LEMONT – Mike Jabaay remembers his cousin playing with the Lemont football team that lost to Nazareth for a state football championship.
Jabaay and Lemont fans won’t soon forget what he did in his first game against Nazareth Friday.
Jabaay, a junior receiver, caught a 40-yard Hail Mary pass in the end zone from junior quarterback Payton Salomon as time expired to give Lemont a dramatic, unbelievable and wild 15-10 victory over the Roadrunners.
“It still hasn’t really come through yet. I’m still kind of I don’t know. It feels good, though,” Jabaay said.
“I just remember running down the field, looked back. Payton was behind everybody, he was scrambling so I knew he was going to come around so I turned the other way and he just threw it up. I remember seeing the ball coming in and thinking don’t drop it.”
The touchdown catch followed Nazareth’s great final drive to take a 10-9 lead with 26.6 seconds left on Ryan Short’s 24-yard field goal.
Lemont recovered a squib kick and began its last gasp at the 42. After Lemont used its final two timeouts for Salomon to rush for 3 and 10 yards, he kept the final play alive with his feet and then aimed an apparent perfect strike for the middle-right side of the end zone.
“It’s just my line, my running backs and Mikey making a play for us at the end,”Salomon said. “This is just really a dream come true. I was just hoping for a prayer on the sideline and that’s what we got. The line gave me a chance.”
The dramatics overshadowed another great effort by the Lemont defense, which included two sacks by starting two-way lineman Tyler Wilms. The defense allowed only one TD in the Week 1 win over St. Charles East. Nazareth’s only other score came on special teams when Trell Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown and 7-6 lead after Lemont running back Albert Kunickis scored on a 2–yard run. Lemont’s extra point was no good.
“How many time should we have put them away? Thank goodness for that (TD) at the end because it would have been a real tough learning lesson for us but now we got that learning lesson with a W,” Lemont coach Bret Kooi said.
“Our defense kept us in the game. I think offensively a couple of times got ourselves up by more than one score but it didn’t happen.”
For the second week in a row, the Roadrunners were on the losing end of a game that could have gone either way. They lost their opener to Richards 20-19 after surrendering an 84-yard TD punt return with just less than eight minutes left for the final score.
“(This loss is) one of those that leaves a mark but for 24 hours it’s OK for it to hurt and be disappointed about it but it was an incredible hard-hitting game by both teams,” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said. “We’ve just got to shore up on our end and it starts with me. Right now, it’s OK to be disappointed. It’s going to motivate us.”
Nazareth got offensive heroics as well from its quarterback Logan Malachuk, the first freshman starting quarterback ever for Racki. Senior starter Aidan Pieper was injured in the opener.
With about a minute left and the Roadrunners out of timeouts, Malachuk completed a clutch fourth-and-6 pass to Justin Taylor for 24 yards down to the 9. Malachuk ompleted another 7-yard pass to Zach Hayes before the field goal.
“He’s really special,” Racki said of Malachuk.
Lemont took the opening kickoff of the second half and went 48 yards before Kunickis converted a 27-yard field goal for a 9-7 lead. Kunickis was wide from 45 yards out on the next possession.
Nazareth had a chance to pull ahead in the third quarter after recovering a fumbled punt at the 22. But two plays later cornerback Noah Taylor made an interception at the 9.
Lemont then seemed in control as Kunickis (108 yards, 19 carries) and Sam Andreotti (89 yards, 20 carries) grinded out most of the yardage. After his final carry for 19 yards, however, Kunickis was assessed a personal foul penalty and ejected for apparently kicking an opposing player.