Nazareth’s season got off to a rough start. The Roadrunners were winless when they arrived in Niles on Saturday to face Notre Dame. And after the first half, they were staring at a seven-point deficit.
Coach Tim Racki made a change in the third quarter. He went with an incredibly rare sight in high-level varsity high school football: a freshman quarterback.
It worked. Logan Malachuk helped engineer a 24-21 comeback victory for Nazareth.
“This is the first season I’ve played a freshman,” Racki said. “[Malachuk] played against Lemont and did a great job. It isn’t on [starting quarterback Aidan Pieper]. We just needed a spark, and the kid certainly ran our offense effectively. He’s mature beyond his years.”
It was the running game that made the difference. Junior Kaleb Miller had a 34-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to pull the Roadrunners to 14-13. Then he gave them the lead with a 33-yard touchdown run with 11:50 to play.
Miller had 14 carries for 105 yards.
“I’ve been hurt the first three games,” Miller said. “Just being healthy and having the line block for me and everyone do their part felt -really good.”
Malachuk was 3-for-5 passing for 44 yards. Pieper was 6-for-10 for 97 yards with two interceptions and a 35-yard touchdown pass to Quentrell Harris.
Harris, a 6-1, 185-pound senior, was clearly the best player on the field. He had six receptions for 109 yards.
“He’s legit,” Racki said. “[Harris] is a big-time college prospect. Defensively, offensively, special teams, he has every weapon there is. Especially in high school.”
Malachuk is one of several very young players getting snaps for the Roadrunners. Harris and the other veterans have embraced the youth movement.
“Logan is a great guy,” Harris said. “That makes it easy for the team and everybody. We have all come together week by week. You can’t even tell the new guys are new anymore. They have all stepped up to the occasion.”
Notre Dame fell to 0-4. The Dons’ first three opponents are a combined 11-1, so the slow start didn’t necessarily indicate they weren’t a playoff-caliber team. But this was a game they desperately needed to win. Notre Dame likely will have to win its remaining five games to make the playoffs.
Dons junior quarterback Vincenzo Ricciardi was 17-for-28 for 125 yards. He threw two interceptions and had a five-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Nazareth junior Zach Hayes had both of the interceptions.
“The defense just needed to settle in,” Hayes said. “We didn’t come out with juice or energy on the first drive, and they drove it down our face. We studied a lot of film this week, so we knew what we were going to do. It just took a little bit for it to kick in.”
Senior Colin Randazzo had 22 carries for 67 yards and two touchdowns for Notre Dame.
Nazareth still has tough upcoming games against Carmel and St. Rita, but getting its first win should help turn things around.
“We wanted this more than anything,” Miller said. “We’ve been working our butts off, and we finally got our breakthrough.”