Loyola earns dominant win over St. Rita

Loyola quarterback Jake Stearney said the Ramblers took what St. Rita's defense gave them.

It was a lot.

The Associated Press' No. 1-ranked Class 7A football team compiled 466 yards of offense to No. 4 St. Rita's 69 yards on Saturday, and won the Chicago Catholic League crossover 37-7 at Hoerster Field in Wilmette.

"We set up the run, we set up the short pass game and that opened up the deeper routes, so that was our game plan going in," said Stearney, who completed 20 of 27 passes for 305 yards and 2 touchdowns. Seven different Ramblers receivers caught passes.

"We just took what was given. We executed really nicely," Stearney said.

After linebacker James Kreutz and the Loyola defense forced the first of 10 punts by St. Rita's Conor Talty to start the game, the Ramblers needed just 43 seconds to get on the board. Passes to Danny Collins and Jack Fitzgerald set up Marco Maldonado's 10-yard touchdown run over a lickety-split 55 yards. Mike Baker added the kick for a 7-0 lead at 9:22 of the first quarter.

Loyola (3-0) led 10-0 on Baker's 24-yard field goal late in the first quarter, when St. Rita (1-2) caught a spark.

The Mustangs' Matt Kingsbury recovered a Loyola fumble at the Ramblers' own 26-yard line. The next play St. Rita halfback Kyle Clayton took a pitch, jogged left and lofted a left-handed pass to B.J. Hall for a touchdown. Busy kicker Talty, who averaged 39 yards a punt with one at 60 yards, pulled St. Rita within 10-7 at 9:58 of the second quarter.

Loyola then ran off 27 unanswered points, the next two touchdowns backbreakers for St. Rita.

Capping a 67-yard drive in which Stearney completed 5 of 6 passes for 55 yards, Maldonado's 3-yard touchdown run with 14 seconds left before halftime gave Loyola a 16-7 lead.

On the first play from scrimmage to start the second half, the junior quarterback hit Collins in stride on a post pattern that went 80 yards for a touchdown. Baker made it 23-7 at 11:48 of the third quarter.

"We couldn't get anything going offensively so we gave them the ball right back to them at the end of the first half, and that late score kind of took the wind out of our sails a little bit," said St. Rita coach Todd Kuska.

"You think you do some (adjustments) at halftime, then you get hit by an 80-yard touchdown to start the half and it just sucks the wind out of you again."

Loyola added fourth-quarter touchdowns on Maldonado's 24-yard catch and Jared Otarola's 9-yard run.

Collins caught 9 passes for 155 yards.

"We expected them to hit and they did hit. We just stayed with our game, knew what we were doing, listened to our coaches, trusted them and we just went out and put up 37 points, which was awesome," Collins said.

Loyola has outscored its first three opponents 135-28. Kreutz, Brooks Bahr, Sam Rushing and the Ramblers' defense held St. Rita to 21 net rushing yards and 7 first downs despite the Mustangs starting an offensive line that averaged 6-foot-4, 281 pounds.

Loyola coach John Holecek liked Stearney's game, including 44 yards rushing.

"Poised in the pocket, he's got some great scrambles, he's got speed when he takes it," the coach said. "That's what we've seen and we know all about. He's a Division I quarterback, and we have him for two years. He's going to keep getting better."

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