Scouting Loyola football's Class 8A semifinal
Four teams remain in each of the eight classes of the Illinois High School Association football playoffs.
A berth in the state championship games in DeKalb over Nov. 26-27 awaits the winners of this weekend's semifinals.
Loyola Academy, the No. 1 seed in Class 8A, seeks its ninth title-game appearance. It would be Loyola's fifth in six seasons, not counting the shortened season last spring when the Ramblers went 6-0.
Following is a quick look at how Loyola did last week, and what this week's opponent, Lockport, offers.
No. 4 Lockport (11-1) at No. 1 Loyola Academy (12-0)
Time: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Sneak peek: The sole common opponent between Loyola and Lockport may indicate a close, low-scoring contest. Lockport's sole loss came in Week 8 of the regular season, 12-10 to Lincoln-Way East in Southwest Suburban Blue Conference play. Last week in Wilmette, Loyola beat No. 9 seed Lincoln-Way East 3-0 on Mike Baker's 32-yard field goal with 9 seconds left before halftime. It was the first time Loyola had been held below 21 points.
While each team punted just 4 times, Loyola held Lincoln-Way East to 62 yards of offense, did not allow either a third- or fourth-down conversion in 11 attempts and sacked the Griffins 7 times, twice by linebacker Sam Rushin. Linebacker James Kreutz, just named to the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 8A All-State Team, again led the Ramblers with 9 tackles.
Lockport, which won consecutive 8A titles in 2002-03, likewise survived a close yet higher-scoring quarterfinal on the road at Glenbard North, beating the Panthers 28-22. Running back Tyler Schultz carried the ball 26 times for 175 yards and 4 touchdowns, from 10, 1, 63 and 4 yards. Porters 6-foot-7, 235-pound all-state quarterback Hayden Timosciek completed 8 of 13 passes for 97 yards. Active two-way player Ethan Gallagher recovered a fumble and had an interception for Lockport, which gave up 252 passing yards against Glenbard North. Lockport allowed Glenbard North to rally from a 28-14 deficit with 9:25 left to play.
Loyola coach John Holocek called Lockport's disruptive defensive line, anchored by all-state tackle Andrew Blackburn-Forst, "the best in the state." The Porters obviously need to remain disruptive against Loyola, which continues to excel without top back Marco Maldonado, out with an injury sustained in the fourth week of the season. Plugging away since then, against Lincoln-Way East Mike Regan captured the team lead in rushing yardage, with 610 yards. Kreutz, last week's leading ball-carrier, comes in near the goal line to slam the ball in for 5 touchdowns, tying honorable-mention all-state quarterback Jake Stearney in that category.
The Ramblers' junior quarterback has completed 170 of 296 passes (57%) for 1,996 yards, 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Against Lincoln-Way East he targeted six different receivers including Danny Collins, who leads Loyola with 50 receptions for 579 yards and 6 touchdowns.
If it again comes down to a field goal, Baker is 10 for 10 with a long distance of 41 yards.
Advancement: The winner moves to the Class 8A state championship, 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at Northern Illinois University's Huskie Stadium. It'll face the winner between No. 6 Maine South (11-1) at No. 18 Marist (9-3).