Darby Goodwin admitted he already has been thinking about getting back to Champaign, which is where Loyola lost to Bolingbrook in the Class 8A championship football game at Memorial Stadium last season.
That doesn’t mean Goodwin is overlooking any team. The team’s 21-point win over Fenwick on Oct. 6 taught the Ramblers, the Sun-Times’ fifth-ranked team, a valuable lesson about that. The two teams were tied 28-all in the fourth quarter before the Ramblers put the game away.
“We know we can’t look down on anyone anymore,” said Goodwin, a senior nose tackle. “That Fenwick game really woke us up a bit and made us work harder.”
In the three games since then, the Ramblers (9-1) have posted two shutouts, including Saturday’s 41-0 win over Evanston in the first round of the playoffs, and allowed one touchdown.
Loyola led Evanston 34-0 at the break and triggered a running clock early in the third quarter. Peter Pujals, a senior, threw for 230 yards and one touchdown and added three rushing touchdowns in two quarters of work.
“We are really confident right now,” said Loyola senior wide receiver Richie Wehman III, who caught five passes for 131 yards. “We’ve had a great season so far, and we are looking forward to the rest of the playoffs.”
Loyola now travels to play Bartlett, a 14-0 winner over Leyden, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Hawks (7-3) are headlined by senior Aaron Everson, a 6-foot, 200-pound running back. Everson ran for 111 yards and a touchdown last weekend.
“He’s a one-man wrecking machine,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “They are a huge, physical team that will try to stuff it down your throat. They play old-school football with that running back. He’s strong and powerful with a good burst and good vision.”
But Bartlett, which is in the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 years, hasn’t played nearly the same type of schedule as Loyola has this season. The win over Leyden was the Hawks’ first against a team with a winning record.
The Catholic Blue champion Ramblers, on the other hand, own wins against six playoff teams. Saturday’s victory marked the sixth season in a row the Ramblers won at least one playoff game.
Nevertheless, Goodwin said the Ramblers are treating each game like it’s the last of the year.
“One week at a time right now,” he said. “If we keep doing that and playing our best, there’s no doubt we will get back to Champaign.”