St. Francis can't stay with Love, Nazareth

Updated 11/23/2014 2:13 AM

Love may not have been in the air during Saturday's penalty-plagued Class 6A semifinal between St. Francis and Nazareth, but Love certainly found the end zone.

Nazareth's Julian Love scored on 29- and 27-yard catches, a 22-yard interception return and a 93-yard kickoff return as No. 1 seed Nazareth ended No. 6 St. Francis' magical season 56-28 in LaGrange Park.


Leading 28-0 after one quarter and a running clock-worthy 56-14 margin at 6:23 of the third, Nazareth moved to the Class 6A title game against Lemont, a 32-25 winner over Peoria Notre Dame. Roadrunners coach Tim Racki will revisit Champaign for the first time since he led Driscoll to a fourth straight title in 2004.

"At Driscoll it was an incredible, euphoric feeling," Racki said. "At my age now (46) I wanted these kids and these coaches that haven't felt that to go down there, just to experience it. I want it for them, not for me. I've been blessed enough."

Nazareth (13-0) is blessed with Division I recruits such as Love and four of five offensive linemen who on Saturday enabled quarterback Jonah Beauduy to complete 8 of 12 passes for 179 yards, 4 touchdowns.

"They're a great team," said Spartans linebacker and tight end Nate Zito, who caught 5 passes for 112 yards. "Their line was huge and amazing. Everything about their team was great."

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They brought it all, right away. Nazareth's Michael Hillsman kicked touchbacks on 4 of his first 5 kickoffs and a defense geared to stop the run did that. St. Francis (10-3) didn't pass its 29-yard line or gain a first down until quarterback Clint Bobowski found Zito on a 54-yard fly four minutes into the second quarter.

St. Francis ran for just 38 yards. Forced to throw early, it got picked off twice. The first led to Love's first touchdown grab, the second he returned for a 21-0 lead.

"Offensive line did great, they did everything they could, the backs did everything we could," said Bobowski, who rallied for 15-of-39 passing for 288 yards. "But (Nazareth's) defense played great and they were where they need to be and they just did a heck of a job."

St. Francis caught fire when Chris Smith caused a fumble Zito recovered. On fourth-and-10 Bobowski hit Jack Ahern on an 11-yard pass, then ran 9 yards -- the Spartans' longest run -- and scored on a 6-yard run to make it 28-7 at 3:51 of the second quarter.


Love took the ensuing kickoff at his 7-yard line, veered right, paused and broke free on a 93-yard touchdown return to erase all that work.

"For a team as talented as St. Francis, we knew that if they get momentum it's not a good thing," Love said. "So I feel like I had to put it on my shoulders to cut that off right from the start."

St. Francis scored again on a 35-yard pass to Michael Shaw, but despite defensive end Quinn Calcagno catching Nazareth's Ivory Kelly-Martin from behind on a 67-yard run, Love's second touchdown catch gave the Roadrunners a 42-14 halftime lead.

Nazareth put it away with two third-quarter scores. Ever-dogged, St. Francis capped its season on Steven Fassnacht's 6-yard touchdown run and Thomas Petrando's 19-yard touchdown catch.

"They had a heck of a run," said Spartans coach Mike Fitzgerald. "We've been so focused each week we really haven't gotten to enjoy what we've accomplished. We can do that now."

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