2018 Football Champions: The Revenge Tour


The Year

Fallon passes during the semifinal win against the undefeated Lincoln Way East.

Brady Reichert, Sports Editor

It was a year like no other for Loyola’s Football team. With their backs up against the wall since week seven of the season, the team had to reach deep to their core and rally. They responded by winning seven straight games including beating the undefeated Lincoln Way East, who defeated them in the finals last year.

The epic win against Brother Rice, who beat the Ramblers 35-3 early in the season, brought home their second state championship trophy in four years. It was a story of unique dedication and perseverance. Highly favored in the playoffs over the last few years, the Ramblers entered the post season seeded 19th and played as underdogs throughout the playoffs.

Coach Holecek pronounced the season as “one of the most special seasons of my life and I’ve been in football since I was 7 years old.”  That’s a big claim for a man who starred at Illinois and played a successful career in the NFL.

His observation was well founded as the Ramblers fought adversity throughout the season with injury and early defeat. The team fought back and after the seventh game, they turned the corner and began their quest for another championship.

Their strength for their championship run was in part due to incredible defense, notably inspired by Co-Captain Joe Naselli who came back after an injury last year that forced him to watch from the sidelines as Loyola came up short against Lincoln Way in the finals. Joe’s determination and grit spread across the defensive line this year as Loyola silenced its skeptics, beating Lincoln Way in the semifinals, followed by Brother Rice in the final.

The defense was not alone however. Superior play from both sides of the ball brought the team back to the podium to bring home another trophy.

With a season as memorable as this, the highlights of the championship game, with the season on the line, will not be forgotten. We will always remember Jack Eastman’s jarring tackle that sacked the Crusaders’ quarterback John Bean and forced a fumble, only to be recovered by lineman Luke Desherow and returned to Brother Rice’s 35-yard line. The play set up Jack Fallon’s pitch to Michael Gavric for Loyola’s sole touchdown.

A few plays later, Michael Byrne picked off Bean’s pass and ran it back 41 yards to the Brother Rice 9-yard line. The Ramblers had to settle for a 3-point play as Van Zelst put up a 24-yard field goal to put the Ramblers up 10-0 with 31 seconds left in the half.

The Crusaders crawled back with a field goal in the in the third quarter after blocking Justin Jefferson’s punt and driving to the 20-yard line. The Ramblers fought back and with a lengthy and time-consuming drive, and they put up another field goal from the 37-yard line to cement the win with 5 minutes left in the game.

Perhaps Brother Rice Coach Brad Bake summed the post season up best when he exclaimed “we had our opportunities, but we didn’t execute the we way we have all season. They got hot in the playoffs and that’s what happens.”