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By Kevin Schmit
Loyola (12-1) at Naperville Central (10-3)
Game time: 7 p.m. Saturday at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
Scouting Loyola: In the playoffs for the 24th time, including 11 straight appearances, the Ramblers are playing in a state championship game for the fourth time. Loyola won the Class 6A title in 1993 and was state runner-up in 1992 and 2011. Co-champions of the Chicago Catholic Blue Conference, the Ramblers suffered their lone loss in the regular-season finale against St. Rita.
Scouting Naperville Central: The Redhawks, who did not make the playoffs last season, are in the postseason for the 27th time. This is the fourth state final appearance for Naperville Central, which claimed the 1999 Class 6A title and finished second in 1995 and 2001. The Redhawks tied for fourth in the DuPage Valley Conference after losing three straight games late in the regular season. They've rebounded to win five straight.
Road to the championship: Loyola, a No. 1 seed, beat No. 16 Lane 48-7, No. 9 Notre Dame 24-0, No. 5 Maine South 35-0 and No. 6 Stevenson 15-14. Naperville Central, a No. 7 seed, beat No. 10 Downers Grove South 36-0, No. 2 Homewood-Flossmoor 24-21, No. 3 Neuqua Valley 47-18 and No. 8 Marist 27-21.
Coaches: Loyola coach John Holecek is in his eighth year coaching the Ramblers. He has a record of 85-20 including a state runner-up finish in 2011. Naperville Central coach Mike Stine is also in his eighth year coaching the Redhawks. His overall record is 55-32.
Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Jack Penn 5-11 180 Sr. QB Jake Kolbe 6-3 200 Sr.
Julius Holley 6-0 205 Sr. RB Kevin Clifford 5-7 180 Jr.
Joe Dixon 6-3 225 Sr. TE Matt Alber 5-10 210 Sr.
Matthew Kubon 6-0 230 Sr. OL Brendon Daley 6-3 225 Sr.
Michael Carlin 5-11 240 Jr. OL Luke Daley 6-2 230 Sr.
Matt Maher 6-0 230 Sr. OL Dom Ventrella 6-2 280 Sr.
Milan Urukalo 6-4 265 Sr. OL Jacob Angona 6-3 275 Sr.
Jack Moroni 6-3 265 Sr. OL Ryan Minick 6-4 270 Sr.
Joe Joyce 5-11 180 Sr. WR/FB Nolan Davis 6-0 220 Sr.
Owen Buscaglia 6-2 175 Jr. WR Ben Andreas 5-10 175 Sr.
Fran O'Malley 6-0 180 Sr. WR Michael Kolzow 6-2 175 Jr.
Mike Kurzydlowski 5-9 145 Jr. K Connor Assalley 5-9 145 So.
Loyola Naperville Central
Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Charlie Ponterelli 6-3 250 Sr. DL Nick Thomas 6-1 210 Sr.
Thomas Dreher 6-2 215 Jr. DL Nick Stella 6-1 225 Sr.
John Kecki 6-2 220 Sr. DL Nathan Teske 6-0 240 Sr.
Brian O'Brien 6-0 215 Jr. LB/DL Joe Schweikart 6-2 195 Jr.
Tim Sullivan 6-3 215 Sr. LB Daniel Delgrosso 6-0 185 Jr.
Andrew Cerney 6-0 210 Sr. LB Bobby McMillen 6-2 220 Jr.
Austin Lyons 6-3 215 Sr. LB Jack Wooldridge 6-2 195 Sr.
Jack Gleason 5-11 185 Sr. DB Jon Lubanza 6-1 175 Sr.
Mark Dowdle 6-2 175 Jr. DB Dan Dolehide 6-0 190 Sr.
Ryan Zinkula 6-1 185 Jr. DB Dillon Grooss 5-11 155 Sr.
Calvin Falkenhayn 6-2 220 Jr. DB Michael Kolzow 6-2 175 Jr.
Bobby Reedy 5-9 160 Sr. P Ben Andreas 5-10 175 Sr.
When Loyola has the ball: Led by quarterback Jack Penn, the Ramblers are amazingly diverse on offense. Multiple formations allow them to distribute the ball to multiple athletes in multiple ways. Penn is a dual threat to run or pass, having rushed for 551 yards and thrown for 1,982 while completing 60 percent of his passes. Penn can read a defense with the best of them, and he's not shy about taking off when a play breaks down. Julius Holley, however, stands as Loyola's main rushing threat out of a one-back shotgun scheme. He's grinded out 870 yards and 9 touchdowns while Donnel Haley's added 6 rushing touchdowns. The Redhawks have a lot to keep track of defending the pass. Owen Buscaglia leads the Ramblers with 57 catches for 662 yards but Joe Joyce is right behind with 55 catches for 554 yards. Fran O'Malley has added 36 catches and 443 receiving yards as the trio combines for 22 touchdowns. Naperville Central begins its pass defense up front with the Nate Teske-led line. Jack Wooldridge, the DuPage Valley Conference's defensive player of the year, leads a young linebacking corps that features junior standout Bobby McMillen. Jon Lubanza, Dan Dolehide, Dillon Grooss and Michael Kolzow have made teams think twice about passing the ball in a secondary that becomes even tougher when Ben Andreas is added to the mix.
When Naperville Central has the ball: With Illinois State-bound quarterback Jake Kolbe at the helm, the Redhawks have the ability to strike defenses at all angles. The run game came along slowly in last week's win over Marist, but tailback Kevin Clifford and hard-driving fullback Nolan Davis finally found room to run in the second half. With most of his yards coming in the playoffs, Clifford leads the team with 739 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Kolbe's a load to bring down when he takes off. He's added 591 yards and 11 touchdowns. Although run sparingly, Andreas is the speed demon out of the backfield. The passing game is particularly dynamic. Andreas leads the team with 63 catches for 842 yards but Kolzow had a huge game last week and has 57 catches for 686 yards and a team-high 9 touchdowns. Sophomore Manny Rugamba's impact has grown leaps and bounds since the start of the season. The Redhawks need contributions from everyone because Loyola's defense may be the state's toughest. It's not quite a no-name group but it's across-the-board stout. The linebackers are pretty much clones at about 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds. If the Redhawks struggled to run against Marist, they'll really be challenged to match up with the Ramblers' front seven. Loyola boasts a pair of playoff shutouts and has allowed only 21 points the last four weeks.
Intangibles: You won't find two more highly regarded football conferences than the DuPage Valley and the Chicago Catholic Blue. Whenever these leagues meet, it's an automatic must-see. This is the seventh CCL-DVC title-game meeting, with each side winning three times. Mt. Carmel's been involved in five of the meetings while Naperville Central is the fourth DVC team to play the CCL. Turnovers typically glare in title games, and that's something that could play in Naperville Central's favor. The Redhawks are a plus-22 in turnovers including a stunning 8 of their 19 interceptions the last two weeks. It's an advantage that's increased immensely since the midseason decision to play Kolzow on both sides of the ball. Loyola, meanwhile, is a plus-7.
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