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O’Brien: Loyola survives Maine South in Wilmette thriller

Two of the best teams in the state played an inspired, thrilling football game on Saturday in Wilmette. Several players posted gaudy numbers and stepped up in clutch moments. Even considering all that, Loyola senior Jake Marwede stood out from the pack.

“You can see he’s the best football player on the field,” Loyola coach John Holecek said after the No. 1 Ramblers held on for a 44-43 win against No. 11 Maine South.

Marwede, a wide receiver and tight end, threw an 82-yard touchdown pass to David Terrell Jr. on the Ramblers’ first play of the game. He took a handoff from Loyola quarterback Tommy Herion and then launched the pass.

“We knew if we handed the ball off the corner was going to bite,” Marwede, a Duke recruit, said.

The teams combined for 11 more touchdowns after that, but in the end the game came down to a two-point conversion attempt by the Hawks (1-1). Maine South quarterback Nick Leongas connected with Rory Hayes for a 13-yard touchdown with 52 seconds left to play that pulled the Hawks within 44-43 of Loyola (2-0).

Hawks kicker Sean McNulty is automatic on extra points, he made a 40-yard field goal earlier in the game. But Maine South coach Dave Inserra went for the win.

“I was a little nervous [watching the conversion attempt[, just because anything can happen but I had confidence in our defense,” Marwede said. “They’ve been working all week for that.”

Loyola’s secondary was carved up for 414 yards and four touchdowns, but they held strong on the game’s crucial play.

“We made a huge stop there at the end,” Loyola defensive back Ryan Lin-Peistrup said. “Thank god Graham [Repp] covered his guy in the end zone.”

Marwede finished with seven receptions for 128 yards. He caught a 33-yard and a ten-yard touchdown pass. Herion was 14-for-23 for 217 yards with three touchdown passes. He also rushed seven times for 43 yards and one touchdown.

Loyola’s most effective offense was to run the ball right up the gut. Running backs Kyle Rock (17 carries, 116 yards, one touchdown) and Hamid Bullie (17 carries, 92 yards, one touchdown) found plenty of holes.

“Our offensive line obviously was the strong point again,” Holecek said. “Big, tough, [Maine South] loaded the box and we still ran it on them.”

Leongas finished 16-for-24 for 414 yards with touchdown throws of 42, 31, 65 and 13 yards. Hawks junior Fotis Kokosioulis turned in his second impressive game of the season. He rushed 12 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns and caught four passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

The 43 points is the most allowed by Loyola since a loss to Mount Carmel in 1998.

“We know we are young in the defensive backfield,” Holecek said. “Inexperienced, we’ve had some injuries. We just have to keep getting better. Jake Gonzalez had a heck of a day considering it’s his second game ever on defense and he’s a sophomore. Ian [Swenson] locks down at the corner. He’s a great asset. The rest of the guys have to pick their games up.”

Up next for Loyola is a showdown against No. 2 Mount Carmel on Friday at Gately Stadium.