Slippery Huntley quarterback Eric Mooney seems like he wears a Teflon uniform the way tacklers normally slide off him, but Loyola Academy defenders made their hits stick in Saturday's 24-0 playoff road win.
The usually hard-to-bring-down junior absorbed 10 sacks by eight different Ramblers and No. 24 Huntley turned the ball over three times in a quarterfinal loss to the top seed in Class 8A.
"They had guys who were making plays," Huntley first-year coach Matt Zimolzak said. "We did what we could against a very tough defense. Give credit to where it's due. Loyola is a great team and they've got a lot of great players."
Defending 8A champion Loyola (12-0) advances to face reigning Class 7A champion Glenbard West (10-2) in a semifinal next week in Glen Ellyn after holding Mooney to negative 19 yards rushing in 20 attempts, including negative 60 yards on sacks. Mooney entered the game averaging 103 rushing yards.
"Our coverage was really good," Loyola coach John Holecek said. "When the quarterback has to hold the ball, that means we're doing something really, really good in the back end. I'd like to see it on tape, but we've got some athletes and we mixed up some blitzes and different looks. We just had some desire it looked like."
Loyola gained 414 yards to Huntley's 191 despite using its fourth-string quarterback for almost three quarters. With the Rambers leading 7-0 after a Jake Marwede 4-yard touchdown run and driving for another score, starting quarterback Tom Herion was hit at the 5-yard line on a draw play and fumbled the ball away. He left with concussion symptoms, according to Holecek, and did not return.
With backup quarterback Quinn Boyle sidelined due to mononucleosis, Loyola tried versatile Duke-bound senior tight end Jake Marwede at quarterback for a series. He played the position as a freshman and sophomore and lines up at quarterback in wildcat formations.
The plan worked initially as Marwede drove the Ramblers 62 yards in 10 plays. However, he was intercepted at the goal line by Huntley's Tyler Koss. Holecek elected to go with junior Andrew Forsyth thereafter. Forsyth completed 7 of 12 attempts for 57 yards.
Loyola running back Kyle Rock took the pressure off all three quarterbacks with a big outing. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior rushed for 203 yards on 18 carries.
Rock's first touchdown, a 6-yard, second-quarter rush, came 7 plays after a Huntley fumble at its own 29-yard line. Patrick Kramer's extra point staked Loyola to a 14-0 lead with 5:17 left in the half.
The Rambers extended their 14-point halftime lead on the first play of the third quarter when Rock burst through a crowd of tacklers for a 75-yard touchdown run, set free by his stiff-arm of a Huntley defensive back 30 yards downfield.
"My coach actually preaches that every week we do a stiff-arm drill, working on the official Heisman pose," Rock said.
The Ramblers all but salted the game away later in the third quarter by driving 68 yards in 14 plays for a 33-yard Kramer field goal. That march was fueled by a 19-yard pass from Forsyth to senior Jack Martinus on third-and-9 and a 17-yard burst by senior running back Tomas Henning.
Though Mooney was able to complete 16 of 24 attempts for 197 yards, the Red Raiders were shut out for the first time in 73 games dating back to 2009.
"The defense did what they needed to do," Mooney said. "We knew coming into the game that we needed to score, put up points. But we got shut out and it starts with me."
Mooney was sacked twice on Huntley's final drive, once by Loyola outside linebacker Anthony Rodriguez, who notched 2 sacks on the day.
"Through practice and with the scout guys helping us out, we were able to find out what we needed to fix in order to stop (Mooney)," Rodriguez said. "That was evident late and we did what we had to do."
Afterward, Zimolzak told his players he was proud of the way they rallied from a 3-3 record to reach a state quarterfinal for the second time in school history.
"Guys like we have, they counted on each other," Zimolzak said. "They helped each other. They encouraged each other. The next guy in was ready to play when it came time. Just the confidence that each player had in each other was enormous. I think that's what we grew into as a team."