Maine South runs out of time vs. Loyola
It was a frigid 38 degrees and pretty much every other player and coach and fan had gladly left the stadium in an effort to find somewhere warmer to hang out.
Peter Skoronski wanted to stay.
The Maine South two-way lineman couldn't bear to leave his home away from home just yet. His career at Maine South had just ended, but he didn't want his time on the field to end, too.
"I'll never forget this field," said Skoronski, who will be playing at Northwestern next year. "It's really just devastating not being able to play on this field anymore. We play football because we love football. But we also play football because it's with our brothers and with our family and that's what I'm going to miss the most out of all of this.
"That's why I'm one of the last guys out here. I don't want to leave this field right now."
The scoreboard had long been turned off, but the final score of Maine South's 14-6 first-round loss to Loyola in the Class 8A playoffs will long be etched in Skoronski's memory. Like all of his teammates, he will struggle to come to peace with a promising season cut way too short.
All the scoring in the game came in a dramatic fourth quarter and Maine South had made a furious march in the final minute to try to tie the game, taking legitimate shots at the end zone from about 30 yards out that just missed.
"I feel like I've let Coach (David) Inserra down," Skoronski said. "He's never lost in the first round of the playoffs before. This is my senior year, I consider myself a leader of the team. I'm disappointed."
The Maine South-Loyola rivalry is rich, with Maine South beating Loyola at some point during its last four state title runs. In fact, the Hawks, who have won six state titles since 1995, defeated Loyola in the title game for the 2016 Class 8A state championship.
Meanwhile, Loyola had to take out Maine South en route to its two state championships.
Loyola owns the series advantage now, 6-4.
"It's always a great game (with Maine South)," Loyola quarterback JT Thomas said. "This is a huge win for us. This environment, just everything is against us here. To be able to get this is a huge shot of confidence for us. Thomas gave Loyola a huge shot in the arm when he found his most reliable receiver of the night, Matthew Mangan, with a 28-yard touchdown pass with 9:58 left in the game.
Mangan caught a total of 9 passes for 116 yards.
That score by the Ramblers answered the first score of the game, a Loyola turnover just two minutes earlier that was converted into a touchdown by the Maine South defense. Linebacker Liam Barry picked up a Loyola fumble and sprinted 21 yards for a touchdown that put Maine South up 6-0. The Hawks missed on a 2-point conversion.
Loyola added some padding with 1:03 left to play in the game when Thomas (16-of-25, 189 yards) hit James Kyle with a 32-yard touchdown.
That left Maine South little time to work with but the Hawks marched from their own 23-yard line to Loyola's 32-yard line and had some looks near the red zone but just ran out of time.
"We were talking about overtime and 2-point conversions and what we were going to need to do defensively," Inserra said. "We thought we did (have a shot). We played hard all night.
"Our defense played really well and got a lot of stops. And offensively, I thought we really moved the ball. We just couldn't get that one play, that one last touchdown we needed. Great heart by everybody."
Inserra pointed out the especially courageous effort of junior quarterback Luke Leongas, who spent part of the season recovering from a knee injury that he suffered in the first week of the season.
Leongas was directing the offense with a less-than-perfect knee that was protected by a knee brace.
Leongas gave the Hawks hope with a furious drive in the final minute and finished with 264 passing yards on 19-of-36 attempts.
"I've been through so much adversity this season but just being with my teammates and all of their support, my family and parents and coaches too, they all just brought me through it," Leongas said. "We just made a good football team out of it.
"This is probably one of the worst feelings I've ever felt because I just love our seniors to death. Knowing that this was their last game is the worst. I just wish I could do something about it."