Lockport ends Loyola's undefeated run in semifinal
The blurred eye black underneath the football helmets of Jake Stearney and his teammates said it all.
He didn't have to, but raw emotions and all, the Loyola Academy quarterback stood up and answered questions.
The NFHS Network national game of the week, No. 4 seed Lockport dealt the top seed in Class 8A its first loss in 19 games including last spring's six-game season, beating Loyola 35-21 in the Nov. 20 semifinal at Hoerster Field in Wilmette.
Lockport (12-1) advanced to Saturday's state championship in DeKalb against No. 6 Maine South, a 35-33 winner over Marist. Loyola ended its season at 12-1.
"We haven't felt what losing's like, and we finally did," said Stearney, an 8A all-state honorable-mention selection as a junior. "But we lost so many guys (to injury) all throughout the year, key components to our team. But I'm proud of all the guys, they stepped up really nicely."
His opposite number, Lockport all-state quarterback Hayden Timosciek, completed 15 of 26 passes for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns. Unofficially that gave the 6-foot-7 senior 2,008 yards passing and 23 touchdowns, though Loyola cornerback Gabe Gyorgy's interception was Timosciek's first of the season.
"It feels great," Timosciek said of advancing to the title game.
"For the last probably 18 years, since about 2003 we really haven't done that much," Timosciek said. "To bring this winning culture back to Lockport just means a lot. To beat a team like Loyola -- all credit's due to them -- is amazing."
Taking advantage of 6-foot-4 receiver Ryan Little's height on the perimeter, and Danny Martisek's athleticism, Timosciek connected with Little for 76 yards and 2 touchdowns, and with Martisek 6 times for 136 yards and another touchdown. Martisek also intercepted 2 passes on defense.
"Their single receiver that they like to go to, we covered him with two (players)," said Loyola coach John Holecek. "But you can't do it all the time because then someone else is open. It's not like they have weaknesses on the other side.
"So, you can take away what they do best, you can try to, but there's times that we doubled him and he's still making plays. What can you do?"
Holecek said senior running back Marco Maldonado, who was injured in the fourth game of the season after running for 598 yards and 12 touchdowns, would have been cleared to come back the next day.
"Once Marco went down we didn't put our heads down, we just kept fighting," said left guard John Michael Telanges. "We became one unit as a line, became one group and then just kept fighting throughout every game, through the close games. We just became one pack, growing every single game."
During the Lockport game running backs Mike Regan and Will Nimesheim succumbed to nagging injuries and the Ramblers lost tight end Jack Fitzgerald to an injury.
Also, Stearney said he sprained the thumb on his right throwing hand when he hit it on a helmet on the third play of the second half. He completed 19 of 34 passes for 177 yards.
"It's not an excuse," Stearney said.
"When things like that happen it just feels like it's not your day," said Holecek, who called Lockport's defensive line of Paul Rasp, Cody Silzer, Andrew Blackburn-Forst and Cole Silzer the best he'd seen this season.
Loyola took a 7-0 lead on its first possession when out of a Wildcat formation James Kreutz sliced 1 yard between right guard Patrick Halleron and right tackle Michael Hough, and Mike Baker added the kick. Lockport immediately answered at 6:47 of the quarter on Martisek's 7-yard touchdown catch and Gabe Czako's kick.
The score was 14-14 at halftime. In another jumbo set Kreutz added a second 1-yard touchdown run, the all-state linebacker following the kick out block of Michael Williams, normally a defensive tackle.
Lockport gained separation when Ty Schultz scored on a 7-yard touchdown run, and Porters linebacker Mekhi Johnson Maura recovered a Loyola fumble. Schultz went up and over from 1-yard out, and Czako's kick gave Lockport a 28-14 lead at 11:10 of the fourth quarter.
Getting creative, Loyola used a double-pass for a big gain to set up a score. Stearney threw a lateral to Luke Collins, who passed to Spencer Leadbetter for 34 yards. Lockport penalties set up the Ramblers at the 6-yard line, where Collins' 6-yard touchdown pass to Roger Simon, and Baker's kick, pulled Loyola within 28-21 at 10:27 of the fourth quarter.
Though linebacker Sam Rushin recovered a fumble for Loyola, the Ramblers were unable to capitalize. With 4:49 to play Little bobbled but hung on to an 8-yard touchdown pass that clinched the Porters' win.
"In our minds, in our meetings, in our talks, in our preparation, we said, we should be going downstate, we're that good," said Lockport coach George Czart. "And now it's good to see that our hard work, preparation and planning is being paid off with a trip down there.
"Now we've just got to go down there and win the game."