Nazareth shows a sense of urgency against Montini
After playing a mostly Class 7A schedule over its first six games, Tim Racki's Class 5A Nazareth football team needed wins Friday night against Montini and next week at Benet to become playoff eligible.
Nazareth showed that sense of urgency behind three touchdowns from Justin Taylor in a 42-7 rout of Montini in Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference play.
The Roadrunners (4-4, 1-2 CCL/ESCC) never left a doubt after back-to-back touchdown drives of 13 plays and 15 plays, respectively, to begin Friday night's affair.
"I think when you play the schedule and competition that we have played this season, it shows up in games like tonight," Racki said. "You can't waver or lose confidence in what we're trying to accomplish here. I think we've tried to take a step back from having all this pressure or being in the shadow of 'we have to do this or that.' I think we've just tried, including me, to just have more fun because this is a game we play to have fun."
The Wisconsin commit Taylor capped off each of those first two drives with touchdowns -- one on the ground of 1 yard and the other through the air, a 5-yard catch.
While Taylor and fellow senior Zach Hayes have been through a similar situation of needing to finish a season with wins to make the playoffs for the perennial postseason contending program, they have discussed taking a mindset away from that success but also understanding a new year and new team.
"We have to have that same mindset of coming in hungry," said Taylor, who finished with 64 total yards. "I think you get to a point now where you count the practice days you may have left with your brothers. That provides all the motivation you need, knowing that your days could be numbered together. I think we came out swinging tonight and it showed."
"The urgency is there and we preach it every day," said Hayes, who had one of Nazareth's three interceptions on the night. "We don't want to go home, and that starts with not just every game, but every single play each night and each day at practice."
While Nazareth's offense leaned on Taylor and running back Alex Angulo, the Roadrunners defense continued their stellar season with four take-aways, including a 60-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Al Reese.
That defensive effort continues to take pressure off quarterback Logan Malachuk and the Roadrunners offense with a literal win-or-go-home contest at Benet next Friday.
"They're awesome and they have been all season," Malachuk said of his team's defense. "The mindset and energy that they come out with every night, it's really been awesome ... We know what next week means, we have the same mentality as this week and we're coming to win."
Brady Gorman had the other Nazareth interception and also recovered a fumble in the victory, while Malachuk finished the night 16-of-23 passing for 176 yards and a rushing score of his own.
Montini's lone score came from on a pass from Cole Teschner to Mingo Nixon in the third quarter. The Broncos (3-5, 1-3) were limited to just 66 yards via their passing attack. Alex Marre paced the Montini rushing attack.
"Each team we've had here at Nazareth is different," Racki said. "Just because there have been state championships in the past doesn't guarantee anything for each team in the future. I've told this group that. Now it's time for this group to leave their mark."