CCL/ESCC notes: Loyola looks like same old Ramblers in 45-7 Grand Rapids Catholic Central win

Quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald throws two touchdowns in debut

Loyola Academy’s Colin Scheid, left, and Jack Wetoska, right, tackle Lincoln-Way East's Jimmy Curtin during the Class 8A football state title game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.

Loyola quickly clarified any doubts of whether there would be any speed bumps with a new head coach and plenty of roster turnover in its 45-7 win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Saturday.

The Ramblers looked like the same team that won the Class 8A state title last year with an offense that scored unanswered touchdowns on its first four possessions and a defense that created turnovers and limited scoring.

“I’m very pleased with the first game,” Loyola coach Beau Desherow said. “I told the kids that it was a business trip and we went there and did what we had to do.”

Junior Ryan Fitzgerald made his first start at quarterback and looked like an experienced veteran. He guided the Ramblers on four scoring drives to start the game and threw two touchdowns while running back Drew MacPherson rushed in for two more.

Loyola drove to the Central 8 before settling for a 25-yard field goal from Michael Baker on its fifth possession to take a 31-0 lead.

Fitzgerald threw for 165 yards and showed off the type of offensive leader he can be as a junior.

“If you didn’t know, you would’ve thought he was a two-year starter,” Desherow said of Fitzgerald. “He came out and made the right decisions, the right reads, the right checks. He did what we knew he could do.”

The Ramblers defense picked up where it left off last season, with linebacker Colin Scheid intercepting a pass on the Cougars’ first possession. Scheid finished the game with an interception, a forced fumble, two sacks and a quarterback hurry.

Central scored its lone touchdown in the third quarter in a game Desherow thought Loyola’s defense played the way it should.

“They were physical and played fast,” Desherow said. “That’s what you’re looking for in a defense.”

Despite the strong start, Desherow isn’t making any conclusions on the season after one game. Loyola will travel to Naperville North on Friday as it relies on its system that it’s built over the past 15 seasons.

“Whether we’re the same from previous years, that’s yet to be seen,” Desherow said. “But we’ll prepare and lean into what we do well and continue to try to improve each week. Hopefully the results will follow.”

Mount Carmel’s two-headed offensive monster

Caravan quarterback Jack Elliott and running back Darrion Dupree showed just how hard of a time defenses will have trying to stop them in Mount Carmel’s 35-33 win over East St. Louis on Saturday.

Elliott, a junior who made his first varsity start, and Dupree created issues both in the air and on the ground against the Flyers. Caravan coach Jordan Lynch is excited to have for the offensive possibilities with the duo.

“It’s tough, you got to pick your poison and are you going to try to stop Darrion Dupree or Jack Elliott?” Lynch said. “You know they both run pretty well and it’s always a plus calling the plays and having the quarterback run game when you get an extra guy in the box. So it’s good for us.”

Elliott made quite the debut in his first start, taking over for Blainey Dowling who helped lead the Caravan to a Class 7A state title. Elliott threw for 118 yards and added 174 on the ground, keeping the ball away from the East St. Louis offense.

Dupree, a Wisconsin commit, showed off his ability as a pass-catching running back, He finished with 59 rushing yards on 21 carries and 53 receiving yards on six catches.

The Caravan will need the duo to continue to shine if they want to average 40.1 points per game like last season. But how did Dupree feel about Elliott’s first start?

“A-plus,” Dupree said. “Wait a minute, I’m not going to spice him up that much. B-plus.”

Crusader defense starts season strong

Brother Rice’s defense stepped up in a big way in the Crusaders’ 10-7 win over Maine South on Friday.

While the offense struggled to move the ball because of penalties and turnovers in the first half, Brother Rice’s defense made key plays to stall out Hawks drives to earn a win.

“I know it’s a lot easier for an offenses’ mindset when the defense is doing pretty good,” Brother Rice coach Casey Quedenfeld said. “Our offense shot itself in the foot a lot with penalties and dropped footballs, two turnovers. I’m more proud of the defense ignoring what we were doing on offense and being able to go out there constantly and just taking it play by play instead of being reactionary and being upset that we weren’t getting much going offensively in the first half.”

Maine South lost starting quarterback Jack DeFillipis to an injury and the Brother Rice defense made key stops, blocking a field goal in the first half and intercepting a pass in the second. The Hawks only ran 16 plays in the second half.

While Quedenfeld is looking for improvements offensively, he was happy to get good experience battling adversity against one of the state’s better teams.

“Just the experience alone always helps, no matter where you’re traveling to play, if you’re home, away,” Quedenfeld said. “I think it’s always great when you play a quality opponent early in the season. Get those kids to grow up a little bit faster.”

Marist’s early learning moments

Marist learned plenty of lessons in its opening loss to Glenbard West on Saturday, but one of the biggest might be the importance of each play.

The RedHawks took a 6-0 lead midway through the fourth quarter and missed an extra-point attempt. The Hitters returned the kickoff for a touchdown on the next play. Marist had a chance to win the game on a 33-yard field goal but missed.

“Special teams, offense, defense, each of them is equally important,” Marist coach Ron Dawczak said. “We can win games or lose games in special teams. We have to be ready to play every single play.”

The RedHawks are still learning with four returning starters from last season’s team. Marist won’t have much time to dwell on the loss with the Battle on Pulaski taking place against rival Brother Rice on Friday night.

“We’re trying to learn who we are,” Dawczak said. “Now we have film against a very, very quality opponent for us to go in and analyze and make sure that our guys learn from it.”

St. Ignatius sticks with what works

St. Ignatius might’ve graduated 31 seniors from last season’s team, but the Wolfpack showed the triple-option offense will be their bread and butter in a win over St. Patrick on Friday.

“I’ve got nothing wrong with 50-yard touchdowns, but that’s our identity,” St. Ignatius coach Matt Miller said. “Eight, five, six, 15. That’s what we want to do: Possess the ball and play mistake free.”

Two of the Wolfpack’s scoring drives were a perfect example of what they want to do. St. Ignatius used four different rushers and nine plays on one drive from its own 32 and three different rushers and eight plays on another drive from its 38.

“We’re just going to run it through their throats every single time, maybe pull out a pass,” St. Ignatius quarterback Jack Wanzung said. “We’re getting yards every single play.”

Pivotal moment for the Shamrocks

St. Patrick coach Luke Mertens understood the significance of his team’s opening loss to St. Ignatius. While he admitted it was only one game, the Shamrocks will need to learn quickly with rival Niles Notre Dame on the schedule Friday.

“This is either going to be a pivotal moment for the turnaround to our season or it’s going to be a pivotal moment if we don’t get out of our way,” Mertens said. “It’s just about how we respond as coaches and how the kids respond to it.”

Lights coming to Loyola?

Friday night lights could be coming to the Loyola campus.

The school sent in an application to the Village of Wilmette on Aug. 17 to install permanent lights to Hoerster Field. Loyola held open houses to get feedback from neighbors and asked to host a maximum of five football games at night with a 10:30 p.m. light curfew, a maximum of 25 non-football games with 9 p.m. light curfew and 60 total night the lights can be used during the school year.

The Ramblers traditionally have played their home games on Saturday. Desherow himself played in those games and saw the benefits of playing both on Fridays and Saturdays.

“There’s something to be said about the special feeling of coming here on a Saturday afternoon in Wilmette for Catholic League football,” Desherow said. “I think Friday night games would be great for our community, but really getting lights would be great for all of our sports programs.”