Brother Rice senior quarterback Alex Alarcon was one of the last players to join the postgame huddle Friday after his team’s 16-13 win over top-ranked Loyola.
He immediately darted to the middle and shouted, “We beat Loyola!” Alarcon had every reason to be excited. The last time the Crusaders beat the Ramblers was a 16-7 victory in 2008. That also was the last year Brother Rice (2-1, 1-0 Catholic Blue) finished with a non-losing record in league play.
“Enjoy this one,” Brother Rice coach Brian Badke told his team. “You deserve to.”
But Badke made sure to tell his players to keep their eyes on the bigger prize, which could include a conference championship and deep run in the postseason.
Brother Rice’s last league title came in 2004.
“This is just the beginning,” he said. “We made a statement, but this is a journey.”
The Crusaders took advantage of Ramblers’ mistakes on special teams to score their first 13 points. After Loyola (2-1, 0-1) fumbled a fair catch near its own end zone, senior Marcus Jones ran the ball in from 2 yards out for a 13-6 lead with 8:29 remaining in the third quarter.
Later in the quarter, senior Matt Pikowski kicked his third field goal of the game to give Brother Rice a 16-6 advantage with 1:39 left before the fourth.
“In these conditions, we knew special teams was going to be huge,” Alarcon said. “They did a phenomenal job, forcing turnovers, pinning punts and Matt kicking those field goals.”
Brother Rice’s best offensive series didn’t result in points, but it was huge nonetheless. The Crusaders used a 13-play drive that chewed up more than seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
“Our line played [its] butt off,” Alarcon said. “Me and Marcus just said we had to dig our feet into the ground and get first downs.”
Loyola got the ball back with 4:20 to go and the Ramblers made things interesting when senior quarterback DJ Melsheimer threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Cecola with 3:35 on the clock.
The Ramblers then forced a three-and-out and blocked the punt, but the Crusaders secured the win by intercepting a screen pass near the line of scrimmage.
Despite throwing six interceptions in a little more than two quarters in last weekend’s 29-28 overtime win against Edwardsville, Melsheimer made the start Friday.
He missed on his first eight attempts before connecting with Owen Buscaglia for a 31-yard gain that set up the game’s first touchdown on senior Dara Laja’s 2-yard run with 2:12 remaining in the first quarter.
Melsheimer played into the second quarter, but he was 2-for-12 for 42 yards and was relieved by junior Emmett Clifford.