Shorthanded running game helps Ramblers conquer Wind, Edwardsville to advance to Quarterfinals 8A

The 575-mile round-trip bus ride to Edwardsville proved to be a fun ride for the Loyola Academy football team.

The sixth-seeded Ramblers hit the 22nd-seeded home side with their best shots in the first half when they scored 35 unanswered points and then effectively won the second-round Class 8A playoff game of IHSA 49-21 on Saturday, November 5.

In their quarter-final match on Saturday November 12, the Ramblers (10-1) will play at the friendly Hoerster Field when they take on 14th seeded Lyons Township (9-2) – time yet to be determined . Lyons advanced on November 4 overcoming a 10-point halftime deficit to knock out unbeaten and third-seeded Plainfield North, 24-13.

The Ramblers had played in Edwardsville twice before and both times were a struggle. In a Class 8A semi-final in 2017 they came home with a 17-10 triumph and in the second game of the regular season in 2014 they had to go to overtime to claim a 29 win. -28 at Hoerster Field.

This time it was a whole different story.

“I think they’re the best team we’ve faced all year,” Edwardsville coach Matt Martin (7-4) told, and the Ramblers made his fears of pregame a reality.

Edwardsville kicked off and on the first play scrimmage quarterback Jake Stearney ran 74 yards to put the Ramblers on the Tigers 7-yard line.

“Jake’s first game definitely set the tone,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “It gave us momentum.”

For the first time, Holecek used his star senior safety Johnny McGuire on offense, employing him as running back in the Wildcat formation from short range. After Stearney’s long run, it took two plays for McGuire to reach the end zone. He gained 4 yards on his first run and then scored the touchdown.

“I really enjoyed it,” McGuire said of her new role. “It was very fun.”

Holecek had to improvise because he was less of a starter Will Nimesheim and his replacement, Drew MacPherson, running backs who had made up 53.5 percent of the team’s rushing distance in the previous 10 games. Nimesheim suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first-round rout of Naperville South, and MacPherson is out for the year with a broken ankle he suffered in the September 30 win at Marist.

Nonetheless, the Ramblers’ running game was a big factor in Edwardsville as second Luke Foster and seniors Ryan Craddock and Peter Hogan worked with Stearney and McGuire to fill the void.

Foster scored first-half touchdowns on 30-yard, 12-yard, and 1-yard runs, respectively. The Ramblers’ other first-half score came on a 3-yard pass from Stearney to senior Declan Forde.

“Lots of good races,” said Holecek. “Our offensive line played extremely well and we had a great game plan to get some of the best things out of their best player (on defense). We didn’t overshoot much due to the wind (which was blowing at speeds of up to 35 mph) but we were efficient when we did.

“The wind was definitely a factor. They have an explosive passing game and their quarterback (Jake Curry) hasn’t been accurate. He had a tough day.

“He was missing his receivers in the middle and our D line was putting a lot of pressure on him,” McGuire added. “I don’t remember playing in a game where the winds were that strong.”

The Tigers didn’t enter the scoreboard until just under three minutes into the third quarter when Kellen Brnfee scored on a 1-yard pass from Curry.

But 2 minutes 41 seconds later, Craddock responded with a 48-yard touchdown run and the third quarter ended with Loyola commanding a 42-7 lead.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Jordan Bush’s 31-yard run gave Edwardsville its second touchdown.

Second quarterback Luke Collins and wide receiver Corey Larson collaborated on a 16-yard touchdown pass and Michael Baker threw his seventh extra point to restore the Ramblers’ 35-point lead and catch Joey Demare a Curry’s 8-yard pass in the final 19 seconds was an exercise in futility.

Stay tuned to The Record as more information is added to this recap.

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