Ramblers football wins handily on ESPN national broadcast
At halftime of Loyola Academy's football season opener on Sunday, an ESPN camera operator caught a happy Ramblers fan holding a sign in the Hoerster Stadium home grandstand.
The sign read: "I Hope Both Teams Have Fun."
A great sentiment, but Loyola had much more fun than St. Xavier did in a game broadcast nationally Aug. 28 from Wilmette as part of the network's Geico ESPN High School Kickoff.
Loyola quarterback Jake Stearney completed 15 of 19 passes for 252 yards and 4 touchdowns, 2 to Spencer Leadbetter, in a 44-20 win over the visitors from Cincinnati.
Stearney and the rest of the Ramblers' starters were enjoying life on the sidelines by early in the fourth quarter.
"If we play like this all year, I like where we're headed," Stearney told ESPN sideline reporter Harry Lyles Jr. after the game.
Loyola, ranked No. 2 in the initial Associated Press Class 8A football poll, headed repeatedly into the end zone in a first half it led 34-7. The sole St. Xavier touchdown came on Robert Houston's 25-yard interception return early in the second quarter.
While Loyola's defense held St. Xavier (0-2) to successive three-and-out offensive possessions, the Ramblers took a 14-0 lead on Stearney's 15-yard pass to Jack Parker and Drew MacPherson's 53-yard run, just 5 seconds before the end of the first quarter.
Loyola gained major separation by scoring three touchdowns in the last 4:53 of the second quarter.
Set up by a long pass to Leadbetter, Stearney hit Declan Forde in the right corner of the end zone that with Mike Baker's kick gave Loyola a 21-7 lead.
Stearney and Leadbetter had Loyola up 28-7 on a 38-yard catch-and-run.
Forcing another three-and-out, and aided by coach John Holecek's timeout call, a short St. Xavier punt gave the Ramblers possession of the football at the Bombers' 34-yard line with 40 seconds left.
Stearney, committed to Colgate, completed four straight passes, the fourth a perfectly thrown, 9-yard over-the-shoulder flare pass to Leadbetter for the 34-7 lead.
Leadbetter finished with 5 receptions for 86 yards. Forde caught 4 passes for 94 yards.
Just 19 seconds into the third quarter, Loyola went up 41-7 after running back Will Nimesheim broke a 70-yard touchdown run, the bulk of his 98 yards rushing.
Forde's 1-handed grab down the right sideline led to Athan Chiampas' 23-yard field goal with 3:03 left in the third quarter. Leading 44-7 the Ramblers essentially put the game away with a quarter to play.
At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, Loyola hosts East Moline United, which lost its opener 31-21 to LaSalle Peru. The Ramblers visit St. Rita in a CCL/ESCC crossover on Sept. 9.