There were no moral victories for after the Ramblers’ 21-17 loss to Bolingbrook in the IHSA Class 8A state title game on Saturday. It didn’t matter to them in that moment that they had won the Chicago Catholic Blue Conference, set a school record for wins in a season and had advanced to the state championship for the first time since 1993.
In the end, a combination of rainy weather and an abnormal amount of mistakes was too much for the Ramblers to overcome. Bolingbrook’s defense held Loyola’s offense in check for most of the night and the Raiders scored with 5:01 left in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good.
“The weather conditions are not optimal for our team, but I think we came out and battled and I’m proud of our team,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “You have to hand it to Bolingbrook. They are extremely talented and physical. Overall, I’m proud of these guys ... but in the end we made too many mistakes.”
Leading up to Saturday’s game, everything seemed to be falling into place for Loyola. The Ramblers maneuvered their way through the always difficult Chicago Catholic Conference and garnered the No. 1 seed in the 8A class. Then Maine South, who had beaten Loyola in the state semifinals the previous two seasons, fell in the second round to Stevenson, making the Ramblers the favorite to take the 2011 crown.
But the Ramblers faced the best defense they had all season in Bolingbrook. They were held to 182 yards of total offense and their 17 points scored were the second-fewest all season (Loyola beat Mt. Carmel 12-7 in Week 6).
“Fastest defense in the state easily; [Bolingbrook] made a lot of big plays,” Loyola senior quarterback Malcolm Weaver said.
Over the last three seasons, Loyola has proven that it can reload rather than rebuild. They’ll have to do it again in 2012 as seniors including RB Willy Palivos, WR Charlie Dowdle, DL Eric Hauser and WR Marquese Martin-Hayes will have graduated.
The biggest change will come at the quarterback position, where Weaver has been locked in for the past two years.
“His record is 24-3 the last two years so I’m very impressed with him,” Holecek said of Weaver. “Great mobility, great touch. I just wish it was a little quieter out there for him [Saturday].”
Waiting in the wings is junior Peter Pujals, who primarily played receiver for the Ramblers in 2011. Holecek believes Pujals can be a legitimate college quarterback prospect and Pujals will get his chance to prove himself at the high-school level next season.
“It was a great year, we all had a really good year,” Weaver said. “But we couldn’t come out and finish the game so we just have to learn how to finish.”