LOYOLA (10-3)

W at Rockford (Michigan) 27-7

W at New Trier 41-3

L Mount Carmel 17-12

L at Brother Rice 35-3

W at St. Ignatius 21-14 (OT)

L Montini 28-27

W at De La Salle 49-14

W at St. Rita 33-3

W Providence Catholic 28-7

W at Minooka 38-14

W Oswego 22-0

W at Maine South 17-0

W Lincoln-Way East 24-16

RAMBLERS TO WATCH: Rory Boos, sr., WR; Jack Burke, sr., CB; Michael Byrne, sr., CB; Artie Collins, sr., WR; Patrick Daniels, sr., LB; Armoni Dixon, sr., LB; Eddie Eastman, sr., DL; Jack Fallon, sr., QB; Michael Gavric, sr., RB; Jake Gonzalez, sr., S; Conor Hough, sr., DL; Mike Kadus, sr., LB; Jared Lombardi, sr., WR; Joe Naselli, sr., OL/DL; Nick Pomey, sr., S; Sam Schierloh, sr., LB; Matthew Schiltz, sr., QB; Trevor Cabanban, jr., RB; Luke Desherow, jr., DL; Matty Mangan, jr., WR; Nate Van Zelst, so., K/P

BROTHER RICE (13-0)

W Marist 20-16

W Crete-Monee 54-16

W Fenwick 35-3

W Loyola 35-3

W at Providence Catholic 20-0

W St. Rita 21-14

W at Marmion 40-0

W Leo 48-0

W at Montini 31-0

W Zion-Benton 49-0

W Oak Park-River Forest 27-17

W Warren 20-0

W at Marist 14-3

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Anthony Arquilla, sr., WR; John Bean, sr., QB; Joe Fitzgerald, sr., DE; Evan Kirts, sr., OL; Jack McMahon, sr., LB; David O’Keefe, sr., TE; Jessi Plunkett, sr., RB; Jalen Rheams, sr., LB; Dylan Summers, sr., WR; Zach Wareyko, sr., DL; Justin Jefferson, jr., DL

GAME NOTES: This will be the second time Loyola and Brother Rice have played this season. In Week 4, the Crusaders earned a 35-3 win over the Ramblers. It was the largest margin of defeat in head coach John Holecek’s 175 games in 13 seasons at Loyola and first by more than 28 points. In fact, only five of the team’s 30 losses under Holecek have been by 20 or more. Remarkably, 18 have come by seven or fewer. Nine of those have been by three points or less. This is Loyola’s fourth consecutive trip to the Class 8A final and sixth in eight seasons. … A year after going 2-7, Brother Rice returned 15 starters and went undefeated in the regular season for the first time in program history. The Crusaders are led by Brad Badke, in his eighth year as head coach. This is the school’s third trip to a state final and first since 1985 when the Crusaders took second in Class 6A. Brother Rice’s lone state title came in 1981 (Class 6A). … Both Brother Rice and Loyola bring great defenses into the matchup. In the playoffs, each team has two shutouts. The Ramblers are allowing 7.5 points in the postseason, while the Crusaders are giving up 5.0 points. For the season, Brother Rice has six shutouts and is allowing 5.5 points and 3.6 yards per play. Loyola is surrendering 12.2 points and 4.2 yards per play. … The Ramblers’ defense is getting production at all three levels. It’s also taking advantage of opportunities. Senior cornerback Jack Burke’s fumble recovery for a touchdown against Lincoln-Way East was the defense’s second TD of the postseason. Senior safety Jake Gonzalez, an Illinois Football Coaches Association’s Class 8A all-state selection, returned an interception for a TD against Oswego. Burke contributed more than a defensive TD against the Griffins. He blocked an extra point, got a fingertip on a missed field goal attempt that would have given Lincoln-Way East the lead late in the third quarter and deflected a pass that resulted in an interception by senior safety Nick Pomey midway through the fourth quarter with Loyola ahead 24-16. … Junior defensive lineman Justin Jefferson has been a major contributor for the Crusaders. Last week, he had three sacks and helped hold Marist to 14 rushing yards on 18 carries. Jefferson has nine sacks on the year. Senior defensive lineman Joe Fitzgerald earned Class 8A all-state honors. He has 13 tackles for loss and four sacks. … Brother Rice’s offense is led by senior quarterback John Bean. An all-state selection, he threw for 240 yards and two TDs in the team’s win over Marist. On the season, he’s completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,854 yards. He has 18 TDs and seven interceptions. Bean also is a threat to run, totaling 823 yards on 134 carries and has scored 14 TDs. His top receiving targets include senior Dylan Summers (61 receptions, 931 yards, 14 TDs), senior Anthony Arquilla (28 receptions, 532 yards, 3 TDs) and senior David O’Keefe (17 receptions, 321 yards, 2 TDs). Senior running back Jessi Plunkett (198 attempts, 1,031 yards, 12 TDs) is another offensive option. The offensive line is anchored by 6-foot-5, 250-pound senior Evan Kirts, who recently committed to Illinois. … The Ramblers did a lot of good things on offense Saturday against a talented and physical Lincoln-Way East defense. Senior quarterback Jack Fallon and company totaled 307 yards (175 passing, 132 rushing) and averaged 5.1 yards per play. Perhaps overlooked was that Loyola only had two three-and-out possessions. Another bright spot was senior receiver Rory Boos, who enjoyed his best game of the playoffs by catching five passes for 76 yards and two TDs. He has three TDs in the last two games and four in the postseason. Boos has 50 receptions for 797 yards and 10 TDs this season. As a junior, he caught 45 passes for 827 yards and 11 TDs. … Loyola sophomore kicker/punter Nate Van Zelst has been an asset all season and especially in the playoffs. He’s made at least one field goal in every game and six total. He’s converted all 11 extra points and is averaging 38.5 yards per punt.

Photo credit: Geoff Scott