Naperville North hangs tough with defending state champion Loyola Academy

By D.J. Wanberg
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/1/2023 11:34 PM

Loyola Academy is the defending Class 8A champion, and in many ways on Friday night against Naperville North, the Ramblers looked like they could do it again.

Although the Huskies lost 27-6 at home, many aspects of their game kept the game close.


Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said that scheduling tough nonconference games, against teams like Loyola, will help the Huskies (1-1) in the long run. He saw some good things from his team Friday.

"Take away the two pick-6s and it's a 13-6 game," Drendel said. "I thought we punched with them. But I didn't know if we had enough to push it through."

Loyola (2-0) got to work right away on offense. The Ramblers got the ball on the game's first drive and started at their own 20. Quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald grabbed 57 yards on a keeper. Two plays later, Fitzgerald threw a 21-yard TD pass to Nicholas Arogundade just 1:28 into the game.

The Ramblers offense didn't visit the end zone for the rest of the evening.

"Our defense played great tonight. Our front seven played very physical," Drendel said.

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The first of two field goals by Michael Baker and the first pick-6 by Loyola gave it a 17-0 halftime lead.

It was 24-0 at the end of three quarters and the Ramblers got their final points of the night early in the fourth.

Naperville North got the ball back with just over two minutes left in the game. A 47-yard gain by Cole Arl put the Huskies into Loyola territory at the Ramblers 32. Luke Williams gained 14 yards to the 18-yard line.

Jacob Bell's pass to Williams advanced the drive to the 3. Soon after, Bell took it in from the 1 with just five seconds to play.

It will be another big challenge for Naperville North next Friday with a trip to traditionally strong Bolingbrook.

The Naperville North coach said the Huskies will gain experience as the season goes on.

"As we get older, we might be a dangerous team," Drendel said.

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