Bishop McNamara junior running back Jonathan Ward put IC Catholic Prep in a big hole. Tough defense made sure the Knights stayed there.
Ward ran for 68- and 39-yard touchdowns on his second and third carries and added a 1-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, setting the stage for Bishop McNamara's 41-0 nonconference season-opening win over IC Catholic on Saturday at Lewis Stadium in Elmhurst. Montini dealt the Knights' last shutout loss, 49-0 on Sept. 29, 2012.
"That one's not on my team, that one's on me," said IC Catholic coach Bill Krefft. "The team played well, we weren't prepared well enough to beat them."
Ward finished with 191 yards on 19 carries before cramps sidelined him early in the third quarter.
"I thought they did a really nice job, the offensive line," said 40-year Bishop McNamara coach Rich Zinanni. "And Jonathan Ward is a special back, I'm telling you. He breaks tackles, he's fast, he makes you miss, and get him in the open field and that's what he can do."
Cramps or lower leg injuries also leveled IC Catholic's top two skilled players, Rhashaun Epting and Jordan Rowell. Rowell didn't play the entire second half while Epting caught 5 passes for 52 yards before sitting midway in the third quarter.
After Ward's first-quarter magic the teams settled into a stalemate, though the Fighting Irish held IC to an even 0 yards rushing through halftime, leading 21-0.
McNamara's offensive line wasn't huge across the board, but bookended at tackle by 285-pound Tanner Gross and 315-pound Trevor Rapp.
"We kind of anticipated the size was going to be in their favor and that we were going to be able to move our feet and be more athletic than they were," Krefft said. "But credit to them again, they were bigger and stronger and physical and then they moved their feet well, too."
IC quarterback Connor Youngman passed for 107 yards in his Knights debut, Max Eichhorn gave as good as he got at running back and linebacker, and the Knights got a Patrick Guinan interception and fumble recoveries by linebacker Anthony Silva and lineman Sam Lytton.
Still the writing was on the wall in a key third-quarter sequence. Bishop McNamara scored on a 67-yard touchdown pass to Chris Bell from Brent Hakeman, then recovered a fumble on IC's next play from scrimmage. Jerrico Johnson, who himself ran for 129 yards, bulled in from 5 yards to make the score 34-0 with 4:37 left in the third quarter.
One game does not make a season.
"I think we just need to get more practice in, keep working as a team, I think we'll be all right," said Knights three-year starting lineman Stephen Stam.
"I think it's just one game. We came out a little slow, but I think we'll pick it up."