Defending state champion Nazareth ends Glenbard South's season in second round
Nazareth's success in the playoffs is no secret.
The Roadrunners and coach Tim Racki have found a formula -- stacking their schedule with some of the most difficult opponents they can find early in the season -- and that formula has provided Nazareth another chance to win in the Class 5A playoffs.
Quarterback Logan Malachuk threw two touchdown passes and ran in a third as the Roadrunners dominated Glenbard South 41-0 in the second round Saturday afternoon.
Despite an 0-4 start to the season, that early experience allows Nazareth (6-5) to learn rather than dwell from its early-season failures.
"This is the hardest schedule we've ever had since I've been here," Racki said. "For these kids to fight through and increase confidence even though the season started how it did, it's a testament to not only the culture here, but to these kids. It's continued to be a focus on what we're doing.
"They never pointed fingers, and [they] continued to believe. We kept hearing about the demise of Nazareth football, and that can get to a kid. Well, it didn't get to these kids, but instead made them more resilient."
The victory Saturday sets up Nazareth with a date at Carmel next weekend in the 5A quarterfinals. Only once in the previous five seasons have the Roadrunners not played for the state championship (2021 -- lost 28-17 to eventual state champion Fenwick in the 5A quarterfinals).
The continued success of the Nazareth program aids in the belief that its regular-season record doesn't matter come the postseason.
"I think we all know what this team is about, and we all trust each other," said Malachuk, whose 35-yard keeper on a read-option gave Nazareth a 14-0 lead late the first half. "We respect our opponent, and that was a great team [in Glenbard South]. But it's not so much about what they have, but we know what we have. We know that with this group of guys, we can beat anyone.
"Those losses allowed us to build character, and it just made closer as a team."
After Malachuk's touchdown run, the Roadrunners forced a quick three-and-out, and the senior signalcaller found Jake Cestone for a 17-yard touchdown to open up a 21-0 halftime advantage for Nazareth.
Lesroy Tittle, Charles Calhoun, Anthony Donato and Trenton Walker also scored touchdowns for the Roadrunners. Walker finished with game-highs in catches and receiving yards.
While Glenbard South (9-2) struggled to find offensive rhythm, it also saw a couple of crucial turnovers in Nazareth territory. Still within 21-0, quarterback Michael Champagne kept the ball for a 41-yard run to set the Raiders up with the ball at the Nazareth 8-yard line, but they lost a fumble on the next play.
"The score is one thing, a significant margin, but today I feel like it was about the little things for us," Glenbard South wide receiver and Notre Dame commit Cam Williams said. "When you play some of the teams we played in the regular season, you can get away with that, but in the playoffs against a team like [Nazareth], it'll come back to bite you."
Nazareth held Williams to just 45 yards receiving on two receptions, both of which came in the first half. The Roadrunners defense also sacked Champagne six times.
"I think we came in with a really good defensive game plan and executed it," said Nazareth linebacker Jaden Fauske, who had an interception to end another threatening Glenbard South drive in the second half. "I think we believe that if we get into the playoffs, we can win it all.
"There's a winning culture here at Nazareth, and there's an expectation to win every time you take the field, but especially this time of the year."