As he closed the trunk to his car in the parking lot Saturday after the Ramblers’ 35-32 win over New Trier in the first round of the Class 8A state playoffs, one Loyola coach mentioned that Maine South barely won its playoff opener a year ago before capturing the state championship.

At this stage of the season, a win is a win, no matter how unsatisfying.

“It is,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said. “We want to advance, but no one is happy with this. No one is excited about the way we played. Frankly, it feels like a loss.”

Leading 35-10 with 11 minutes, 14 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Loyola didn’t secure the win until junior receiver Rory Boos recovered an onside kick with 1:10 on the clock. The Ramblers recovered all three of New Trier’s onside kicks in the fourth quarter.

Loyola and New Trier (6-4) played each other for the first time since 2006 when the Trevians beat the Ramblers 13-8 in the first round of the Class 8A state playoffs in Northfield.

Thankful for another opportunity to play, Holecek said there are no more excuses going forward. Loyola (9-1) hosts Hinsdale Central (8-2) on Saturday in the second round.

“The nerves are done now,” he said. “A lot of young players made mistakes, but a lot of veterans made mistakes. We have to have a great week of practice.”

Loyola struggled to close out the game.

New Trier had nearly as many points (22) as the Ramblers had yards (25) in the fourth quarter. On three possessions in the fourth quarter, Loyola didn’t have a first down, and the defense surrendered three passing touchdowns that covered 75, 29 and 46 yards.

“Anyone can beat us on any given day,” Loyola junior receiver Noah Jones said. “If we execute, we will be fine. We will come back next week and play smarter.”

After forcing a three-and-out on the game’s first series, junior running back Michael Gavric (pictured above) scored on a 4-yard run to give the Ramblers a 7-0 lead.

Late in the second quarter, senior quarterback Quinn Boyle connected with Boos for 12-yard touchdown pass to complete a 10-play, 80-yard drive that put Loyola up 14-3 at the half.

The Ramblers made it 21-3 on the first series of the second half on junior quarterback Jack Fallon’s 32-yard pass to junior receiver Noah Jones. Fallon relieved Boyle, who went to the sideline with what appeared to be blood on his arm. Boyle, the Catholic Blue’s Lawless Award winner, didn’t play in the fourth quarter.

New Trier scored on the ensuing possession to leave the score 21-10 with 5:42 to go in the third quarter.

Loyola senior safety Charlie Largay then intercepted a pass in Trevians territory. One play later, sophomore running Trevor Cabanban scored on a 39-yard run to make it 28-10.

Following a three-and-out, Fallon threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jones on third-and-goal to increase the advantage to 35-10.

“We should have had first downs in the fourth quarter, but we didn’t get them,” Fallon said. “We will go back to the drawing board, and we will get better.”

Photo credit: Geoff Scott