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O’Brien: No. 1 Loyola survives No. 2 Mount Carmel

Loyola has been the gold standard of Illinois high school football for well over a year now. The Ramblers aren’t dominating teams like they did last season, but for the second consecutive week they gutted out a hard-fought win that essentially came down to one play.

“Our offense was dominant, our defense did enough and our special teams really hurt us with some stupid plays,” Loyola coach John Holecek said after the top-ranked Ramblers’ 35-28 win over No. 2 Mount Carmel on Friday at Gately Stadium.

The game lived up to the hype of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown, although it didn’t appear that would be the case after the first half. The Ramblers led 28-14, but were more dominant than the score indicated.

Mount Carmel (2-1, 0-1 Catholic League Blue) found a spark when do-it-all athlete Alek Thomas took over at quarterback.

“[Mount Carmel] is a great team and [Thomas] is a hell of a player,” Holecek said. “We did just enough to win.”

Loyola senior Jake Marwede was the star again. He rushed 15 times for 69 yards and three touchdowns. He took over as the Wildcat quarterback on goal line situations in the first half and then all over the field in the second half.

“Overally offensively [we were] impressive,” Holecek said. “[Marwede] shows he’s the best kid in the state, to me.”

Loyola quarterback Tommy Herion finished 8-for-14 for 92 yards. He rushed 10 times for 54 yards and one touchdown. The Ramblers’ offensive line was a force, helping Kyle Rock rush 11 times for 43 yards and one touchdown and Hamid Bullie carry the ball 12 times for 80 yards.

Mount Carmel used a bit of trickery to get back in the game, with running back Michael Kennedy throwing a pair of halfback passes (one for a 33-yard touchdown to Phazione McClurge) for large gains.

The Caravan had a chance at the end, but failed on a 4th and six from the Loyola 11 with 2:00 to play. Quarterback Dan Trudeau went for a receiver in the end zone, but the pass fell incomplete.

The Loyola defense, which is giving up points and yardage, held Maine South on a two-point conversion to win the game last week.

“We did some good things, but [Mount Carmel] isn’t the passing offense that we need to worry about,” said Holecek. “We need to get our secondary straight. That’s to be seen.”

Thomas had 11 carries for 95 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown. He caught two passes for 16 yards and threw two passes for 64 yards. He played quarterback, running back and wide receiver for the Caravan (2-1, 0-1).

“Whatever they need me to do, we just need to go out there and get the job done,” Thomas said. “We didn’t tonight. We need to stop overdoing it and stay within ourselves. If we just do that we’re going to go far.”

Kennedy finished with 12 carries for 58 yards and Mount Carmel’s starting quarterback, Dan Trudeau, was 2-for-7 passing for 16 yards with one interception.