FIRST DOWN: Rhys Logan is the latest Rambler to emerge from behind the scenes and contribute in a major way.
In Saturday’s 17-10 win at Edwardsville in the Class 8A state semifinal, the junior running back and product of Chicago’s Francis Parker led Loyola in rushing with 14 carries for 66 yards. His 9-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 13 seconds left in the first half put the Ramblers ahead for good.
“It means everything,” Logan said of playing a role in the playoff victory. “I love this team. Just helping out is everything I want to do.”
With senior running back Hamid Bullie not 100 percent and sophomore running back Trevor Cabanban out Saturday, Logan (pictured above) became the featured ball-carrier for the first time in his varsity career. He entered the game with eight rushes for 47 yards and one TD for the season.
Logan’s first carry came in the second quarter and went for eight yards. On the ensuing second-and-2, he gained 12 yards. The Ramblers ultimately tied the game at 3-all on freshman Nate Van Zelst’s 30-yard field goal. None of Logan’s 14 attempts went for a loss.
“Rhys got the opportunity, and he capitalized on it,” Loyola running backs coach Ryan Gallagher said. “Just like Trevor did last week when he got the chance. Just like [sophomore running back] Tyler Flores did when his number was called earlier in the season. Rhys took the ball and just ran with it. We have confidence in him and all of our guys.”
SECOND DOWN: Before stepping into the spotlight Saturday, Logan spent his time on the scout team, mimicking the opposing team’s best running back each week.
Logan starred as Providence Catholic senior DeShon Gavin and St. Rita senior Chris Childers, both of whom earned all-Catholic Blue honors.
“His effort was always incredible,” Loyola defensive backs and special teams coach Tim Feldheim said. “I was happy that he got his chance and did well.”
Scout team is an essential element to a team’s weekly preparation.
“Even though they all would rather be playing, you have to have those guys,” Feldheim said. “We aren’t the team we are without them.”
Last week, sophomore safety Nico Green played the part of Edwardsville junior quarterback Kendall Abdur-Rahman, who Loyola head coach John Holecek compared to a high school version of [former Atlanta Falcons quarterback] Michael Vick.
The Ramblers held Abdur-Rahman to 55 yards on 18 carries and kept him out of the end zone.
“He’s got speed and gave us great looks,” Feldheim said of Green.
THIRD DOWN: Once again, special teams was a positive for the Ramblers.
They made a field goal, both extra points, fielded kicks and punts cleanly and even forced Edwardsville into mistakes on Saturday.
According to Feldheim, seniors John Costello, Kyle McGarvey and Patrick Russell all excelled against the Tigers. Costello, a linebacker, was instrumental in Loyola blocking a punt in the second half.
“He’s one of our best special teams players,” Feldheim said of Costello. “He’s a wing on our extra points, he’s on kickoffs, on punts and now on punt returns. He’s been terrific.”
FOURTH DOWN: The dean of the Loyola coaching staff, Feldheim is his 31st season with the Ramblers.
Which means he’s qualified to put the Ramblers’ recent run of success into perspective, including the program’s fifth trip to the Class 8A state final in seven seasons.
Saturday will be Feldheim’s seventh appearance in a state final. He was on staff when the Ramblers won the Class 6A state title in 1993 and the Class 8A state title in 2015.
“When you’re in the thick of it, you don’t recognize it,” he said. “When I stop and think about it, it really hits me. We are in the conversation every year. I also think about all of the dedicated coaches who have never had a chance to coach in one. It makes you appreciate it more.”
Feldheim admitted this year has a different feel to it, given the talent and starters the Ramblers graduated from the 2015 and 2016 teams as well as the adversity this team has encountered, notably all of the injuries.
“That’s not to say we didn’t think they could be successful, but they’ve had to overcome a lot and prove themselves,” he said. “They have bought in and trusted us as coaches, and they are battlers. Their motto is don’t count us out. It’s been great to watch.”
Photo credit: Geoff Scott