Loyola Academy overwhelms Rochester in battle of football state powers
5A Rockets have 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' against 7A Ramblers
WILMETTE — Rochester High School’s football team in a running-clock affair? That’s nothing new.
But the Rockets, usually the ones putting the running clock on other teams, had it done to them instead in a 56-7 loss to Class 7A No. 2-ranked Wilmette Loyola Academy in a nonconference game on Saturday afternoon.
"I didn't come here for respect, I thought we had a chance," Rochester coach Derek Leonard said. "We didn't play good and they came out and beat our butts."
The Ramblers (2-0) were big, fast and disciplined. They stood above the 5A No. 2 Rockets and, despite their size, were always quick enough to smother the ball when Rochester was on offense. And the only penalty Loyola committed was in the waning moments with the reserves on a first-and-goal from the 2.
“The difference is the little things,” Leonard said. “They fly to the football, they don’t turn the ball over, they . . . go to the whistle and that’s it.
“You can’t be sloppy. I get it: it’s Week 2, and we didn’t have long to prepare but they didn’t have long to prepare. It was a sloppy game, and when you have opportunities you have to get after it because you’re only going to get a few.
"Man, they’re really good. They did a hell of a job and flew to the ball and did everything right.”
The meeting was monumental. Rochester (1-1) is a seven-time 4A state champion since 2010 and the 2019 Class 5A state champ. Loyola — a member of the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference — has been an 8A playoff team every season since 2006 and won state championships in 2015 and 2018 with runner-up finishes in 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2017.
Loyola outgained Rochester on offense with 474 yards compared to just 140 for the Rockets. Rochester's Hank Beatty threw for 122 yards and completed 14 of 22 passes.
Rochester’s best offensive drive came at the end of the first half. The Rockets’ Keeton Reiss hit Beatty for a 38-yard gain, then Beatty followed that up with a 16-yard pass to Ryan Robinson to set up first-and-goal from the Loyola 4. Four plays later, on fourth down, Beatty ran it in for a 1-yard score.
Loyola quarterback Jake Stearney finished with 225 yards and completed 16 of 22 throws. His receivers found the end zone four times.
The Ramblers' running back Marco Maldonado ran 15 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 113 yards with another score.
Better to lose than not play
Beatty, who has verbally committed to play at Illinois, said even though the loss was tough to swallow, it still was better than sitting at home and taking a forfeit win. Rochester's previous opponent, Decatur MacArthur, canceled its Week 2 and 3 games for a COVID-19 quarantine.
“I would rather be out here playing with my guys any day," Beatty said, "rather than sitting on the couch at home and watch other people play."
Leonard said the trip was still a special trip.
"It was an experience," Leonard said. "They'll never get this. Man, we played (Chicago St. Rita in the Class 5A state championship game in 2019), which is crazy, what I thought was a one-time thing in a lifetime and now this. To play two Catholic League teams as a little old team from Rochester. . . I know the score didn't show it, but I think we played a little bit better (as the game went on).
"But I thought this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I thought why not give these kids the opportunity."
A good loss?
Could this loss be what the Rockets need? Beatty and Leonard hope so.
"I knew we'd get something out of (the game with Loyola, win or lose)," Leonard said. "When they sent us the roster and it was 100 kids and all of them were juniors and seniors . . . I knew it was going to be hard.
"But it's only going to make us better. If we're 5A, we're going to have to play (No. 1-ranked) East St. Louis, you never know if you're going to see a (Lombard) Montini."
With undefeated Sacred Heart-Griffin looming on Friday in a Week 3 matchup, the Rockets hope the game film and the bitter taste provide them with more than enough to pull out a win in the annual Leonard Bowl matchup between the father-son coaching duo.
“I think this game really showed us who we were,” Beatty said. “We have a lot of stuff — I have a lot of stuff to fix. Playing a tough team and getting your butts whooped is good every once in a while; it wakes you up. I hope we learn from this and can figure out what we need to fix.
“I’m glad that we’re playing Griffin next week. It’s a good challenge to see how we bounce back, how we mentally prepare ourselves and I think we’re going to be ready for that game.”
Contact Ryan Mahan: 857-246-9756, email@example.com, Twitter.com/RyanMahanSJR.