IHSA Class 8A playoffs: Loyola blows out St. Ignatius 41-7 in quarterfinals

Nicholas Arogundade finishes with pair of big-play touchdowns

Loyola's Nicholas Arogundade caught two touchdowns Saturday in the Ramblers 41-7 win over St. Ignatius in the Class 8A quarterfinals.

CHICAGO – Nicholas Arogundade was ready to make a statement on Loyola’s first play against St. Ignatius in Saturday’s Class 8A quarterfinal matchup, he just needed to see how he would do it.

Arogundade ended up finding a scenario any wide receiver dreams of: being wide open.

Once he got the ball, Arogundade sprinted to the end zone and scored. It was the first of his two touchdowns and a prelude for how things would go in Loyola’s 41-7 win.

“It was just a matter of when I was getting the ball, where I was getting it,” Arogundade said. “That’s what was going through my head. All I saw was wide open. Once I got the ball, it was off to the races and scored.”

The Ramblers (12-0) wanted to set the tone on their first possession since they knew the Wolfpack liked to run down the clock with their triple-option offense. Once Arogundade scored that first touchdown, Loyola’s offense kept up the same pace it’s had all season.

Drew MacPherson made it 13-0 with 1:57 left in the first quarter when he scored on a 9-yard run and then quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald rushed in for a 7-yard run to give Loyola a 21-0 lead with 7:07 left in the second quarter. MacPherson scored again on a 10-yard with 2:11 left in the second quarter to make it 28-0 before Arogundade showed off his big-play ability once again.

Fitzgerald found Arogundade for a pass down the sideline and Arogundade evaded defenders until he reached the end zone, completing a 54-yard reception to give the Ramblers a 34-0 lead.

Arogundade has become used to making big plays with his speed and 6-foot-3 frame.

“He’s a really good route-runner, he’s a student of the game, he watched a ton of film,” Loyola coach Beau Desherow said. “His preparation has been great.”

Loyola made it a 42-0 lead with 8:54 left in the third quarter when Finley Miller rushed in for a 2-yard score.

Fitzgerald completed all six of his pass attempts for 207 yards and also rushed for 51 yards. Arogundade caught 138 of those passing yards on three targets while MacPherson rushed for 78 yards on two touchdowns.

Loyola’s offense has now averaged 36.3 points per game with a new starting quarterback and mostly new skill players. Fitzgerald credited continuously working together over the offseason to the offense’s smooth transition, especially with Arogundade.

“With me and Nick, it’s feeling that connection,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re 12 weeks in, obviously you need to have a strong connection with those guys.”

St. Ignatius (8-4) got on the board with 11:56 left in the game when William Barnett scored on a 1-yard run. Quarterback Jack Wanzing completed three of his seven passes for 63 yards and rushed for 34 yards. Ohio State commit Justin Scott battled a few injuries and missed much of the second half.

Wolfpack coach Matt Miller was proud of what his team accomplished this season with so many new starters but also said there’s a new standard now that the program will be in Class 8A.

“We just got out-physicaled everywhere, on the inside, on the outside,” Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Loyola will play York for the second straight season in the semifinals after beating the Dukes 30-3 last season. The Ramblers know York will have revenge on their mind, but they’re only focused on one thing.

“Our end goal is obviously state,” Fitzgerald said. “Semifinals is right now, that’s all we can focus on.”