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Loyola completes shocking turnaround, beats Brother Rice to win 8A championship

Video by Sun-Times Audience Team

CHAMPAIGN—Loyola lost to Montini in late September. That dropped the Ramblers to 3-3 on the season. Ramblers coach John Holecek and most everyone in attendance would never have imagined the season ending as it did Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Loyola beat undefeated Brother Rice 13-3 to win the Class 8A state title.

The Ramblers’ defense, Holecek’s specialty, found itself in the second half of the season. They shut out Oswego and Maine South in the playoffs and then beat undefeated Lincoln-Way East 24-16 in the semifinals.

“They got better every day and every week,” Holecek said. “They fulfilled something I will always remember, one of the most special seasons of my life. Nothing is going to beat this in my career.

Brother Rice (13-1) was the next victim. The Crusaders had 23 rushing attempts for just five yards. Brother Rice quarterback John Bean was 11-of-26 for 151 yards. He was sacked four times.

“They are a tremendous defense, they are a tremendous team,” Bean said. “Our offense wasn’t clicking at times. Props to them, they came out to play.”

Brother Rice beat Loyola 35-3 in Week 4.

“Defensively their scheme is the same,” Brother Rice coach Brian Badke said. “They just got after it a little better tonight.”

Linebacker Armoni Dixon had seven tackles and a sack for the Ramblers (11-3). Linebacker Patrick Daniels had six tackles and lineman Edward Eastman had two sacks.

“We buckled down and bought in and paid attention to film and went out and executed,” Dixon said.

Loyola running back Michael Gavric scored the only touchdown, a four-yard run with 3:51 to play in the second quarter.

“Being the underdog was fun,” said receiver Artie Collins, who had four catches for 62 yards. “We called the second half of the season the revenge tour.”

Gavric had 13 carries for 39 yards. Ramblers quarterback Jack Fallon had 17 carries for 55 yards. He was 13-of-20 passing for 130 yards.

“You won’t find a better, more courageous leader than Jack,” Holecek said.

Loyola has played in six of the last eight Class 8A championship games. The Ramblers won the title in 2015 and 1993.

“To avenge 2016, 2017 and [the loss to Brother Rice] earlier this year it is a storybook ending,” Holecek said. “I loved the underdog role.”