Nazareth shines under the lights in first home night game

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Dennis Moran brought Friday night lights to Nazareth on Saturday.

Nazareth’s former football coach and the current president approached coach Tim Racki more than a month ago about playing the first night football game in school history for the first round of the playoffs. Moran first had the idea more than a decade ago, but his dream became a reality when the top-seeded Roadrunners met Rockford Boylan in a Class 6A opener for a 6 p.m. kickoff.

Nazareth (10-0) capped off the evening with a 56-27 victory over the 15th-seeded Titans. The Roadrunners will play at ninth-seeded King (8-2) in the second round.

Moran, who became president 10 years ago after retiring as football coach, wanted to reward this year’s football team for its first undefeated regular season and its initial East Suburban Catholic championship. Moran has spent 31 years at Nazareth and could have been the happiest person at Valenta Stadium Saturday night.

“I always dreamed about it even when I was coaching,” Moran said. “We wanted to work within the confines and restrictions of the Village of LaGrange Park.”

After more than a month of filing paperwork, Moran said he received the final OK from the village a few weeks ago. The school contracted to bring in five banks of temporary lights. The lights were installed in 10 hours on Oct. 27 and the team was able to hold night-time practices the week leading up to its playoff opener. The band and cheerleaders also practiced under the lights.

Racki, who came over from now-defunct Driscoll to replace Moran as coach, said he believed the lights united the school during the past week.

“I like Friday Night Lights,” Racki said. “Friday games are better for planning purposes [for coaches] and for the players physically [to get more rest]. When you play Saturdays, you spend more time preparing on Sundays for the next game.”

Nazareth senior Nolan Dean (11 carries, 168 yards) and junior Julian Love (four carries, 155 yards) scored three touchdowns each in the rout of Boylan (5-5). Love scored on all three of his carries in the first half on runs of 74, 48 and 21 yards.

Dean, a transfer from Neuqua Valley, was the only member of the Roadrunners to play a previous home game under the lights.

“The lights are good. It helps physically to have had practices in the lights,” Dean said. “You have to simulate in practice what you can put into a game.”

Moran said Nazareth signed a contract with Musco to continue using the lights for practices during the rest of the playoffs. The school’s agreement with the village of LaGrange Park was for only one night game and approval would be needed for future night playoff games, Moran said.

“I would love to see more night games,” Love said. “If not this year, then I hope we can play next year.”

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