No. 15 Nazareth takes advantage of mistakes, upsets No. 2 Prairie Ridge in Class 5A first-round game

Roadrunners junior QB Logan Malachuk accounts for 5 TDs in 35-28 victory

Nazareth’s Roadrunners celebrate a win over Prairie Ridge in first-round Class 5A playoff football action at Crystal Lake Saturday.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Nazareth made the playoffs with four wins, losing its last regular-season game, but didn’t look at itself as anything but the favorite for its Class 5A first-round game against unbeaten Prairie Ridge on Oct. 28.

Playing on a grass field for the first time this year, Nazareth junior quarterback Logan Malachuk made big play after big play and the No. 15-seeded Roadrunners capitalized on uncharacteristic mistakes from the No. 2-seeded Wolves and turned them into a 35-28 victory.

Nazareth (5-5), which started the season 0-4, will host Glenbard South (9-1) in a second-round game at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“We always stuck together,” said Malachuk, who accounted for all five scores for the Roadrunners. “We’ve always been composed and with each other. Of course, everyone is going to think we’re the underdog, but all that matters is what we think.

“We know what we can do.”

Before Oct. 28, Prairie Ridge, last year’s 6A runner-up, had not lost a first-round playoff game since 2014. Nazareth, last year’s 5A champion, felt ready to defend the Wolves’ triple-option attack, which rarely made mistakes during the regular season while grinding out long drives.

Nazareth’s Logan Malachuk (1) storms into the end zone with a touchdown in first-round Class 5A playoff football action at Crystal Lake Saturday.

Prairie Ridge (9-1) matched its season total with three turnovers, all on fumbles.

“We’ve been playing close games all year,” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said. “I like the week of prep we had because it’s really hard to defend that offense. We played disciplined, assignment football.

“We knew they were going to get their yards. And we also knew that we can score with our offense quickly and burn clock and shorten the game as well.”

Malachuk was 23-of-30 passing for 264 yards and three touchdowns, adding 72 yards on the ground and two scores.

Tied at 21 after three quarters, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound quarterback tossed a fade pass into the corner of the end zone that was snagged by sophomore Trenton Walker (104 yards, nine catches) for a 3-yard score, giving the Roadrunner a 28-21 lead with 11:21 left.

Nazareth forced a punt on the Wolves’ next possession and on the Roadrunners’ next chance on offense, Malachuk showed off his wheels with a 23-yard race to the end zone for a 35-21 lead with 4:16 remaining.

Prairie Ridge got its last points on a Joey Vanderwiel quarterback sneak with 13.7 seconds to go but was unable to recover the ensuing onside kick.

Prairie Ridge’s Luke Vanderwiel runs the ball against Nazareth in first-round Class 5A playoff football action at Crystal Lake Saturday.

On top of three lost fumbles, the Wolves committed six penalties on offense.

“This was a game our coaching staff was excited about to challenge us early,” Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp said. “If we got through this round, we were going to be ready down the road. ... For whatever reason, we made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. It’s like we saved every mistake for today.”

Prairie Ridge ran for 279 yards on 44 attempts in the loss. Sophomore Luke Vanderwiel had a game-high 130 yards on 11 carries, including a 22-yard score, while Joey Vanderwiel had 76 yards and scored twice. Joey Vanderwiel also threw for 133 yards and a touchdown.

The Wolves’ biggest offensive play came on a screen pass to senior running back Dom Creatore, who ran up the right sideline, cut across the field, bowled over a defender near the 25-yard line and raced the rest of the way for an 80-yard TD with 2:45 to go in the second quarter.

Nazareth answered with a 44-yard touchdown strike from Malachuk to Walker, who outran two defenders to the end zone, tying the score at 14 just before halftime.

Prairie Ridge’s defense entered the playoffs allowing only nine points a game.

Jake Cestone added 59 yards receiving on six catches for Nazareth, including a 20-yard TD, and James Penley had 70 yards on six catches.

“They have a lot of good athletes and they try to get them open in space,” said Creatore, who also plays linebacker. “We had a big loss to injury [linebacker Landon Severson], and we had trouble replacing him. Honestly, I thought our defense played real well in the first half. The second half, we just made too many mistakes, they made big plays and we can’t let that happen.”

Joey Vanderwiel, who took over as the team’s quarterback this season, lamented Prairie Ridge’s mistakes but reflected on a season that saw the Wolves win their second straight Fox Valley Conference title with a 9-0 record.

“I mean, we shot ourselves in the foot,” Vanderwiel said. “I personally can’t fumble. It probably cost us the game. We had a great group of guys, a great coaching staff. It’s just a big brotherhood. Everyone was just so fun to be around.

“I’m going to miss playing with my brother [Luke], that was special. I’m going to miss all my brothers.”

Nazareth 35, Prairie Ridge 28

Nazareth 0 14 7 14 – 35

Prairie Ridge 0 14 7 7 – 28

Second quarter

PR–J. Vanderwiel 11 run (Porter kick), 4:22

N–Cestone 20 pass from Maluchuk (Fowler kick), 3:16

PR–D. Creatore 80 pass from J. Vanderwiel (Porter kick), 2:45

N–Walker 44 pass from Malachuk (Fowler kick), 1:29

Third quarter

N–Malachuk 1 run (Fowler kick), 6:24

PR–L. Vanderwiel 22 run (Porter kick), 1:39

Fourth quarter

N–Walker 3 pass from Malachuk (Fowler kick), 11:21

N–Malachuk 23 run (Fowler kick), 4:16

PR–J. Vanderwiel 1 run (Porter kick), 0:13


RUSHING–Nazareth: Tittle 7-37, Angulo 7-11, Malachuk 6-72, McClain 6-34, Fowler 1-1. Totals: 27-155. Prairie Ridge: J. Vanderwiel 17-76, L. Vanderwiel 11-130, Finn 10-37, D. Creatore 6-36. Totals: 44-279.

PASSING–Nazareth: Malachuk 23-30-0-264. Prairie Ridge: J. Vanderwiel 4-10-1-133.

RECEIVING–Nazareth: Walker 9-104, Penley 6-70, Cestore 6-59, Fauske 1-27, Fowler 1-4. Prairie Ridge: D. Creatore 2-98, Loeding 2-26, L. Vanderwiel 1-9.

TOTAL YARDS: Nazareth 419, Prairie Ridge 412.

Alex Kantecki

Alex Kantecki

Alex is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald.