Juniors JT Thomas, Vaughn Pemberton lead Loyola’s surging offense past Brother Rice

Vaughn Pemberton ran 25 times for 208 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday’s 35-14 home win over Brother Rice. JT Thomas passed for 155 yards and a TD.

SHARE Juniors JT Thomas, Vaughn Pemberton lead Loyola’s surging offense past Brother Rice
Holding off Brother Rice’s Brendan Ryan (44), Loyola’s Vaughn Pemberton (14) scores on a six-yard run.

Holding off Brother Rice’s Brendan Ryan (44), Loyola’s Vaughn Pemberton (14) scores on a six-yard run.

Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

JT Thomas’ lost season was two years ago, Vaughn Pemberton’s was last fall.

But that’s all in the past for the Loyola juniors, who have emerged from crowded competitions as impactplayers on a surging offense.

Pemberton ran 25 times for 208 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday’s 35-14 home win over Brother Rice, while Thomas passed for 155 yards and a TD.

The Ramblers (4-2, 1-1 CCL/ESCC Blue) tried a variety of running backs and used two quarterbacks earlier in the season.

Pemberton wasn’t high on the depth chart early after missing last season with a broken leg.

“I felt 100 percent during the summer basketball season,” he said. “I felt like I finally got back my athleticism.”

That began to show in a Week 3 win over St. Rita, when he ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Last week against St. Ignatius, he finished with 158 yards and three TDs.

All along, Pemberton displayed a potent blend of speed and power. He ran away from the Rice defense on his last touchdown Saturday, a 55-yarder that came on his final carry.

“That hole, I looked at it on film,” he said. “Oh my goodness, I had to hug my offensive linemen.”

On his other scoring runs of 1, 3 and 11 yards, he showed an uncanny ability to shed would-be tacklers.

“He runs so hard,” Thomas said of Pemberton. “When you have a skilled offensive line and and a skilled back like him, it’s absolutely lethal.”

It also makes opponents throw out their game plans, moving safeties closer to the line of scrimmage in an often futile attempt to slow down Pemberton.

“He absolutely changes the game,” Thomas said. “It opens up everything for us.”

Pemberton is part of one of the deepest backfields in the state.

“It’s almost a shame we have such depth at one position,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “Trevor (Cabanban), he’s electric. (Marco) Maldonado, he’s a sophomore but he’s got the best acceleration of them all. ... And then Tyler (Flores) does everything well and runs hard.”

The Ramblers also came into the season with some depth at quarterback between Thomas and fellow junior Perrion McClinton. They split time early, but Thomas -- who missed his freshman year with a torn ACL and still wears a brace -- is now the starter.

“During the summer, I learned a lot,” Thomas said. “But it’s different during the season, just getting a feel for the games, these different teams we’re playing, who we are.

“I think we found out who we are. It happened a little later than we would like, but it’s good.”

Rice (4-2, 1-1) had a big day from junior Willie Shaw, who ran 16 times for 114 yards, including a 54-yard TD. Crusaders quarterback Ben Somers passed for 97 yards and a touchdown before leaving with an injury late in the first half.

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