WILMETTE, Ill. -- A year ago when the dust settled in the Chicago Catholic League Blue, three teams walked away from the pile claiming a share of the conference championship.
On Saturday, Loyola made sure that this season there would be only one. The No. 4 Ramblers defeated visiting No. 5 St. Rita 34-7 to complete an undefeated regular season and capture the Chicago Catholic League Blue title.
It was Loyola’s first outright Catholic League division title since 1993. The divisions were divided between North and South back then, and Loyola won the North title and Mount Carmel took the South one.
“It’s a lot more special than last [year]” said Loyola senior quarterback Malcolm Weaver, who was referring to sharing last season’s title with Mount Carmel and St. Rita. “It’s really special coming out here senior year. We always knew we were going to be good [as seniors]. Coming out 9-0, winning the championship ... ooh, that’s really good.”
Weaver played a part in the victory, but it was the defense’s day.
Loyola (9-0, 5-0) never allowed St. Rita’s offense to get going. The Ramblers picked off three passes and returned two for scores. They only allowed one touchdown, forced six punts and stopped St. Rita on three fourth-down attempts.
Loyola senior defensive lineman Michael Scott set the tone for the day on the game’s sixth play. Scott got in front of a screen-pass attempt by St. Rita quarterback Scott Thomas, intercepted the ball and raced to the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown.
The scoreboard may have only read 7-0 following Scott’s score, but both teams felt afterward that the play changed the game.
“I think the early pick kind of sends little shockwaves,” said St. Rita coach Todd Kuska, whose team fell to 7-2 overall and 4-1 in conference.
Loyola coach John Holecek echoed that.
“Knowing they were going to screen us and picking one off for a touchdown, obviously it’s a psychological advantage for us and really a disadvantage [to them] because their screen game is a big part of it,” Holecek said. “So yeah, that’s a big jump right there. That’s a big confidence-builder for us.”
For Scott, it was the second interception he returned for a touchdown this season. He also had a pick-six against Fenwick. It’s a sight his teammates especially enjoy for a couple reasons.
“It’s funny to watch, but it’s a great feeling to watch him do that,” Weaver said. “If you know Michael Scott, you just know who he is, he’s a really funny, a real goofy guy. To watch him take that back to the house, it’s fun, it’s nice. It’s a good memory.”
Loyola’s offense accounted for the game’s next two touchdowns. Marquese Martin-Hayes scored on a 9-yard run with 1:01 left in the first quarter, and Ryan Ribordy put the Ramblers ahead 21-0 with 7:19 remaining in the second quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run.
The game was out of reach for St. Rita the rest of the way.
Loyola added two more scores on Luke Ford's 55-yard interception return for a touchdown and Richard Wehman's 70-yard punt-return touchdown.
Scott felt it was true team win.
“It’s just a great thing to do,” Scott said. “Our defense has to always step it up for our offense, and our offense has to step it up from defense. It’s a team effort all around.”
St. Rita’s lone touchdown came on a 3-yard run by Mike Zunica in the second quarter.