Quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald impresses in Loyola’s 41-24 win over Brother Rice

Fitzgerald threw for 3 touchdowns, ran in another

Loyola quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald threw for three touchdowns and rushed in for another in the Ramblers' 41-24 win over Brother Rice on Saturday in Wilmette.

WILMETTE – Ryan Fitzgerald has something most quarterbacks covet when they start their varsity careers.

Trust in their teammates.

The junior Loyola quarterback’s trust in his wide receivers, running backs and offensive linemen to make plays has helped him make a seamless transition in his first varsity starts this season. He continued to show off his trust by throwing three touchdowns and rushing in for another in the Ramblers’ 41-24 win over Brother Rice on Saturday.

“It’s just knowing that my brother to my right and left is going to make a play for me and I need to go make a play for them,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s just helping each other and doing stuff for the team.”

Trust played a key part in Loyola’s (4-0, 1-0 CCL/ESCC Blue) ability to pull away from the Crusaders with three minutes left in the first half. With the game tied 10-10, Donovan Robinson returned a punt to the Brother Rice 19 and Fitzgerald rushed in 19 yards to score and give his team a 17-10 lead with 2:52 left in the second quarter.

Robinson returned another punt to the Crusaders 39 and Fitzgerald led a drive that ended with Drew MacPherson scoring on a three-yard run with 45.7 seconds left in the first half.

“That’s just proof right there that you can make big plays on special teams, it can change the outcome of the game,” Loyola coach Beau Desherow said. “Getting us in great field position especially when the offense was struggling a little bit early was key.”

Fitzgerald and Loyola ran out to a 7-0 lead when Fitzgerald found William Carlson for a 14-yard touchdown with 7:29 left in the first quarter. Brother Rice tied the game 7-7 on a Randall Nauden 1-yard run with 1:18 left in the first quarter and the two teams made field goals on their next drives to tie the game 10-10 before Loyola made the most of its special teams success.

The Ramblers made it 31-10 when Fitzgerald found Nicholas Arogundade for a 51-yard touchdown with 7:52 left in the third quarter and 38-10 when Fitzgerald completed a 8-yard pass to MacPherson with 4:32 left in the third quarter.

Fitzgerald completed 13 of his 18 pass attempts for 245 yards and three touchdowns before sitting out the fourth quarter. MacPherson finished the day with 72 receiving yards and 39 rushing yards.

“It’s just knowing that my brother to my right and left is going to make a play for me and I need to go make a play for them. It’s just helping each other and doing stuff for the team.”

—  Ryan Fitzgerald, Loyola quarterback

Desherow wasn’t surprised Fitzgerald could lead the Ramblers to score in key moments despite playing in his first varsity games this year.

“He has a very high ceiling,” Desherow said. “He can keep getting better. The more film he watches, the more studying he does, the more he works on his craft, the sky’s the limit for this kid.”

Brother Rice (2-2, 0-1 CCL/ESCC Blue) played without star junior linebacker Christian Pierce, who was out with an injury. Crusaders coach Casey Quedenfeld declined to say what the injury was and how long Pierce would be out, saying they’ll need to evaluate how long he’ll be away from the field.

Nauden rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns for the Crusaders while Ryan Hartz completed 11 of his 25 passes for 89 yards. Cooper McAlilly rushed in for a 35-yard touchdown late in the game.

Quedenfeld thought the game changed when Loyola made the most of its short field and the Crusaders couldn’t respond.

“When you’re going against the top program in the entire state, we told our guys you can’t make mistakes because they’re super disciplined,” Quedenfeld said. “We have to be even more disciplined and in addition to that, you need to make plays when it matters the most.”

The Crusaders will play their first home game of the season Friday when they host St. Viator. The Ramblers will host St. Patrick on Saturday.

Fitzgerald wanted to set the tone in his first home game against the Crusaders. With the precedent set, he’s ready to keep building upon an impressive start.

“No one comes into our home field and wins,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s what we’re trying to do every single week.”