Stopping Marquette’s Conor Sheehy a top priority for Loyola

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WILMETTE — Conor Sheehy, a Marquette (Wis.) defensive lineman, has got the attention of Loyola coach John Holecek.

“He’s a big reason why I’m worried,” Holecek said of the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder who’s verbally committed to Wisconsin. “He’s the big story on that team.”

Sheehy is one of two starters back on defense for Jeffrey Mazurczak, a 1982 graduate of the Milwaukee Jesuit high school who’s in his fourth season as head coach of the Hilltoppers and 24th with the program.

“He’s quick and powerful for a big fella,” Mazurczak said of the two-year captain. “He has a great motor. He’s stout against the run, but he can put good pressure on the passer.”

Loyola opens its season at 1:30 p.m. Saturday when it plays host to Marquette. The Hilltoppers come into the game 0-1 after losing their opener 40-33 to Wisconsin Lutheran on Aug. 23.

While Holecek won at least 11 games last fall for the fifth season in a row, Mazurczak and Marquette finished 3-6, a disappointing record for a proud program. Marquette won a state championship in 2009.

“We have high expectations, as always,” said Mazurczak, who returns a total of six starters from a year ago. “We think last year was an aberration.”

Marquette runs a multiple-formation spread offense and a 3-3-5 defense. But Mazurczak said the Hilltoppers are known to play four linemen, too.

Holecek, who’s in his eighth season leading Loyola, said several players were banged up during the preseason. But he reported earlier this week that the Ramblers were getting healthier.

Even though Jack Penn is in his first season as the starting quarterback, Holecek said the 5-11, 170-pound senior is as ready as any signal-caller he’s coached in the program.

“He’s good at reading defenses and is very accurate,” Holecek said. “He can really throw it in tight spots. Jack knows what to do, and he makes a high percentage of correct choices.”

Holecek also cautioned that Penn could be in trouble if Sheehy gets loose.

“That Sheehy kid is nasty,” Holecek said. “We have some decisions to make on offense on how to deal with him.”

Notes: Holecek has never lost an opener at Loyola. The Ramblers have won the last three Week 1 games by a combined score of 95-0. … Loyola baseball coach Nick Bridich, who is in his second year with the Ramblers, is a Marquette graduate.

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