IHSA Class 5A playoffs: Logan Malachuk delivers on early potential, leads Nazareth back to state title game

Junior QB’s poise, maturity at all-time high going into matchup with Joliet Catholic

Nazareth's Logan Malachuk (1) looks for a receiver against St. Francis during the boys varsity IHSA 5A semifinal between Nazareth Academy and St. Francis high school in La Grange Park, IL on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.

Tim Racki knew early on that Logan Malachuk was the future of the Nazareth football program.

The Roadrunners head coach specifically remembers having a conversation with the then 15-year-old freshman Malachuk and told him he wasn’t sure when he’d get the opportunity, but to make sure he was ready.

“We knew he was special from a pretty early age,” Racki said. “I knew he was going to be the guy, it was just a matter of when. I remember telling him that I wasn’t sure when it would be, but when you get that chance to take it and never look back. Needless to say, he did just that.”

Malachuk indeed engineered a come-from-behind victory, taking over after halftime on the road against Niles Notre Dame in the fourth week of the fall 2021 season. He never looked back. Fast forward two seasons. Malachuk enters Saturday’s Class 5A state championship game against Joliet Catholic looking for his, and Nazareth’s, second consecutive state title.

After a grueling regular season schedule filled with 8A opponents left Nazareth (8-5) winless through its first four games, Malachuk’s confidence never wavered.

It’s a belief that he’s had in Racki and offensive coordinator Casey Moran since his first day as a Roadrunner and the reason that he chose to attend Nazareth.

“There’s just a constant belief within this program,” said Malachuk, who has passed 3,062 yards and 29 touchdowns this season. “I think coming in a freshman, there’s so much to learn and adjust to, especially the speed of the game. If there’s one thing that has helped me most through all of that was developing that trust from my coaches and teammates. I’ve obviously improved things within my own game, but knowing that everyone involved in this program always has your back gives me all the confidence in the world.”

While that trust and confidence in Malachuk from his peers has helped the 5-foot-10 junior grow as a player, there has been tremendous growth from his efforts in the offseason working out at Next Level Athletix Quarterback Development on improving his overall game.

Moran noticed Malachuk’s desire to constantly improve and embody a season long motto for the Roadrunners of getting just a little better every day.

“Logan genuinely loves working out,” Moran said. “I think he’s always been naturally special athletically, but there’s that constant want to improve not just physically, but also on the mental side of the game. Watching Logan play football, the physical abilities are very apparent, but the work that he’s put in over the last couple of years on getting better in his ability to read defenses, his intuitiveness, and his intelligence in decision-making has grown off the charts.”

The relationship between Malachuk, Racki and Moran throughout the last three seasons has continued to grow into one of trust and understanding. There are constant conversations and open lines of communication between the trio every time the Nazareth offense comes off of the field.

Those conversations allow Malachuk to speak his mind and give insight from previous drives.

“Our communication is pretty straightforward,” said Moran, who has coached for 22 years at Nazareth since graduating in 2001. “Logan has matured tremendously since I’ve known him. He’s always had an extremely high football IQ, but he’s gotten to such a high level of understanding what we’re trying to accomplish and what defenses are trying to do. The insight and feedback we get from him during these conversations… you can just see a young man well beyond his years in maturity. It’s impressive. A lot of kids his age can understand what they can do as an individual, but Logan has really developed an understanding of what we can do as a team.”

Nazareth quarterback Logan Malachuk (1) leaves the last Glenbard South tackler, Shaun Aderholt (14), behind on his way to the end zone for a touchdown during a Class 5A second round game on Nov. 4, 2023 at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.

Malachuk’s ability to read defenses has improved his skills as a dual threat quarterback. It’s something he’s been proud of since taking his first snap at Nazareth.

The ability to make plays with his feet allowed Nazareth to capture its fourth state championship in program history a year ago when he ran for two scores and threw for two more in a 45-44 victory over Peoria.

Malachuk hasn’t slowed down on the ground, running for a team-high nine touchdowns this season.

“I think with my size, I’ve always known I need to make plays with my feet when a play breaks down,” Malachuk said. “I think it makes a defense have one more thing to worry about. I feel like almost every game I’ve played, I’ve had a QB spy or QB contain on me. I think the threat of me taking off and running has opened up so many big plays for our offense and guys like [running backs Lesroy Tittle, Alex Angulo and Eddie McClain, Jr.].”

The individual statistics for Malachuk, especially throughout the playoffs, have made opponents game plan around the standout quarterback. But the bottom line for Malachuk is getting a win on Saturday and continuing the winning tradition for Nazareth.

Having played in the title game a season ago is something that Nazareth will certainly lean on, but knows that each game, season, and opponent provide a different challenge that it’ll make sure it’s ready for.

“I think it’s impossible to say that you don’t notice the stage and playing in a college stadium,” Malachuk said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to get to do this two years in a row now and I think our mindset really just is to treat this as another game and another job to do. We’ve done a great job at battling adversity all year and haven’t let any moment get too big.

“[Joliet Catholic] is a great team and any team playing for a state championship is here for a reason. We have all the respect in the world for them, but we know that we need to play our game, not worry too much and just play our game.”

Nazareth quarterback Logan Malachuk fires a quick out pass during a Class 5A second round game against Glenbard South on Nov. 4, 2023 at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.

Malachuk has stayed in touch with now University of Michigan starting quarterback and Nazareth alum J.J. McCarthy. Malachuk said he and McCarthy exchange good luck texts fairly often and admitted McCarthy’s large role in him deciding to come to Nazareth.

While Malachuk hopes to play at the college level someday, his primary focus lies on Nazareth and the final 48 minutes of his junior high school season.

Racki will be coaching in his seventh state title game as head coach of Nazareth Saturday, but knows the moment won’t be too big for his quarterback.

“When you don’t have the experience of playing in a game like this, it may take some time to control your emotions and get your legs underneath you,” Racki said. “Right from the jump, we know Logan just brings that calming presence. You need that poise where the other 10 guys look at you and they see that calm, cool confidence. That’s something Logan is exceptional at.”

Nazareth and Joliet Catholic (10-3) kickoff at 10 a.m. Saturday at Illinois State’s Hancock Stadium.