Rittenhouse finishes what he started at St. Francis
St. Francis senior quarterback Tommy Rittenhouse stayed the course.
After a difficult and extended offseason that included a lot of uncertainty, Rittenhouse never wavered on his decision to stay at St. Francis. Some standout quarterbacks, such as LaGrange Park native J.J. McCarthy, elected to enroll in college early. Due to the late start, several college-bound players decided not to play to rest their bodies and avoid injuries before the start of their college careers.
Rittenhouse, an Illinois State recruit, wanted to tackle the challenge of leading the Spartans to an undefeated record this season. St. Francis (5-0) has dominated opponents all season, facing one last challenge against Bishop McNamara on Friday.
Through five games, Rittenhouse is 50 of 84 passing for 866 yards, with 15 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He has rushed for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns to raise his career totals to 4,257 yards passing, 60 touchdown passes and 10 rushing TDs.
"Winning means everything to me, and it would be a great feeling to finish 6-0," Rittenhouse said. "This is one of the best teams that I've been a part of, and it would be great for the senior class to go out on a high note.
"I wanted to finish what we started. We have a special group of seniors who bought into this program when we began the rebuilding. The seniors want to keep St. Francis on the map and have one last ride together."
Senior offensive/defensive lineman Tyler Duzansky, a long snapper committed to Penn State, said he's seen Rittenhouse's leadership from both sides of the ball.
"Everyone trusts him and looks up to him and follows his lead," Duzansky said. "He's able to trust every single person on the field to do their job, so he can do his. He's able to showcase his skills and abilities that he's trained all offseason for, in practice and in the weight room.
"(Tommy) can beat you not only with his arm but with his legs. Tommy was the best quarterback in Illinois last year, and has backed that up with a statement season this year."
St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said Rittenhouse, who passed for 1,967 yards and 24 touchdowns with 8 interceptions last season, is a team-first player capable of taking over a game with his throwing or passing ability.
"It just shows what type of character Tommy has that he wanted to finish his career at St. Francis," McMillen said. "He wanted to finish what he started since his sophomore year. He kept developing as a player and become the main foundation of St. Francis.
"His leadership skills and what he's done this past year are incredible. When plays break down or the line breaks down and there's pressure, (opposing) defensive coordinators can't scheme for that. He's so elusive and fast and does a great job keeping his eyes downfield looking for targets, and with his arm strength, he's able to make all the throws. He's able to make all the checks, looks at the all presnap reads. The game has slowed down so much for Tommy. It's because of all the hard work he puts into film work."
Battle of Hawks:
Naperville Central senior kicker Aidan Ellison is one of the top kickers in the state.
The Arkansas State recruit enters his final game of his high school with one glaring omission from his kicking resume: A game-winning, last-second field goal.
So far, the Redhawks (5-0) haven't needed any heroics from Ellison's strong and accurate leg. Naperville Central has won four of its five games by at least 34 points, including a 42-7 romp over Metea Valley last week.
But the Redhawks face a tougher test in their season finale, hosting traditional state power Maine South (5-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. The battle of Class 8A heavyweights is a fitting ending to a season without a state playoff.
"It's going to be a very good game," Ellison said. "We're preparing like it's a playoff game. Everyone is playing for the seniors. This is the last football game for some of the seniors will ever play."
In other DuPage Valley Conference news, DeKalb plays at Naperville North and Metea Valley travels to Neuqua Valley. Both conference games are slated for a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff.
Six in a row?
Downers Grove North seeks its sixth straight series victory over rival Downers Grove South in Friday's season finale. Downers Grove South (3-1) is capable of putting points on the board, led by junior wide receiver Eli Reed. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Dawson and sophomore tight end Mack O'Halloran are emerging players on a potential dynamic offense next season.
"Four of the five losses have been pretty close," Downers Grove South coach Mark Molinari said. "We've had opportunities to win in nearly every game. We've not finished some drives, and even fumbled the ball. Hopefully, this year things will be different. I think we have some weapons on offense, with quarterback Ryan Dawson, wide receivers Eli Reed, Rashon Murff and Mack O'Halloran. We need all those guys and the offensive line to play well."