent success has been a reliable indicator of success at the varsity level. From 2012-15, the sophomore team compiled a 35-2 record. From 2013-2016, the varsity teams went 50-6 with one Class 8A state title and one Class 8A runner-up trophy.
That’s a credit to players like Burke and Fallon.
As the Loyola’s lockdown cornerback, Burke never shied away from the challenge of opposing the other team’s best receiver, according to Minestra.
“Jack is very competitive,” Minestra said. “He knew he wasn’t going to win every battle, but he was always ready for the next one. He had this grit about him, an edge that made him want to get better.”
Fallon established himself as a leader, not only by becoming the starting quarterback, but because he did it with gracefully, Seitzinger said.
“He competed in a fierce battle for the job all summer,” Seitzinger said. “The most impressive thing was the way he competed. He was supportive of his teammates, even if he was going against them. All he wanted was for everybody to do well.”
Photo (from left to right): Head coach Les Seitzinger, Michael Kadus, Michael Gavric, Joe Naselli, Jack Fallon