CCL/ESCC notes: Loyola debating how to balance roster heading down stretch

Loyola Academy coach John Holecek is in a familiar spot.

His Ramblers are 7-0 and have already earned a share of the CCL/ESCC Blue Division crown with a 2-0 conference record. With a nonconference game against St. Patrick on Friday and then a clash at division-rival Mount Carmel on Friday, Oct. 22, Holecek will need to decide how much he wants to play his starters.

“You take each week with the same importance,” Holecek said. “We’re going to be pretty favored against St. Patrick, but we’ve learned our lessons over the years to not overlook someone.”

Mount Carmel is 5-2 overall after its Week 6 win against St. Laurence and has a 1-1 record in the division after a win over Marist and loss to Brother Rice.

Loyola can win the division title outright with a win over Mount Carmel, but Holecek might prefer to have his team rested heading into the postseason. He took out his starting quarterback against Providence a little after a quarter and most of his starters didn’t play the second half with a big lead over a depleted Celtics team.

Holecek said his team is focused on its matchup against the Shamrocks on Friday, but that result and those of some other teams in the state might dictate how he approaches the finale against Mount Carmel.

“We’ll put the same work effort into next week and then we’ll talk about Mount Carmel and see where we are,” Holecek said. “Frankly, if we don’t need that game, I’m thinking about resting half the team.”

MAKING HISTORY

St. Ignatius has started the season with a historic feat, at least that’s how it appears.

The Wolfpack have started the season 7-0 for the first time since at least the 2005 season. Because the school halted the program from 1964 until 2005 and there are no records from the program before the pause, coach Matt Miller isn’t exactly sure if this season’s undefeated start is the first in program history, but he is proud of the way the team has grown during his tenure since he took over in 2017.

“It’s been a real team effort,” Miller said. “I know that’s a coach speak answer, but it’s been a group effort.”

The key for Miller has been growing the amount of players he has on the team. He realized that good programs have a limited amount of two-way players. A few years ago, his team had about seven or eight two-way players. This season, he has one. It’s made it easier to practice and that has contributed to the team’s success.

That one two-way player is junior Vinny Rugai, who is a running back and outside linebacker. He is one of the key runners in the offense’s triple-option and is among the team’s top tacklers.

A strong offensive line made up of Jake Rothgery, Will Mulchrone, Damian Lassak, Emmet Rhoades and Drew Steigleder has led the way for the Wolfpack offense. Different players step up each week, which has led to a historic start.

“It’s really about week to week and what the defense is giving you and taking what they give you,” Miller said. “Some days you’ll have the quarterback have 15 carries for 100 yards and the d-back has two, and vice versa. That’s kind of the beauty of the offense: It’s a team offense.”

While St. Ignatius has made the postseason for five straight seasons, it hasn’t won a playoff game during that time. That’ll be the team’s next historic goal.

STAYING ALIVE

Providence will try to make the playoffs with its hand behind its back.

The Celtics played the Ramblers on Saturday without starting quarterback Lucas Proudfoot and two-way player Brayden Garrigan, both of whom will likely miss the rest of the season, as well as six defensive starters and reserve players because of a COVID outbreak within the team.

With a 3-4 record, Providence will need to win two games for an automatic playoff bid or one game for a likely berth because of its high opponent win number. The team will try to make the postseason for the fourth straight season and the 12th time in 16 years under Mark Coglianese, who is in his last season as the school’s head coach.

Providence finishes its regular season on the road, playing St. Rita (5-2) on Friday and then St. Laurence (3-4) the following week. While the Celtics will miss some of their main contributors, Coglianese hopes to have some returning players who can push for a postseason run.

“Hopefully we get some guys back and go up to St. Rita and hopefully get a win,” Coglianese said.

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is an award-winning sports journalist based in Chicago. He most recently served as the sports editor of The Glenview Lantern and Northbrook Tower and is a graduate of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.