Loyola head coach John Holecek was asked after Saturday’s 22-0 win over Oswego — the Ramblers’ fifth in a row — to explain the team’s turnaround.
According to Holecek, there wasn’t that much wrong with his 3-3 team. After all, the three losses came to opponents — Brother Rice, Mount Carmel, Montini — that are a combined 31-2 and still alive in the state playoffs.
“We played some really, really good teams,” he said. “We’ve always been a good team. We just are not that big and not that dominant.”
Loyola (8-3) looked like an alpha team Saturday against previously undefeated Oswego.
The defense forced four turnovers and held the Panthers (10-1) to 27 rushing yards and 179 in all to record its first shutout of the season. Sophomore Nate Van Zelst kicked three field goals and the offense did enough to help the Ramblers advance to the Class 8A quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive season.
“A good team win,” Holecek said, simply.
The victory earns Loyola a date with Maine South (10-1) in Park Ridge on Saturday. The last time the two teams met the Hawks beat the Ramblers 27-17 in the 2016 Class 8A state final.
Against Oswego, Loyola led 13-0 at the half on two Van Zelst field goals and a 12-yard touchdown run by junior running back Trevor Cabanban. It marked the fifth consecutive game the Ramblers’ defense didn’t allow a TD.
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Loyola senior safety Nick Pomey recovered a fumble at Oswego’s 26-yard line. The turnover resulted in another Van Zelst field goal that increased Loyola’s lead to 16-0.
With 50.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Loyola senior safety Jake Gonzalez intercepted a pass and returned it 26 yards for a TD. Senior cornerback Jack Burke secured the victory with an interception at the 4:45 mark of the fourth.
Oswego senior running back Charles Coleman, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound MAC recruit, finished with 46 yards on 15 carries and no TDs after coming into the game with 992 yards for an average of 7.3 yards per attempt and 18 TDs.
“We beat the running game, and they became one-dimensional,” Holecek said. “That was great for us.”
Senior running back Michael Gavric was a workhorse for the Ramblers, running a season-high 28 times for 81 yards. Although he didn’t score, Gavric set up Cabanban’s TD by gaining 22 yards on four consecutive carries.
“He’s seeing the holes, and he had some big runs for first downs,” Holecek said. “It’s been fun watching his progression and his confidence grow.”
Photo credit: Geoff Scott