L-P intercepts four passes in second half to hold off Ottawa

Cavaliers beat rival Pirates for ninth year in a row

L-P's Cameron Olivero reacts with teammte Cordell Wheatly after defeating Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023 at Howard Fellows Stadium.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, La Salle-Peru senior Brady Romagnoli jogged toward the sidelines then did a backflip in front of the Cavalier student section at Howard Fellows Stadium.

Romagnoli had plenty to celebrate Friday.

He ran for 192 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, made a key stop on Ottawa’s final possession and helped the Cavs to a 24-19 victory in an Kishwauke River/Interstate 8 White Division game for L-P’s ninth consecutive win in the series.

And it was his 18th birthday.

“It just came out,” Romagnoli said about his celebratory flip. “I had to do it.

“It feels amazing (to have a big game and beat Ottawa on his birthday).”

L-P's Brady Romagnoli does a back flip after defeating Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023 at Howard Fellows Stadium.

Holding a 14-13 lead at halftime, the Cavaliers forced the Pirates into a three-and-out on their first possession of the half.

Then L-P turned to its ground game.

The Cavs ran the ball on all 10 plays to drive 63 yards, take more than six minutes off the clock and extend their lead to 21-13 with an 18-yard touchdown run by Romagnoli with 4:18 left.

“The game plan was to run the ball,” L-P coach Jose Medina said. “I got a little pass happy last week that cost us a game, I think (in a 17-14 loss to Woodstock). I felt we could go out there and just run the ball a little bit more on them and it worked in our favor.”

The defense did the rest for the Cavaliers.

L-P limited the Pirates to 100 passing yards and 12 rushing yards in the second half while intercepting four passes.

“We really picked it up the second half,” said Mikey Hartman, who intercepted two passes. “We made a few adjustments and just came out strong.

“We really emphasized switching, corners staying out rather than coming in. That really helped us.”

On Ottawa’s first play after Romagnoli’s touchdown, Ottawa quarterback Colby Mortenson threw a pass that went through the hands of a receiver into the arms Hartman.

L-P went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, and Seth Adams’ punt was downed on the 1-yard line.

Mortenson threw out of his own end zone down the right sideline, and L-P’s Kaleb Kennedy outleapt the receiver for another pick.

The Cavs turned that turnover into a 40-yard field goal by Adams with 31.8 seconds left in the third.

“The second half, the defense came out and did what it had to do,” Medina said. “We just put a little bit more pressure on them. They were chasing points so they were trying to throw the ball a little bit more to catch up. You put pressure on a high school quarterback at times, he’s going to make mistakes and fortunately it worked in our favor.”

Ottawa quickly responded with a 2-yard run by Ryder Miller with 10:12 left in the game.

But L-P ended Ottawa’s next two drives with interceptions - Hartman’s second of the game and the last by Danny Beavers that he returned to the Pirate 10 with 2:53 left.

“I feel like we gave this one away,” Ottawa coach Chad Gross said. “Sometimes you lose due to mistakes and a lack of execution. Tonight that’s what it came down to was we turned the ball over way too much to beat a good L-P team. Give them credit, they took the ball away from us.”

Despite the turnovers, the Pirates had one more chance after L-P missed a field goal with 2:21 left.

Ottawa's Archer Cechowicz runs the ball as he is brought down from behind by L-P's Will Mertes on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023 at Howard Fellows Stadium.

But other than on a pass interference, the Pirates couldn’t advance the ball and on fourth down attempted a short pass and lateral that hit the ground, which L-P recovered to seal the win.

In the first half, each team scored on their opening drive.

L-P quarterback Brendan Boudreau connected with Adams for a 28-yard TD pass with 7:15 left in the first quarter, while Ottawa responded when Mortenson hit Hayden Swett for a 27-yard TD but missed the extra point.

The Pirates took the lead at 13-7 when Ryder Miller scored on a 3-yard run with 3:42 left in the half.

After L-P threw an interception then forced Ottawa to punt, Boudreau found Mason Pangrcic for a 3-yard TD with 20.9 seconds left to give L-P a 14-13 halftime lead.

L-P (4-3, 2-2) needs one more win to become playoff eligible. The Cavs travel to Sycamore (6-0) next week before playing Kaneland (4-3) at home in Week 9.

The Pirates (3-4, 1-3) must beat Morris (7-0) at home and Woodstock (1-6) on the road to become playoff eligible.