LAST WEEK: The Mustangs beat Mount Carmel 31-28 on the road.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sean Coghlan, sr., LB, Anthony Jones, sr., WR, Shaun Rule, sr., RB, Jake Stover, sr., OL, Tim Zaleski, sr., WR, Louis Cox, jr., LB/S, Jake Zylman, jr., QB, Gavin Mottl, so., K
GAME NOTES: St. Rita-Loyola almost always is a big game, and this year is no different. The extra significance Saturday is that the Mustangs are 2-0 in the Catholic Blue, and they are one win ahead of the Ramblers in the conference win column. St. Rita’s last league title came in 2013 when the Mustangs shared it with Loyola and Mount Carmel. That also was the last time St. Rita beat Loyola. The Mustangs’ last outright conference championship was in 2008. … St. Rita is coming off an emotional, last-second victory over rival Mount Carmel in Week 5. The Mustangs won the game on sophomore Gavin Mottl’s 34-yard field goal. Junior quarterback Jake Zylman had a big game against the Caravan, throwing for 176 yards and running for 99 yards. Senior running back Shaun Rule carried the ball 16 times for 112 yards. “It was a good win over Mount Carmel, but it only counts as one win, so we will not make a big deal out of it,” said St. Rita head coach Todd Ruska, who’s in his 19th season with the Mustangs. “We try to take each week one at a time. You have to do that playing in our conference.” … Four of St. Rita’s games have been decided by three points or less. Both of its losses were by three points in high-scoring games to teams that are each 4-1. “We feel that we have played better than our record at times, but obviously not well enough at other times,” Ruska said. … The offense is headed by Zylman, a dual threat under center. He’s completed 46.2 passes for 864 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s rushed for 494 yards and three TDs. He’s turned over the ball seven times. Rule leads the rushing game with 543 yards on 78 carries and seven TDs. The Mustangs average 255.2 yards per game on the ground. Zylman’s favorite receiver is Tim Zaleski, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior who has 28 catches for 509 yards and nine TDs. No one else on the Mustangs has more than eight catches. “They are strong, aggressive and fast in spots,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said of St. Rita’s offense. “They have scored a lot of points, and they do it by confusing you with different reads. They do zone, trap, power, counter and a lot of motions. They outnumber you to a point. Zaleski is a talented receiver who is their go-to guy. He can make some big plays.” … While the offense is averaging 41 points a game, St. Rita’s defense gives up 34 a game. But the Mustangs have been opportunistic on that side of the ball, evidenced by their 10 takeaways. Senior linebacker Sean Coghlan (62 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack) and junior linebacker/safety Louis Cox (37 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack) are two key players for St. Rita’s defense. “We have done a good job of both running and passing during most of our games, and we have been able to put some points on the board in crucial times,” Ruska said. “However, we have also given up far too many points on the defensive side. In the games that we have won, we did a better job of getting our defense off the field and putting our offense in some good situations.” … Kuska and the Mustangs are 2-8 against the Ramblers since Holecek took over in 2006. “Loyola brings a lot of challenges for us on both sides of the ball,” he said. “They are big at every position and have been executing on both sides of the ball at a very high level. They are multi-dimensional on offense, and they do a great job on defense of keeping their opponents on their heels. We must establish the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and win the turnover game to have a chance.”