Four Downs: News and notes from Week 6 in high school football

Loyola finishes on top, colleges need to wake up and find St. Rita’s Michael Gaughan and how about we let everyone into the playoffs?

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St Rita’s Michael Gaughan (11) defends against Notre Dame.

St Rita’s Michael Gaughan (11) defends against Notre Dame.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

The pandemic spring football season is all wrapped up. How about we never do that again?

It’s great that the kids were able to play some games, especially for the seniors, but nothing about the season felt right or was satisfying. Fan interest is at an all-time low, which is understandable after a season — with no playoffs — that most people couldn’t watch.

Scrambling to find games was a challenge for athletic directors and coaches all over the area, but an incredibly high percentage of the final Super 25 teams were able to play six games.

Football scheduling always has been a major issue for schools, with everyone jockeying to find the perfect path to five wins and a playoff berth. I’d prefer if that ended in the future. High school sports are about improving throughout the season. It would be great if we could find a way to expand the state playoffs and let everyone in.

That thought was on my mind Friday in Niles as I watched Notre Dame give St. Rita a stern challenge. The Dons had some issues on offense early in the season but figured them out and now look like a ranked team.

“We got off to a slow start this spring and couldn’t put the ball in the end zone,” Notre Dame coach Mike Hennessey said. “But defensively, we’ve hit the mark in every game except maybe the Marist game. We’re a young team, but we play hard.”

The Dons would have had trouble making the playoffs in a normal year because improving throughout the season isn’t really rewarded in our current system.

Started No. 1, finished No. 1

Loyola finishes the season right where it started, in the top spot of the Super 25 rankings.

The Ramblers weren’t dethroned at any point this season. All six teams they defeated were ranked at some point, and five of their opponents finished the season in the Super 25.

Lincoln-Way East was the other contender for the final top spot. The Griffins are a perfect 6-0, but their strength of schedule falls short of Loyola’s. They beat two teams that were ranked at some point this season (Bolingbrook and Homewood-Flossmoor) but no teams that ended up in the final rankings.

Lacrosse?

Right now, St. Rita linebacker Michael Gaughan is planning to play lacrosse in college. I’m sure he’s a great lacrosse player, but Gaughan would prefer to play football, and he has more than proved he’d be an asset to a college program.

“I can’t get anyone to bite on him to play Division I football,” Mustangs coach Todd Kuska said. “He’s one of the best linebackers we’ve ever had. He makes every play.”

Gaughan had 161 tackles last season and this season had 90 tackles in just six games. He’s not huge at 6-0, 215 pounds but is one of the most disruptive defensive forces I watched this season.

It’s not far away

The fall football season is right around the corner. Practices can begin Aug. 9, and the first games are Aug. 27. I’m sure no one wants to wish the summer away, but it’s great to imagine full stadiums and playoff brackets.

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