Carmel grounds out win vs. Nazareth

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For the second consecutive year, Nazareth will have to finish the season without its leading rusher.

Based on Saturday’s 13-7 loss to Carmel, this season might be harder than last season, which still ended in a playoff appearance for the Roadrunners.

Carmel’s swarming 3-5-3 defense limited No. 24 Nazareth (2-3, 0-3 East Suburban Catholic) to 131 rushing yards — 58 in the first half — and the Corsairs (2-3, 2-1) did not allow any points until late in the fourth quarter to pull off the upset against the short-handed Roadrunners.

Nazareth senior running back Rudy Romagnano tore the ACL in his right knee in the first quarter of a 34-33 overtime loss at Joliet Catholic Sept. 14. Against Joliet Catholic in 2011, Romagnano broke his ankle in the first quarter and was able to return for just a few carries in the playoffs.

“Every team goes through injuries and adversity,” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said. “That is not exclusive to Nazareth football.”

Nazareth’s only touchdown Saturday came after Carmel safety Michael Kelly intercepted Jake Bartels for the second time in the game. But instead of knocking down Bartels’ pass on fourth-and-20, Kelly caught it at Carmel’s own 4. Bartels (8-for-22, 64 yards) was intercepted three times in the game. He completed only one pass in six attempts in the second half.

Two plays later, Josh Walinski (19 carries, 122 yards, touchdown) fumbled to set up Joshua Moore’s one-yard touchdown run with 3:47 remaining in the game. The Corsairs were able to run out the clock to end the game. Moore (22 carries, 66 yards) replaced Romagnano at running back after last year’s injury, but does not see as many snaps as one of Nazareth’s starting inside linebackers.

“The kid [Kelly] tried to make a great play,” Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. “It kind of set up the TD. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Junior quarterback Nick Grandolfo followed Walinski’s four-yard scoring run with a 40-yard touchdown run of his own with 3:06 remaining in the second quarter after the Roadrunners punted for only seven yards. The Corsairs’ point-after kick was blocked. Grandolfo passed for only four times in the game and did not attempt a pass in the second half.

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