Alex Martinez, St. Laurence rain on St. Ignatius’ parade

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For years St. Ignatius played its home football games at the University of Chicago and other stadiums across the city.

That changed Friday when the school unveiled its first on-campus football field, with lights and seating for 3,000.

“Everything went really fast,” St. Ignatius coach John O’Connor said. “They started installing the turf in June, were done by July and finished with the stands this week.”

Everything was going perfectly for the Wolfpack.

That is until St. Laurence got the ball down five with 8:55 left in the game. The Vikings drove down the field, converted two fourth downs and scored on an Alex Martinez keeper with 29.9 seconds remaining to spoil the Wolfpack’s night with a 15-14 comeback win.

“Our line stepped up real big there on that touchdown,” Martinez said. “As I was going through, two guys flared out and I was able to walk right in.”

The two teams have a history of close games, with last year’s matchup also a one-point Viking win.

It’s a great rivalry,” Martinez said. “Chicago Catholic League, every time we come out here, we want to beat them.”

Coming into Friday night, St. Laurence (2-1, 1-0 Catholic White) knew it was going to run the ball and take their chances using the pass if necessary.

“The weather had no effect on our game plan,” St. Laurence coach Harold Blackmon said. “We couldn’t do some of the things pass-wise we wanted to until we needed to on that last drive. What people lose sight on is our offensive line is young. Two sophomores, one junior, one new senior starter, it’s tough.”

One wouldn’t be able to tell the line was inexperienced based on the first and last drives of the game. The Vikings started the game on a 14-play, 6:22 drive that was capped off by a Martinez one-yard score. That drive included 10 runs.

After punting on its first two second-half possessions, St. Laurence was looking for a spark when it took over on its own 37-yard line with nearly nine minutes to go.

That’s when Martinez took his team on his back and led them to a dramatic comeback in a steady rain.

After driving to the Wolfpack 36-yard line, the Vikings faced a key fourth-and-1 with 4:30 remaining. Martinez got 12 yards on a keeper. Four plays later, with his team facing a fourth-and-12, Martinez delivered a 14-yard strike to Matt Gurgone to keep the drive alive.

“The linemen did a great job protecting me, giving me time,” Martinez said about his fourth-down conversion.

Martinez finished with 18 carries for 50 yards and two scores while completing six of nine passes for 55 yards, but also threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Fayezon Smart finished with 29 carries for 91 yards.

Brendan McNally had 60 yards on 16 carries to lead the Wolfpack (1-2, 0-1). Junior quarterback Ryan Coolidge completed three of his four passes, including an 18-yard touchdown to Luke Soenen.

“This is a huge confidence boost,” Martinez said. “We’re going to get back to the film tomorrow morning and fix those mistakes for next week.”

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