Illinois High School Football News

CCL/ESCC notes: St. Rita’s Ethan Middleton makes most of opportunity in win over Brother Rice

Ethan Middleton wanted to seize his opportunity on Friday against Brother Rice.

The St. Rita junior running back didn’t get many touches his sophomore year or in the first game of the season against Mount Carmel, but once the Mustang started to get the ball in his hands during the 17-12 St. Rita win, he made explosive plays.

“It was fun,” Middleton said. “Me and my line, we were just having fun. I said ‘Line, let’s eat today,’ and they were like ‘I got you.’ They hit them and then I hit them, and then we got the touchdown. That’s basically all we had to do.”

Middleton scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, and finished Friday with 56 rushing yards and 51 receiving yards. The junior scored his first touchdown when he rushed 7 yards to give St. Rita a 7-6 lead with 5:52 left in the second quarter.

He added a receiving touchdown when he caught a Jett Hilding pass and ran 27 yards to make it 14-6 Mustangs with 7:54 left in the third quarter.

Middleton showed off his athleticism in the first quarter when he caught a pass and made a cut back to the middle of the field before he hurdled over a defender.

St. Rita coach Todd Kuska knows what kind of playmaker Middleton can be and thought the running back took advantage of his opportunity.

“He’s a big-time player,” Kuska said. “We want to get him the ball as much as possible.”

Middleton hopes Friday was only the start of a strong junior season, but he knows he’ll need to keep working if he wants to reach the level he wants to play.

“This is a business at the end of the day,” Middleton said. “Anybody is ready to take your spot any day, so come and every down you just play hard, that’s basically it.”

Brother Rice looking for experience

The goal is pretty simple for Brother Rice coach Casey Quedenfeld after two weeks: His team needs to get more experience.

Quedenfeld saw his team’s inexperience led to missed plays in the Crusaders’ loss to the Mustangs and knows they just need to play more games.

“We’re just really young and they just need experience,” Quedenfeld said. “This is part of that journey of getting that experience.”

The inexperience isn’t focused on one area of the team. Brother Rice’s offensive line has three players who haven’t played on the line before and two new running backs who weren’t at the school last season.

Starting junior quarterback Ryan Hartz hadn’t played a full game since he was in eighth grade because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because he, Marcus Brown and Jake Dugger split time at the position on the freshman and junior varsity teams.

The defense also gave up chunk plays, which allowed St. Rita to move the ball down the field and score.

Despite all the inexperience, there’s a simple solution for Quedenfeld.

“We have to find our identity,” Quedenfeld said. “We’re a young, inexperienced team as a whole, but especially up front on the offensive side. We just need to get better.”

Marist’s Chris Lofgren steps in, shines

Marist coach Ron Dawczak didn’t hesitate to throw senior running back Chris Lofgren into the mix when starter Marc Coy exited Friday’s game against Richards with a shoulder injury.

Lofgren made the most of his opportunity, scoring four touchdowns in the first half and finishing the night with 142 rushing yards.

“He’s able to step in seamlessly so we don’t skip a beat in terms of what we can call,” Dawczak said. “We can run our offense and that’s a testament to his physical ability and mental capacity to understand our offense.”

Lofgren had spent most of his junior season as the scout-team running back, getting beat up a lot against the first-team defense in practice. But the coaching staff noticed how hard Lofgren worked and didn’t hesitate to have him step in.

Dawczak wasn’t sure of Coy’s status heading into this Friday’s game at Nazareth, but no matter who will play, Dawcazak is confident Lofgren will step up again when the team needs him.

“Chris showed us whenever he needs to be called upon, we know that he’s earned the trust of our coaching staff, that we know he’ll be able to produce whenever he’s called upon, regardless of the situation,” Dawczak said.

Justin Scott earns Ohio State offer

Illinois’ top Class of 2024 prospect earned a scholarship offer from one of the best programs in the nation when Ohio State offered the St. Ignatius lineman.

Ohio State became the latest Power Five program to offer Scott, joining schools like Notre Dame, Michigan, Auburn, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and USC. The junior has 24 Power Five offers.

Scott recently got a boost in his prospect rankings from both 247Sports and Rivals. Both list the junior as a five-star prospect, the best in Illinois, with Rivals ranking Scott the 12th-best player in the nation while 247Sports Composite lists him as the 28th-best player in the country.

Winning big

Eleven CCL/ESCC teams won their Week 2 games by at least 25 points.

Marmion was the biggest winner after it took down Lake View, 55-0, while Loyola was a close second and scored the most points in its 61-7 win over East Moline United. Five teams earned shutout wins: Marmion, Mount Carmel won over Phillips, 44-0, St. Ignatius bested Milwaukee King, 49-0, St. Laurence bested Brooks, 46-0, and St. Viator won, 41-0, against Clark Prep/Douglass.

Marist, Fenwick, De La Salle and Montini each picked up their first win of the season in commanding fashion. The RedHawks bested Richards, 49-6, the Friars topped Thornwood, 42-6, the Meteors defeated North Lawndale, 49-2, and the Broncos took down Hillcrest, 31-6.

Marian Catholic improved to 2-0 after it beat Leo, 55-21.

Purple continues strong start

The CCL/ESCC Purple continued its hot start to the season after all four teams won their opening games. The division now has three of the nine undefeated teams in the CCL/ESCC.

Carmel had the most-impressive win in Week 2 after the Corsairs defeated Lake Forest, 17-7, at home on Friday. Both St. Viator and Marian Catholic won big to move on to 2-0.

St. Patrick tallied the lone loss of the weekend, losing to Niles Notre Dame.