St. Rita’s Mick Doyle is listed as a wide receiver on the roster. He’s been the scout team quarterback all season for the Mustangs and taken a few snaps in garbage time in real games.
The junior was thrust into the spotlight on Friday. St. Rita’s starting quarterback, Jake Zylman, is out with an injury. Backup Hayden Ekern started for the Mustangs, but had his bell rung in the second quarter and left the game.
Things were shaky initially. Doyle dropped some snaps before eventually settling in to help guide the No. 25 Mustangs to a 31-14 win against visiting Simeon in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs.
“There were many nerves,” Doyle said. “I was in the locker room at halftime just shaking, thinking ‘oh my God. St. Rita, football playoffs, this is the stage.’
Doyle and center Connor Cahill worked on snaps at halftime and were flawless in the second half.
“[St. Rita coach Todd Kuska] told me to be calm, that I’m playing football, just like in the backyard,” Doyle said.
The Mustangs (8-2) led 17-7 at the half. Simeon’s Alante Brown scored on a one-yard run midway through the third quarter to pull the Wolverines within 17-14.
Doyle and St. Rita responded. Doyle connected with Jake Stefanski for a 68-yard touchdown to put the Mustangs ahead 24-24 with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
The third string quarterback struck again late in the third quarter, finding Ray Bouye for a 69-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-14.
“It’s crazy, my first time playing quarterback and it is on the best stage it could possibly happen, the state playoffs,” Doyle said. “We came together and said we had to be smart, roll the clock and play old school.”
Doyle finished 3-for-4 for 160 yards.
“Not too bad,” Kuska said. “You have to prepare for everything. Our guys rallied around him and made some plays. The defense played really well, got us some short fields and Mick stepped in and made some plays. He’s prepared to run everything. His numbers was up and that’s what you have to do. It’s high school football, anything can happen.”
Starting quarterback Hayden Ekern was 3-for-11 for 26 yards. Kuska was optimistic that he’d be able to play next week.
“We think so,” Kuska said. “We just have to see what is going on. But we will go forward with whoever is our quarterback.”
St. Rita running back Chris Childers had 18 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
In a bit of a surprise, Simeon started Jayshon Jackson at quarterback. Brown took over in the second quarter, but the pair switched off occasionally.
Jackson was 8-for-11 for 53 yards with one interception. He caught five passes for 59 yards.
Brown was 9-for-18 for 92 yards with one interception. He had 12 carries for 35 yards.
The Wolverines were unable to get a big play and establish any momentum, but they did lead 7-0 in the first quarter after a 37-yard touchdown run by Ce’Zaun Enge.
“Our defense has been playing well all year long and they haven’t gotten much credit,” Kuska said. “We talked all week long that the key was to limit their big plays”
St. Rita will play the St. Charles North-Highland Park winner in the second round of the state playoffs next week. Simeon (6-4) will drop down into the Public League playoffs.