DEKALB, Ill. – For all the dominance on offense displayed by unbeaten Loyola Academy on Saturday, the key to its 41-0 victory over Marist for the Class 8A title was defense.
In scoring their sixth shutout of the season, the Ramblers (14-0) forced a pair of turnovers and held the RedHawks’ running attack to minus-2 yards.
Quarterback Brendan Skalitzky was held to 17 yards on 13 carries, after rushing for 186 yards and a touchdown against Waubonsie Valley in the semifinals.
“We knew if we went after him on every play, he wasn’t going to want to run,” defensive lineman Ben Leroy said. “In passing situations, the pressure would get to him.”
With Skalitzky struggling, the RedHawks (9-5) made it inside the Loyola 20 only twice on 10 possessions. The RedHawks entered the end zone once, but an illegal block penalty wiped out Skalitzky’s second-quarter touchdown pass to James Dunican.
“I wouldn’t say (the pressure) was something we haven’t seen. But it was the best defense we saw, definitely,” Skalitzky said.
Marist coach Pat Dunne added: “We thought if we could get the ball off and into certain zones, we’d have a chance.”
Loyola running backs Dara Laja and Jake Marwede each scored twice as the Ramblers piled up 403 total yards.
The win marks the first state championship for Loyola after second-place finishes in 2011 and 2013.
“It’s a relief,” Loyola coach John Holacek said. “It’s not the worst thing in the world to be the Marv Levy of Illinois high school football, but it’s nice to kick through the door.”
Marist was held to 73 yards, including minus-14 yards rushing, before Marwede’s second touchdown triggered a running clock with 3:56 left in the third quarter.
Quarterback Emmett Clifford’s 4-yard touchdown run on Loyola’s first series opened the scoring. Laja’s 9- and 6-yard runs in the second quarter expanded the lead to 20-0, and Clifford’s 9-yard pass to John Isaac with 1:07 left in the half made it 27-0 at halftime.