No. 6 Loyola gets defensive vs. Providence
NEW LENOX -- In its biggest test so far this season, No. 6 Loyola passed with flying colors.
Quarterback Malcolm Weaver and running back Will Palivos each rushed for two touchdowns, and Loyola's defense held its ground in a 32-6 win on Friday over Providence Catholic in both team's Catholic League Blue opener.
The Ramblers' hurry-up no-huddle offense failed to rack up 40 points for the first time this season -- something that wasn't overlooked by the coaches after the game -- but their defense more than made up the difference. After rushing for more than 300 yards the week before, Providence managed less than 50 on its own turf on Friday.
The defensive effort included a highlight-reel sack by Eric Hauser, a late interception by Patrick McDonough and a fourth-quarter safety by a team of tacklers — icing on the cake for the Ramblers (4-0, 1-0).
"They always prepare [the offense] in practice with their stunts and the crazy stuff they do on defense," Weaver said, "so I know once they get on these other teams, they're going to come out here and do a lot. They things that they can do — stunts, schemes, all that — it's great. It's a really good defense."
Weaver shook off an interception of his own on the Ramblers' first drive, and that miscue was the high-powered offense's only speed bump. Taking nearly every snap out of the shotgun formation, he connected with all his receivers and led the team on five straight scoring drives.
Still, the Loyola coaching staff reminded its players that their play wasn't perfect.
"We expect perfection every time," said wide receiver Marquese Martin-Hayes, who led the team with six catches. "Every time we come out here, our goal is perfection. We feel we should have had 60 (points) — at least 40 — and we dropped the ball there."
Loyola may not have reached its scoring goal, but its victory was never in doubt. Up 16-6 to start the second half, Loyola scored right away when Weaver capped a 12-play drive with a 7-yard score. Dylan Brennan kept the Ramblers' next drive alive with 27-yard run on a fake punt on fourth down, his second successful fake punt of the game. Palivos took the next play up the middle of the defense and 32 yards for his second touchdown.
Then, Loyola forced Providence to punt for a fifth time, the second-string offense replaced Weaver and the rest of the starters with more than nine minutes left in the game.
Providence (3-1, 0-1) has already won more games that it did all of last year, the program's first losing season since 1980. Defensive back Troy Sheppard notched his fifth interception of the season, and wide receiver Sean Fitzgerald made several impressive catches. But the few bright spots weren't enough against one of the state's top teams.
"It's really good to come in the Catholic Blue and play some physical ball again," said Weaver, who remembers last year's win over Providence, too. "Providence is a great team. They're humongous. and they're really physical ... so it's good to come out here and play a really physical team and come out of here with a W."
Players of the game: Loyola -- QB Malcolm Weaver (Sr.) 17-for-28, 150 passing yards, 52 rushing yards, 2 TDs; RB Will Palivos (Sr.) 15 attempts, 125 yards, 2 TDs. Providence -- WR Sean Fitzgerald (Sr.) 6 catches, 89 yards.
Stat of the game: One week after Providence racked up more than 300 rushing yards in a win over St. Laurence, Loyola's defense held the Celtics to 46.
It was over when: One play after a successful fake punt, Will Palivos rambled 32 yards untouched to put Loyola up 30-6 with 3:38 left in the third quarter.
Quote of the night: "We had to set the tone," said Loyola wide receiver Marquese Martin-Hayes about the importance of the win. "Everyone always underestimates us. To come out here in the Catholic League Blue — the best conference in the nation — to come out here and get a win, that's very important. It sets the tone for the year, and it sets the tone for us personally."