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Class 6A Playoff Mini-Previews: How Long Will Nazareth’s Dream Season Continue?

#3 Nazareth (8-1, 7-1) vs #14 Deerfield (6-3, 5-0), Sat. Oct. 29, 1 pm in LaGrange Park

Nazareth RB Joshua Moore eludes a tackler against Notre Dame

Nazareth, co-champions of the tough East Suburban Catholic Conference, enters the playoffs on a seven game winning streak. The Roadrunners, appropriately, are a run-first team. Running back Rudy Romagnano was the team’s workhorse to begin the season, but the senior suffered an ankle injury on the first play of Nazareth’s monumental victory over Joliet Catholic. Joshua Moore has taken over the full share of the load in Romagnano’s absence, and the Roadrunners haven’t missed a beat. Moore rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns last week in the Roadrunners’ lopsided win over St. Viator.

Defensive back Kalium Ewing returned two interceptions for touchdowns last week. It was the second time this season Ewing has done that, having also returned two picks for scores against Notre Dame. Ewing is an all-around playmaker, he has also reached the end zone on offense and special teams.

Nazareth is definitely a threat to win the 6A title, but they face a challenging route to Champaign. The Roadrunners will likely have to beat 2009 champion Cary-Grove in the second round (fresh off a win over previously unbeaten Prairie Ridge) and 8-1 Prairie Ridge in the quarters before meeting 9-0 Bartlett in the semifinals.

#14 Deerfield will also pose a threat to the Roadrunners. Deerfield wrapped up a Central Suburban North championship last week with a 45-21 victory over Highland Park. The Warriors started out the season with three straight non-conference losses, but were able to finish the season with a perfect conference run of five straight wins.

Deerfield also features a run-first offense. The Warriors rushed for 478 yards in their victory over Highland Park. Fullback Tyler Vajdic led the way with 185 yards and two touchdowns while wingbacks Mark Pagano and Ryan Adkins ran for a combined 206 yards and three touchdowns. Deerfield’s win over Highland Park (5-4) was the Warriors’ only victory over a team with a winning record.

PREDICTION:

Nazareth 38 Deerfield 21

#10 Glenbard South (6-3, 4-0) vs #7 Foreman (7-2, 6-1), Fri. Oct. 28, 7:30 pm at Lane Stadium in Chicago

Glenbard South RB Wesley Sanders has made big plays for the Raiders all season long.

Glenbard South, champions of the Metro Suburban Conference, are led by big play machine Wesley Sanders. The senior running back, who has reached the end zone over 20 times this year, leads an offense that has been running on all cylinders during the Raiders five game winning streak. Sanders had 159 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the Raiders’ conference-championship clinching victory over Ridgewood in week eight. Sanders has also had big plays as a receiver and returner this year.

The Raiders’ three losses all came at the hands of playoff teams, including 9-0 Crete-Monee and 8-1 Prairie Ridge. The Raiders knock off Foreman this week, they will likely have a second-round rematch against Prairie Ridge.

The Raiders will travel to Chicago to face Foreman, the champions of the Chicago Public School’s Big Shoulders Conference. Foreman also comes into the playoffs red-hot, winning their last six games of the regular season.

PREDICTION:

Glenbard South 29 Foreman 23

#15 Marmion (5-4, 2-3) vs #2 Prairie Ridge (8-1, 5-1), Sat. Oct. 29, 1 pm in Crystal Lake

Marmion made the 6A championship game last season but the Cadets just squeaked into the playoffs this year with a 5-4 record, albeit against a challenging schedule. The Cadets’ four losses came to playoff teams that combined to lose just four games all season (Marian, Montini, Batavia and St. Francis). The Cadets have a bruising defense and like to control the game with their bruising running attack led by Kyle Kozak, Garret Becker and Cody Snodgrass.

Prairie Ridge cruised through the first eight games of the season, winning every game by at least three touchdowns, before dropping their regular season finale against Cary-Grove, 22-21 in OT. The Wolves outscored opponents 381 to 87 this season. The Wolves, angry and motivated after losing their first game, will likely be too much for the Cadets.

PREDICTION:

Prairie Ridge 31 Marmion 6

#9 Fenton (7-2, 2-2) vs #8 Lake Forest (7-2, 5-1), Fri. Oct. 28, 7:30 pm in Lake Forest

Fenton RB Alan Geneva celebrates with teammates after a touchdown.

First off, I’m really not sure how Fenton received a higher seed than Glenbard South. Yes, I know the Bison have a better record, but the two conference foes played just three weeks ago, and the Raiders won in convincing fashion 40-8. Fenton complied a pretty empty 7-2 record, winning zero games against playoff teams. In fact, the Raiders were the only playoff team they faced, and as I just said, they lost by 32.

Anyway, the Bison are led by running back Alan Geneva, who does most of his damage catching screen passes. Fenton runs an interesting offense that features a lot of screen passes out of a shotgun formation.

Lake Forest won a share of the North Suburban Lake division this season. The Scouts are led by running back Owen Williams who ran for 233 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s victory over Libertyville.

PREDICTION:

Lake Forest 35 Fenton 14

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Nazareth Runs Past Riverside-Brookfield

Nazareth 44 Riverside-Brookfield 6

Nazareth lived up to its nickname once again Friday night as the Roadrunners ran past Riverside-Brookfield 44-6 on homecoming in Riverside.

“It was just all-around a great game for us,” said Nazareth linebacker Aeneas White. “Our coach came in this week and talked to us about how important this game was, it being their homecoming, and how amped up they’d be for the game. We just came out here and did what we were told to do.”

Nazareth took a 7-0 lead just two minutes into the game when quarterback Sam Poulos threw an 18 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Carl Jackson.

Running back Kevin Curtin then put Nazareth up 14-0 after he ran one yard for a touchdown on the Roadrunners’ next drive.

White recovered a fumble on the ensuing Bulldogs possession and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown, putting the Roadrunners up 20-0 at the end of the first quarter.

“We just played like we have the whole season. Fundamentals, mechanics, that’s how it gets done,” said White, who also contributed on offense with two carries for 83 yards.

Matthew Ramsey’s 27 yard field goal put the Roadrunners up 23-0 with 6:30 left in the second quarter. Ramsey also had six touchbacks on kickoffs.

The Roadrunners got back into the end zone on their next possession. Running back Joshua Moore ran 34 yards for his first touchdown of the game, putting Nazareth on top 30-0.

Moore led the Roadrunners with 13 carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

Moore has played well since taking over the number one job after Rudy Romagnano injured his ankle on the first snap of Nazareth’s win over Joliet Catholic on Sept. 30.

“He’s [Moore] not really filling in, him and Rudy are like the one-two-punch, so he’s just taking on more of the load,” said Nazareth Head Coach Tim Racki.” Him and Rudy are tight friends, so he takes pride in taking on more of that load.”

Racki is hopeful that Romagnano will return this season.

“He’s a real tough kid. We hope to get him back, but when, I don’t know,” said Racki.

Poulos finished off the first-half scoring for the Roadrunners with a one yard touchdown run in the final minute of the second quarter. Nazareth led 37-0 at halftime.

Moore ran two yards for his second touchdown of the game just a minute into the third quarter and the Roadrunners led 44-0.

The Nazareth offense had no turnovers and was able to score on its first six possessions of the game.

Riverside-Brookfield avoided a shutout when quarterback Dylan Beketic connected with wide receiver Joe Odeh on a two yard touchdown pass with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

FIRST QUARTER

[8:58] NAZ Sam Poulos 18 yard pass to Carl Jackson (PAT good) – 7-0 NAZ

[2:06] NAZ Kevin Curtin 1 yard run (PAT good) – 14-0 NAZ

[1:37] NAZ Aeneas White 58 yard fumble return (PAT no good) – 20-0 NAZ

SECOND QUARTER

[6:31] NAZ Matthew Ramsey 27 yard field goal – 23-0 NAZ

[4:30] NAZ Joshua Moore 34 yard run (PAT good) – 30-0 NAZ

[0:36] NAZ Sam Poulos 1 yard run (PAT good) – 37-0 NAZ

THIRD QUARTER

[11:14] NAZ Joshua Moore 2 yard run (PAT good) – 44-0 NAZ

[5:10] RB Dylan Beketic 2 yard pass to Joe Odeh (PAT no good) – 44-6 NAZ

PLAYERS OF THE GAME:

Joshua Moore, RB, Nazareth: 13 carries, 118 yards, 2 touchdowns

Aeneas White, LB/RB, Nazareth: 2 carries, 83 yards; 58 yard fumble recovery touchdown

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times. It also appears on yourseason.com.

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Week Eight Preview #1: Nazareth at Riverside-Brookfield

Nazareth (6-1, 6-1) at Riverside-Brookfield (2-5, 1-2), 7 pm Friday night in Riverside, IL

Nazareth play-maker Kalium Ewing hauls in a catch

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Nazareth (First place, East Suburban Catholic) –

Week One: 17-0 win vs Benet

Week Two: 27-3 loss at Carmel

Week Three: 35-19 win at Marian Catholic

Week Four: 35-32 win vs St. Patrick’s

Week Five: 33-20 win at Marist

Week Six: 24-21 win at Joliet Catholic

Week Seven: 42-13 win vs Notre Dame

Riverside-Brookfield (Third place, Metro Suburban) –

Week One: 20-14 loss at St. Francis

Week Two: 49-0 loss vs Lemont

Week Three: 28-0 win at Roby

Week Four: 30-18 loss at Rich East

Week Five: 25-20 loss at Ridgewood

Week Six: 39-21 loss vs Glenbard South

Week Seven: 28-0 win at Elmwood Park

OUTLOOK

Nazareth has been one of the surprise successes of the 2011 season. The Roadrunners have already clinched a playoff spot and currently sit in first place in the very competitive East Suburban Catholic conference. Nazareth went on the road two weeks ago and handed Joliet Catholic their first loss of their season. Head Coach Tim Racki called it a “legendary win” for the program.

The Roadrunners, appropriately, do the vast majority of their offensive damage on the ground. Nazareth had zero pass attempts in their week four victory over St. Patrick’s. Junior running back Rudy Romagnano, the team’s leading rusher to that point, injured his ankle on the first play of the Joliet Catholic game and has not played since. It has not been announced whether Romagnano will play this week, but backup running back Joshua Moore has done well taking over as the team’s workhorse. Moore had 37 carries for 176 yards and a touchdown against Joliet Catholic and 17 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame last week.

While the Roadrunners have not gone to the air much this year, quarterback Sam Poulos had his most productive game of the year last week against Notre Dame. Poulous completed six of his eight pass attempts for 98 yards and two touchdowns, including a 66 yard touchdown pass to Sean Maloney.

PLAYER TO WATCH:

Kalium Ewing, DB/WR, Nazareth

The Roadrunner play-maker has scored touchdowns in three straight games in three different phases. Ewing returned two interceptions for touchdowns last week against Notre Dame, caught a 45 yard touchdown pass against Joliet Catholic and returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown against Marist.

PREDICTION

Nazareth 35 Riverside-Brookfield 13

The Bulldogs, coming off their second win of the season last week, might be able to hang with the Roadrunners for a quarter or two, but in the end the Nazareth running game will be too much.

After playing the 2-5 Bulldogs this week, Nazareth will wrap up the season next week against 1-6 St. Viator. The upstart Roadrunners have a great shot of entering 5A playoffs with an 8-1 record.

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