Dara Laja, Loyola ground out win against Fenwick

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A top priority for Loyola coming into the fourth game of the season was to locate a running game.

The No. 16-ranked Ramblers found one, at least for Saturday, in their 42-0 win over Fenwick in Wilmette. Loyola (3-1) scored on its first two possessions, both scores set up with the run, to race out to a 14-0.

Junior Dara Laja gained 29 yards on his first carry and finished with 135 of his game-best 147 yards in the first half. On the Ramblers’ second series, they ran the ball all 10 plays, with senior Cal Falkenhayn scoring from one yard out. Laja carried the ball seven consecutive times for 70 yards on the drive.

“Yeah, that was a big drive,” senior center Mike Carlin said. “Our goal was to run the ball down their throat. We showed what we were are capable of doing on that drive.”

Senior quarterback DJ Melsheimer got the majority of the snaps and looked like he did in the team’s opener, a 44-0 win over Marquette (Wisconsin), when he passed for 191 yards and three touchdowns in one half.

Saturday, Melsheimer went 11-for-18 for 164 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers. Senior Spencer Cecola was on the receiving end of six passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns.

“Dara had a good game, and the [offensive] line created some holes,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “We executed in all phases, and things went our way.”

Not everything.

The Ramblers lost Falkenhayn, a starting linebacker, to a broken right hand in the third quarter. He left the stadium in an ambulance, and his future playing status was unclear immediately after the game.

One of his linebacking teammates, senior Emmett Russell, arguably played the best game of his career. The first-year starter had a tackle for a loss and returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown to help the Ramblers build a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.

“There are mistakes made in every game, but I think I played well,” Russell said. “There is always stuff I can improve on.”

After three close games, Fenwick (2-2) never was in Saturday’s game. Senior quarterback and Iowa recruit Jack Beneventi threw two interceptions by halftime and finished 8-for-20 for 90 yards. The Friars didn’t do their passing game any favors by rushing for minus-7 yards in the first two quarters.

Carlin said it was good to see Loyola’s running game finally get off the ground.

“We looked much better than we have,” he said. “We really focused on it in practice, and we had a really good week out there. We came out focused, and we really wanted it more this week.”

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