Loyola’s hopes for a second consecutive trip to the state finals were dashed Saturday in Wilmette. Glenbard North held off a furious late fourth quarter rally by the Ramblers to beat Loyola 27-24.
“I am really proud of our boys,” Loyola coach John Holocek said. “We made some mistakes early and fell behind. But the boys never quit up until the end.”
Loyola (11-2), which was making its fourth consecutive trip to the semifinals, had a punt blocked early to set up the first of four Justin Jackson touchdowns for the Panthers.
The Ramblers fell behind 14-0 when Jackson hauled in a 19-yard touchdown pass from Brian Murphy late in the first half. Loyola then began to find its offensive legs, driving down to the Glenbard North 8-yard line. The Ramblers’ Mike Kurzydlowski then nailed a 25-yard field goal with five seconds left in the half cut the margin to 14-3.
After a key defensive stop led by Cody Sullivan, Luke Ford, John Rushin, Ryan Seymour, Darby Goodwin and Charlie Pontarelli stop to begin the third quarter, Loyola quarterback Peter Pujals got the Ramblers continued where he left off to end the first half. Pujals had Loyola drive 60 yards in three plays with Pujals connecting with Richie Wehman III on a 12-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-10 with 9:49 left in the third quarter.
But Jackson began to grind the Ramblers down. The junior, who carried 29 times for 166 yards in the second half to finish with 45 carries for 228 yards, had touchdown runs of 12 and 60 yards as the Panthers (12-1) built their lead to 27-10.
“He is a super back Holocek said. “Their offensive line played well and we didn’t have our best tackling. I think it wore us a down a bit”
With just under 5 minutes to play, Loyola and Pujals began to mount a furious rally. Pujals drove the Ramblers 74 yards in 11 plays, finishing with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Ford to make it 27-17 with 3:09 to play.
After a failed onside kick, Loyola came up with another defensive stop. Austin Lyons then blocked a Glenbard North punt and after a penalty, Loyola had the ball at its own 42 with 1:34 to play.
Pujals then drove Loyola down the field in just 45 seconds, connecting again with Ford from 8 yards out to make it 27-24 with 49 seconds to play.
Loyola had an opportunity at the ensuing onside kick, but the ball squirted into the hands of a Glenbard North player to end the Ramblers’ hopes.
“We talked about not quitting,” said Pujals, who finished 25-of 42 for 269 yards and three touchdowns.
“You never know what can happen. This is a great group of guys and we really came together this year.”
“We feel that we are never out of the game,” Holocek said. “Three scores is a lot to ask in five minutes. The belief is always there and the toughness is always there. The execution wasn’t there today.”
The loss ended another great season for the Ramblers which featured a trip to Ireland to play a team from Texas, a thrilling victory over rival Mt. Carmel and a Catholic League Blue title.
“Our goal was to improve every week,” Sullivan said. “I honestly think we got better every week. We got tougher every week and better at our assignments every week. I love these guys and I will miss playing with them.”
“This was the best time of my life,” Ford said. “The best time of my life.”
Holcek said that this group of seniors was special.
“They start off 1-3 in the Catholic League as freshmen, so there wasn’t that much expectation at first. They just showed their resilience and had just an unbelievable regular season this year. To do what they did is special. I am very proud of them.”
Glenbard North 27, Loyola 241 2 3 4 T Glenbard North 7 7 13 0 27 Loyola 0 3 7 14 20
GBN: Jackson, 3-yard run (Ortiz kick)
GBN: Jackson, 19-yard pass from Murphy (Ortiz kick)
Loy: Kurzydlowski, 25-yard field goal
Loy: Wehman III, 12-yard pass from Pujals (Kurzydlowski kick)
GBN: Jackson, 12-yard run (Ortiz kick)
GBN: Jackson, 60-yard run (kick failed)
Loy: Ford, 7-yard touchdown pass from Pujals (Kurzydlowski kick)
Loy: Ford, 8-yard pass from Pujals (Kurzydlowski kick)