Dan Sharp has had his own experience with a serious injury to a top player, so the Joliet Catholic coach can relate to Nazareth coach Tim Racki.
The Roadrunners will attempt to fill a big hole now that senior middle linebacker Thomas Gray will be lost for at least four weeks after breaking his right leg in Week 2 against Julian. The injury happened in the first quarter.
“The quarterback dropped back to pass and I blitzed off the edge,” Gray said. “I jumped up. Somebody rolled under me.”
The 6-foot, 210-pound senior said he hopes to return in time for the postseason. Gray is a returning all-East Suburban Catholic selection.
Gray used crutches to walk to midfield with his fellow captains Saturday to participate in the coin flip before the Roadrunners’ eventual 24-21 loss to visiting Marist. Marist’s Cillian Hannon’s 32-yard field goal was the final play of the game.
The No. 24 Roadrunners (2-1, 0-1 ESCC) play at No. 18 Joliet Catholic (2-1, 1-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday for at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
Ty Isaac, Joliet Catholic’s USC-bound running back and the Chicago Sun-Times’ 2011 player of the year, made a surprise return Friday from a right shoulder injury to play in the second quarter of the Hilltoppers’ 33-20 victory over St. Viator in Arlington Heights. Isaac rushed for 94 yards and scored two touchdowns.
“My plan was not to play him at all; there was a chance he could play,” said Sharp, who scouted Saturday’s game at Nazareth. “He got the OK to play (from doctors earlier). We got to a point in the game where it was OK he played. Obviously, it was good get him in a game to (take) a couple of hits.”
Without its defensive leader, Nazareth held Marist rusher Peter Andreotti to 21 yards in the first half, but finished with 146 yards and a TD on 28 carries.
“We had a complex game plan going into the today — go figure,” Racki said. “Their running game got to us.”
Nazareth’s defense, which held Marist to 85 total yards in the first half, wilted in the second half. Senior Daniel DeSimone has shifted over from outside linebacker to fill Gray’s gap in the middle of a 3-5-3 defense. One of Nazareth’s standout running backs, senior Joshua Moore, moved from cornerback to linebacker. Moore carried seven times for minus-1 yard against No. 8 Marist (3-0, 1-0).
“(Moore) learned to play linebacker in six days,” Racki said. “He has a tremendous role. He is having fun. You always have attrition. Injuries are part of the game.”
DeSimone needed treatment for a neck injury in the first half but did not miss any plays. Nazareth’s other linebackers are Andrew Barreto, Tyler Van Dahm and Aeneas White.
“It’s a work in progress,” DeSimone said about playing in the middle. “I know I have to give it my all. It will work out. I will do all I can and everyone else will step up and play their part. Thomas is a team captain. It’s always hard to lose someone (like that). He’ll be back.”