Nazareth wins a shootout to capture Class 5A title

Nearly 90 points were scored in the Class 5A state championship game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, but the deciding moment was defensive.

SHARE Nazareth wins a shootout to capture Class 5A title
Nazareth’s Zach Hayes (7) reacts as William Beargie (50) hoists the IHSA Class 5A state trophy amongst teammates after winning the game against Peoria.

Nazareth’s Zach Hayes (7) reacts as William Beargie (50) hoists the IHSA Class 5A state trophy amongst teammates after winning the game against Peoria.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

CHAMPAIGN — Nearly 90 points were scored in the Class 5A state championship game Saturday at Memorial Stadium, but the deciding moment was defensive.

Nazareth senior Zach Hayes ended Peoria’s final drive and sealed a 45-44 win and the state title with an interception in the final minute.

“I knew they couldn’t keep running the ball with the clock running down,” Hayes said. “I saw it before his receiver did. I made a break on the ball and secured it.

“The feelings that rushed through my head . . . I can’t believe it. I’m in shock still; this is all I ever wanted. And to be the one to get an interception to secure it, it’s just surreal.”

Sophomore quarterback Logan Malachuk and senior running back Justin Taylor, a Wisconsin recruit, were instrumental in helping the Roadrunners keep pace with the Lions’ high-scoring offense.

Malachuk was 15-for-27 passing for 245 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a pair of scores. Taylor had 17 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown.

“If we want to, we can score on every drive,” Malachuk said. “We displayed a lot of resiliency, and we just battled and our defense stepped up when we needed it to. They got that two-point-conversion stop and the interception.”

Sophomores Gabe Kaminski and James Penley each had 10 tackles for the Roadrunners (10-4). Penley also had four catches for 102 yards, and Hayes caught four passes for 62 yards.

There were six lead changes in the game.

Senior running back Malachi Washington had 48 carries for 289 yards and six touchdowns for Peoria (12-2). The six scores tied the Class 5A and overall record for rushing touchdowns in a title game. The 48 carries also were the most in a title game.

Nazareth’s James Penley (11) dives to make a catch against Peoria.

Nazareth’s James Penley (11) dives to make a catch against Peoria.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

“He was in my dreams,” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said. “You talk about an old-school running back with power, speed, tenacity that gets stronger as the game goes on. That young man is a complete running back. Hands down the best running back we have seen all year and maybe for me in a few years. He’s very special.”

Nazareth is the first team to win a state title after starting the season 2-4. And the Roadrunners did it with an exceptionally young team. Just eight seniors started, and 10 starters were freshmen or sophomores.

It’s the fourth state championship for Nazareth, which won Class 6A in 2014, 5A in 2015 and 7A in 2018. Racki also won four state titles at Driscoll.

The Latest
‘‘That was a rough one,” said Flexen, who had posted a 3.00 ERA over his last three starts. “I thought my stuff was terrible. Terrible execution, especially in big moments. That’s one I’ll try to flush.”
“You get an MVP one night and an All-Star the next night,” Mystics coach Eric Thibault said. “Especially at the position that Angel and Aliyah are playing, you don’t get many breaks.”
The Sky’s three-game losing streak, a symptom of another bad start, begs the question: is a change to the starting lineup needed?
‘‘It means the world,’’ said Kuhl, who nearly a year ago was designated for assignment by the Nationals after a rough outing.