Crusaders keep momentum going vs. Irish
As the southernmost school among Chicago Catholic League institutions, Bishop McNamara has frequently taken advantage of travel-weary opponents.
A trip to Kankakee typically requires at least 90 minutes even for those schools closest to Bishop Mac geographically, which meant that Brother Rice had to avoid any bouts of fatigue if it wanted to have a realistic chance of subduing a decent Fightin’ Irish gridiron squad Friday night.
Crusaders coach Brian Badke admitted that “Bishop Mac’s not an easy place to play,” but Rice had two big things going for it: momentum and something important for which to play. A record-setting victory over St. Joseph one week before had created the former, as it snapped a four-game Crusaders skid and kept them alive for a Class 8A playoff berth.
And the latter fact is what Rice used as emotional fuel against Bishop Mac. While Badke felt his guys were a bit flat at the outset, the Crusaders quickly shifted into gear and went on to garner a 38-28 win that made this Friday’s Catholic League Blue showdown with longtime rival St. Rita bigger than usual.
Rice (3-4) meets Providence Catholic next week in its regular-season finale.
“We’ve got to win out, so we’ll see what happens,” Badke said. “Playing at home against St. Rita — what could be better? The key for me [right now] is our [younger] guys are really growing up and the seniors are really rallying [all] these guys.”
As far as keys in beating the Irish, one of the most indisputable was the Crusaders’ ability to better protect the football. Rice’s offense did commit one turnover and its special teams had another, and both miscues eventually led to Bishop Mac points.
But Crusaders quarterback Alex Alarcon was mistake-free while completing 18-of-24 passes for 169 yards and three touchdowns. The junior has struggled with interceptions this year, so this unquestionably ranked as one of his finest hours.
“Alex played very well,” Badke said. “Not turning the ball over, we’re going to be in great shape. We could have won a couple [more] games [earlier] if we had played like this.”
Also playing a pivotal role was junior running back Marcus Jones, who averaged nearly 11 yards per carry while accruing 250 rushing yards. Jones tallied on runs of 38 and 88 yards in the second half and helped Rice stretch a 17-14 halftime lead out to 38-14 before the Irish tacked on a couple cosmetic TDs in the late going.
“Marcus had a breakout game,” Badke said. “He really came into his own.
“The offensive line played very well in opening holes for him, and when Marcus gets to that second level, not too many people are going to catch him. He’s had some lingering injuries, but he’s an explosive runner.”
Badke cited Jones’ shorter dash as a turning point in the contest. It occurred shortly after Andrew Dyke recovered Brian Kane’s onsides kickoff that opened the second half and enabled the visitors to build a 10-point edge.
“That kind of deflated them,” Badke said of Bishop Mac. “Kane is one of our best players. He’s done a great job this year on kickoffs and field goals.
“It wasn’t a last-minute decision, [but] something we prepared for. We saw some things on film we thought we could take advantage of, and I thought it was a great thing to do at that time.”
Sandwiched between Jones’ two scoring bursts was a 12-yard touchdown catch by Luke Mueller. Mueller also hauled in a 7-yard TD toss from Alarcon in the first half, while Sal Perez brought his 9-yard grab into the Irish end zone to account for the Crusaders’ initial six-pointer of the game.
Perez’s score came after Kane’s 29-yard first-period field goal and gave Rice a 10-7 lead. The home team inched back in front one last time on an 80-yard Jared Marcotte-to-Robbie Odeneal aerial strike, but Mueller’s first TD with 28 seconds left in the opening half regained the edge for the Crusaders once and for all.
Rice tallied four times in a span of less than 18 minutes between the second and fourth quarters.
Defensively, Bryan Boyd (six solo stops, four assists, fumble recovery) and Trea Pierce (six solos, one assist, one sack, interception) were the top performers. Also lending a hand for the Crusaders on that side of the ball were Robert Woods (five solos, two assists, one sack), Greg Bernier (five solos, one assist, blocked pass), Mike McGinley (five solos, one quarterback hurry), Dyke (four solos, four assists) and Julian Davis (four solos, three assists).
Boyd’s recovery short-circuited an early Irish series that had brought them inside Rice’s 20-yard line. Bishop Mac was ahead 7-3 when the turnover took place.
“They could have gone up by two scores, but they didn’t,” Badke said. “Then Marcus Jones really got going. It was a must-win [situation] and the kids responded.”
Brother Rice 3 14 7 14 - 38
Bishop Mac 7 7 0 14 - 28
First downs 20 17
Yds. rushing 285 149
Yds. passing 169 191
Total yds. 454 340
Att./comp. 24-18 14-8
Fumbles lost 2 1
Had intercepted 0 1
Penalties/yds. 8-65 8-65
Punts/avg. 3-37.0 2-41.5
BM — Jonathan Ward, 3-yd. run (Trevor Drazy kick)
BR — Brian Kane, 29-yd. field goal
BR — Sal Perez, 9-yd. pass from Alex Alarcon (Kane kick)
BM — Robbie Odeneal, 80-yd. pass from Jared Marcotte (Drazy kick)
BR — Luke Mueller, 7-yd. pass from Alarcon (Kane kick)
BR — Marcus Jones, 38-yd. run (Kane kick)
BR — Mueller, 12-yd. pass from Alarcon (Kane kick)
BR — Jones, 88-yd. run (Kane kick)
BM — Josh Ramirez, 4-yd. pass from Marcotte (Drazy kick)
BM — Craig Butler, 40-yd. fumble return (Drazy kick)
Brother Rice Rushing: Jones 23-250, Alarcon 5-30, Smith 1-4, Desmond 2-1. Passing: Alarcon 24-18-169. Receiving: Mueller 7-77, Perez 6-50, Butler 4-33, Jones 1-9.