Michael Love’s big day leads Nazareth to 7A title game

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Michael Love carries the ball. Beth Long/Sun-Times.

Snow fell in La Grange Park as one of the most anticipated matchups of the season began. Batavia kicked the ball deep to Nazareth. Roadrunner senior Michael Love bobbled the ball and fell on it.

If that bobble was any indication of early nerves, Love settled them. From that point on he had ice water running through his veins.

Nazareth beat Batavia 47-28 in the Class 7A state semifinals. The Roadrunners will face St. Charles North on Saturday in the title game in Champaign.

Big plays from Love, sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy and Diamond Evans were crucial

“J.J. McCarthy has been doing what he’s does all year and throwing to Michael Love,” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said. “We played tremendous run defense.”

Batavia (12-1) scored first. Quarterback Jack Meyers marched the Bulldogs down the field with the help of Northwestern recruit Michael Jansey Jr. and running back Quinn Urwiler. Batavia led for the next four minutes. Nazareth (12-1) scored 28 unanswered points before the end of the first half.

Love scored three touchdowns, hauled in an interception and the Roadrunners never looked back.

“I don’t think there was a huge turning point, I think we had momentum the whole way,” Love said. “The fans were loud, our players were having fun and I think that helped us the whole game.”

Nazareth used unconventional methods to prep for the defending state champions.

“We knew Batavia would focus on talking a lot, and they use that to their advantage to get in the other teams head so we had the scout team this week talking and talking,” Love said. “We had to practice not retaliating and keeping a level head, and it worked out.”

The Roadrunners won the Class 6A title in 2014, Class 5A in 2015 and finished second in Class 6A last season. This is their first year in Class 7A.

“Our program is in a place now that kids expect to win and I don’t have to sell kids on a vision,” Racki said. “There are so many guys here from past teams that have won that are very proud, we’ve established that culture.”

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