FIRST DOWN: On Saturday, the Ramblers hosted nearly 100 residents from Chicago’s Misericordia, a reminder that there are more important things than football at Loyola.

Located in Rogers Park, Misericordia specializes in caring for people with mild to profound developmental disabilities, according to the organization’s website. Misericordia and Loyola have enjoyed a relationship since 2012, one that was fostered by Larry and Carrie Nicholson. Their oldest son, Patrick Nicholson, has Down Syndrome. He helps out with the varsity football team on game days. The Nicholson’s other two boys — Matt and Mark — played football for the Ramblers.

“Part of my goal is always trying to seek out ways to promote acceptance and awareness of people with disabilities,” Carrie said. “The residents love being around the Loyola kids, and it’s important for the students to be around them. It’s a two-way street, and it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

Service is paramount to Loyola’s mission, and athletic director Pat Mahoney said it was important for the school to build a meaningful connection to the residents at Misericordia.

“We didn’t want to check the box one time,” he said. “Father [Patrick] McGrath says to really serve someone you have to develop relationships. It definitely has had more meaning because of that.”

Senior quarterback Quinn Boyle sat on Misericordia’s junior board this past spring. He said he’s grateful for the opportunity to give back to others.

“We get so caught up in our little bubble sometimes,” Boyle said. “You have to open your eyes to the world. There is more to being on Earth than playing football.”

SECOND DOWN: After having surgery in June to repair a broken fibula and tibia in his left leg, senior receiver Quinn McCarthy was told he probably was out for the season.

Despite the negative prognosis, McCarthy, a graduate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview, went to work on rehabilitation.

On Monday, McCarthy practiced for the first time since this summer.

“At this time of year, a lot of guys are sick of practice, but it was awesome,” he said. “Everything went well. I felt nice and strong. It was a good feeling to be back.”

Loyola offensive coordinator Tyler Vradenburg said McCarthy brings a positive energy to the team.

“The kids love him, and they were happy to have him back,” Vradenburg said. “He was a little rusty, but he made some nice catches.”

The 5-foot-9, 160-pound McCarthy is realistic about his return. If all goes well, he said he hopes to be available to play against Brother Rice at home in Week 9.

“I am trying not to get ahead of myself,” he said.

THIRD DOWN: The Ramblers don’t possess an explosive offense this season. But they are balanced, and they don’t beat themselves.

Loyola is averaging 359.6 yards per game and 5.7 yards per play. The Ramblers have rushed for 1,317 yards and passed for 1,200.

Not to be overlooked is how well Loyola takes care of the ball. In 440 snaps, the Ramblers have four turnovers (3 fumbles, 1 interception).

“I didn’t even realize that,” Boyle said. “It’s something I am proud of, but taking care of the football is an expectation. We don’t get any praise for not turning it over.”

In his first season as a starter, Boyle has one interception in 136 pass attempts and zero lost fumbles in 88 rushing attempts. Vradenburg said Boyle, a three-year varsity veteran, understands his position as well as any quarterback he’s coached.

“He sees his throws,” Vradenburg said. “He rarely throws the ball into coverage. He understands defenses.”

Ball security is a big point of emphasis for the running backs and receivers, too, according to Vradenburg.

“We have a strong defense, and as long as we don’t give offenses extra opportunities, we can be successful,” he said.

FOURTH DOWN: Loyola head coach John Holecek needs five wins to become the program’s all-time leader in career victories.

John Hoerster, the head coach from 1987-2002, holds the record at 133. In his 12th season, Holecek sits at 129 wins. Leonard Sachs (1924-1940) is third on the list with 90 wins. Loyola’s stadium is named after Sachs, and the field is named after Hoerster.

Holecek is the most successful coach since the Ramblers started playing football in 1909. He has won 83.2 percent of his games, captured the Class 8A state championship in 2015 and has finished second in Class 8A three times. Under Holecek, the Ramblers have won six Catholic Blue titles, five of which with undefeated records.

If Loyola keeps winning, Holecek will break the record in the quarterfinal round of the Class 8A playoffs.

Pictured above (left to right): Nick Murphy, Gigi Galizia, Bobby Russell, Patrick Russell, Charlie Largay, Marty Geary, James Joyce, Quinn Boyle

Photo credit: Geoff Scott