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St. Rita pulls away from Prospect in Class 7A semifinal

CHICAGO – Prospect’s magical Class 7A playoff run ended with a thud Saturday night in a 42-20 loss to St. Rita in Chicago.

St. Rita (11-2) advances for the second time in a row to the state title game. The Mustangs, who lost in the title game in 2019, will meet Wheaton North next Saturday for the title in DeKalb at 4 p.m. Wheaton North beat Brother Rice, 45-27, Saturday.

Prospect had its title hopes shattered when St. Rita scored 28 consecutive points in the first half to pull away from a 7-7 tie.

“They played really well and we made too many mistakes early,”  Prospect coach Dan DeBoeuf said. “You can’t get behind to a team that talented.”

St. Rita took a 7-0 lead on its first possession. Kaleb Brown, the Ohio State commit who was injured for most of the season, scored on a 17-yard run.

Prospect (10-3) responded with its best drive of the first half. The Knights put together a 12-play, 69-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Owen Walter to tie the game at 7-7 with 3:42 left in the first quarter.

The wheels then fell off for Prospect.

St. Rita scored four consecutive touchdowns. Two of those came on interception returns and the other two on rushing touchdowns by Brown and OJ Stewart to make it 35-7 at the half.

St. Rita scored a touchdown at the beginning of the third quarter to increase its lead to 42-7.

Prospect showed there was no quit in its team.

The Knights had their best drive of the evening, going 83 yards in 16 plays with Brad Vierneisel hooking up with Jake Parisi on a 3-yard touchdown pass. On the drive Vierneisel was 12 of 15 for all 83 yards.

Prospect added a touchdown with 9 seconds remaining. Vierneisel, who was 30 of 44 for 232 yards, threw his second touchdown pass of the game on a 13-yard strike to Ethan Rossi.

“I was super proud of our kids,” DeBoeuf said. “We overcame so much. But we stuck together and I think we fought to the end tonight. It was not the result we wanted.”

It was a disappointing end to the season for Walter. But the senior said that he was happy to be part of it with his teammates.

“This hurts bad because we are all brothers,” said Walter, who had seven receptions for 59 yards.

“We have always trusted each other and that will never end. We believed in each other and fought together and had each other’s back.”

Peyton Burgh said this group set a new bar for Prospect football.

“It was great year,” Burgh said. “We played together for four years and went very far in the playoffs. That is the new standard now. We balled out together all year.”

DeBoeuf said this group of seniors will be special to him. The Knights were two-time Mid-Suburban East champions and became the first Prospect team since 2006 to advance to the semifinals.

“This is first group of seniors I have had for four years,” DeBoeuf said. “So they are really special to me. They put in the work to get themselves to this point and took a huge step for our program this year.”

Ben Sahakian said he loved the effort from his teammates.

“I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” Sahakian said. “These are my best friends. Every single senior, I could not ask anything more from them. They gave every single ounce they had.”