FIRST DOWN: A familiar face was on the sideline opposite the Ramblers during Loyola’s 21-14 overtime win over St. Ignatius on Friday.
St. Ignatius assistant coach Charlie Dowdle is a 2012 graduate of Loyola and former two-sport standout for the Ramblers. This is his second season with the Wolfpack.
“It was weird, but it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I was excited to show Loyola what we got going on here.”
As a senior, Dowdle helped Loyola’s football team take second in Class 8A and its water polo team place second at the state tournament. A Glenview native and graduate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, he went on to star at University of St. Thomas as a tight end before spending two years in two NFL organizations. He retired in 2017.
In Dowdle’s first season at St. Ignatius, the Wolfpack finished 10-4, losing to Simeon 19-16 in the Prep Bowl. It was most wins in a single season for St. Ignatius this decade. After Friday’s 21-14 overtime loss to the Ramblers, the Wolfpack stand 3-2. Both of their losses have been by seven points.
“It’s cool to be part of turning around a program,” Dowdle said. “The stuff I learned at Loyola I’ve brought here. The kids play hard and play the right way.”
It doesn’t get easier for Wolfpack, who play at Mount Carmel on Friday. But it’s another chance for the program to prove itself, Dowdle said.
“We gained a lot of confidence against Loyola,” he said. “The kids believe they belong playing with Catholic Blue-type teams. We want to show we are a legit program.”
SECOND DOWN: Loyola senior receiver Jared Lombardi (pictured above) caught his second touchdown pass of the season in Friday’s 21-14 overtime win against St. Ignatius.
That’s significant considering he was on the scout team last year as a running back and played that position throughout grade school at St. Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge.
After playing running back as a freshman at Loyola, Lombardi was moved to receiver as a sophomore before returning to running back his junior season.
Now a senior, the 5-foot-8, 160-pound Lombardi is a receiver again and an important playmaker for the Ramblers. Through five games, he has 13 receptions for 143 yards and two TDs. He’s third on the team in both catches and receiving TDs. He also returns kicks.
“It’s been kind of tough,” Lombardi said of the annual changes. “I like running with the ball more than running routes and catching the ball, but it’s worked out.”
THIRD DOWN: In five games, the Ramblers have turned over the ball 13 times compared to eight by their opponents. Loyola is one giveaway from matching last season’s total through 14 games. That’s a stark contrast to the team’s recent history.
In 2015, the Ramblers finished plus-10 in turnovers on their way to the Class 8A state title. A year later, Loyola was plus-12 as the Class 8A runners-up. Last season, the Ramblers had a plus-7 advantage in turnovers, helping them to their third Class 8A state final in a row.
After Friday’s win, Holecek made no excuses for the mistakes, but he also said fortune hasn’t favored the Ramblers so far.
“It’s ridiculous the bad luck we’ve had,” he said. “But we’ve got to start creating our own luck.”
FOURTH DOWN: Despite a 35-3 defeat to Brother Rice on Sept. 14 in the Catholic Blue opener — a loss that ended Loyola’s 12-game winning conference winning streak — the Ramblers (3-2) aren’t out of the league race at 0-1. The three-time defending conference champions have a chance to jump back into contention Saturday at home against Montini.
In their first season in the Blue, the Broncos are 1-0 after a 29-13 win over St. Rita on Friday. Meanwhile, the Crusaders are 2-0 following their 20-0 victory over Providence Catholic on Friday. The Celtics are 1-1, and the Mustangs are 0-2.
“This will be a game that shows who we are,” Lombardi said. “It’s one of our bigger games this season, and we are looking forward to seeing how we perform.”
Photo credit: Geoff Scott