IHSA Football Quarterfinals Recap
Quarterfinals… who’s still playing?
November 14, 2015
Loyola 34, Homewood-Flossmoor 28
Loyola senior Dara Laja, the all-time leading rusher in school history, is quick to smile and admirably humble. He’s clearly an incredibly well-liked figure among the student body and also the focal point of the Ramblers’ offense.
So things looked bleak as the Loyola student section chanted Laja’s name with 11:06 to play in the fourth quarter Saturday in Wilmette. The running back was laying down on the field, suffering from cramps in his legs. He eventually limped to the sideline, leaving the Ramblers without their key offensive weapon for the most important drive of the season.
Senior quarterback, Emmett Clifford, put his name out on the circuit in bright lights this weekend and the Ramblers knocked off the stingy Vikings. Clifford led the Ramblers down the field, finally connecting with Jack Loper on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 4:52 to play that gave Loyola the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter.
On the next drive, senior Dara Laja, returned for the next drive, which he took it in from seven yards out to seal the victory and advance to the semifinals.
Laja finished with 30 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown. Loyola’s game-plan was to limit the Vikings’ offensive possessions. Keeping H-F’s high-powered offense off the field was the key to victory, so that meant long drives kept alive by Laja’s quick, cunning runnings.
“It was definitely a long, hard game that was fought in the trenches,” Laja said. “Like every game, I have to give the offensive line credit. They are tough and hard-nosed, great guys and I’m lucky to have them protecting me.”
Homewood-Flossmoor’s offense more than lived up to its reputation. Running back Deante Harley-Hampton and wide receiver Kendric Pryor, a Wisconsin recruit, were focused and tuned in.
Harley-Hampton had 14 carries for 140 yards and three touchdowns. But the truly eye-popping play was his 34-yard touchdown reception late in the game. The pass went about three yards in the air. The rest was all speed, style and elusiveness. He changed directions midway through, running the entire width of the field to eventually find the corner of the end zone.
Pryor caught eight passes for 154 yards. H-F quarterback Bryce Gray was 15-for-28 for 265 yards and one touchdown.
“They held the ball,” Homewood-Flossmoor coach Craig Buzea said. “We certainly didn’t get many chances, that was the key. We knew they were capable of doing that. A lot of people tried that, but they have the folks to do it. They have us outmanned by maybe 80 pounds on the line.”
Up next for Loyola is Palatine who rallied back for the win.
Palatine 28, Brother Rice 24
What a comeback this Saturday afternoon as Palatine rallies back from the 17-point deficit late in the the third quarter to stun Brother Rice.
Brother Rice (9-2) had everything going its way early. The Crusaders piled up 281 yards of offense in the first half. They took the lead on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Camren Miller to Ricky Smalling, a 1-yard run by Miller and a 29-yard field goal.
Palatine had hoped to come out of the locker room with new spirit and they did as they ran off 28 points in the games’ final 10 minutes of play.
“We talked at halftime about wanting to win the game,” said Palatine coach Rick Splitt, whose team trailed 17-0 at the break. “We talked about doing the little things. We just needed momentum on our side. And we got it – we fast-forwarded from there.”
Zach Oles, who struggled for two and a half quarters, threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for two others as Palatine wore down Brother Rice down the stretch.
Nazareth 35, Joliet Catholic 21
Four turnovers and one great player made the difference in Nazareth’s win against Joliet Catholic on Saturday.
Each of the Hilltoppers’ four miscues played a huge role in the Roadrunners’ 35-21 win in a Class 5A quarterfinal in LaGrange Park. So did Julian Love, who ran for 111 yards, had 95 receiving yards and made six tackles for loss.
Nazareth (10-2) installed the Wildcat offense for this week to get its Notre Dame recruit more touches. Love rushed nine times, mostly in the second half, and his 77-yard touchdown run straight up the middle with 5 minutes, 36 seconds to play gave the Roadrunners their final cushion after their lead had held steady for most of the afternoon.
Love also caught a short pass from Carson Bartels that turned into a zigzagging 66-yard TD to put Nazareth ahead 21-7 late in the second quarter.
“We’ve been practicing the Wildcat for a couple of weeks,” Love said, “and I’ve just been begging for it.”
Love finished the game with 9 carries for 111 yards and a score on the ground and in the air.
Michael Johnson rushed for a game-high 150 yards on 27 carries for JCA.
Nazareth will play St. Laurence or Tinley Park in next week’s semifinals.
Marist 38, Oswego 35
The RedHawks win even after they totally played two different halves…
With a 38-7 at halftime lead, the RedHawks didn’t seal the victory until Robert Topps intercepted a Steven Frank pass at the Marist 30 with less than a minute to play as Oswego stormed back with four scores in the second half.
“I knew I had to attack that ball,” Topps said of his leaping pick on the left sideline, the first of his career. “We’re going to work hard this week to make sure we play hard for four quarters from now on.”
Brendan Skalitzky of Marist finished the game going 25-for-35, 288 yards, 4 total TDs. Teammate Darshon McCullough caught 15 receptions for 191 yards and 2 TDs. On the other side of the ball, Oswego were led by Steven Frank who went 21-for-35 for 280 yards and a total of 4 TDs
Marist will host Waubonsie Valley in next weekend’s semifinals.
Hinsdale South 42, Lincoln-Way North 35
Lincoln-Way North’s undefeated season came to an end in the Class 6A quarters’ as they lost to Hinsdale South 42-35.
That clicking resulted in 506 yards for the Hornets, who had the Phoenix (11-1) on their heels from the game’s first drive — a nine-play, 90-yard jaunt finished by McCormack hitting Robert Hall, who broke a tackle and scored easily from 37 yards out.
Two South drives later, McCormack found senior wideout Ravon Johnson, who broke a tackle and outran the defense for an 81-yard touchdown. McCormack connected with Johnson nine times for 218 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The final blow came late in the fourth quarter. With the score 35-28, North attempted an onside kick that was returned all the way to its 20-yard-line. Two plays later, Marcus Curry scored from 13 yards.
Sean McCormack led South going 15-for-22 for 289 yards and 4 TDs. Teammate WR Ravon Johnson caught 9 receptions for 218 yards and 3 TDs. The ground game was there too as Marcus Curry carried the ball 26 times for 176 yards and a score.
The Phoenix were led by Jake Arthur in the air as he went 22-for-40 for 270 yards and two scores.
This loss also marks the final game in North’s history, as the school will close after this school year.
“You saw tonight what the season was all about,” said George Czart, the only coach in Lincoln-Way North’s eight-year history. “Our kids really are a bunch of determined young men. We never gave up, always gave our best effort, love playing the game of football. If they carry on and do things in school and in their job the way they play football, they’re going to be very successful people. I’m proud to be associated with them. I’m gonna miss them.”
The Hornets (9-3) will host Crete-Monee (10-2), an upset winner against Sacred Heart-Griffin in next week’s semifinals.
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