Minooka did an excellent job setting the scene on Saturday. Fans packed the stadium, the band played, the team ran out through a smoke machine and an inflated helmet. It was time for playoff football.
And then Loyola, which has played in the last three Class 8A state championship games, smacked the football-crazed community right in the mouth.
The Ramblers first play from scrimmage was an 80-yard touchdown pass. It went from quarterback Jack Fallon to backup quarterback Matthew Schiltz (lined up as a receiver) to a totally wide-open Rory Boos streaking down the sideline.
“It was awesome,” Fallon said. “We’ve been practicing that all week. It was a great throw by Matt.”
The Indians never recovered. Loyola dominated, beating No. 14 seed Minooka 38-14 in the first round of the Class 8A state playoffs.
It’s the first time the Ramblers, the No. 19 seed, have started their playoff run on the road since 2006. It turned out to be a nice trip to the far southwest suburbs.
“This is a cool environment, the grass [field] adds to it,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “They were great hosts.”
“We kind of loved coming here to play,” Fallon said. “We’ve been playing pretty well on the road. We embraced it, they have a good student section usually.”
Fallon was 12-for-19 for 147 yards and one touchdown. He connected with seven different receivers.
Loyola (7-3) hasn’t always been able to depend on its running game this season. Running backs Michael Gavric and Trevor Cabanban both had solid games.
“[Gavric] had a great game and Trevor ran as fast as I’ve seen him,” Holecek said. “He looked like his old self.”
Gavric had 17 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He was the workhorse back that picked up the key gains.
“The offensive line had a great push, every single play,” Gavric said. “We knew this would start up front and they really proved themselves.”
Cabanban had 11 carries for 63 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“We had a good game plan going in and [Gavric] executed, he saw the lanes really nicely,” Fallon said. “He’s been doing that recently.”
Minooka (7-3), which is loaded with underclassmen in the starting lineup, scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Senior DaVonte Welcher returned a kick off 97 yards for a touchdown and Nicholas Schultz scored on a one-yard run, his only carry of the game.
Welcher had nine carries for 33 yards. Quarterback Seth Lehr, a junior, was 11-for-19 for 77 yards. Seven different receivers caught passes.
It was hard to ignore some of the strange haircuts on Loyola’s sideline. There were totally shaved heads and then several where it looked like the clippers had randomly ran wild around a kid’s dome.
Turns out it is a playoff thing.
“It’s a tradition,” Gavric said. “It’s not hazing, but we give the junior and sophomores a choice if they want us to cut their hair in funny designs or whatever. The past few years I’ve had so many weird designs, now that I’m a senior I decided to keep my hair.”
The Ramblers will host Oswego in the second round of the playoffs next week.
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