Brother Rice’s Danny Fitzgerald lost a pass in the lights, a potential disaster for a defensive back.
But he recovered in time to get his second interception and third takeaway of the game.
It was that kind of night for Fitzgerald and the Crusaders, who rolled past visiting Loyola 35-3 in the Catholic Blue on Friday.
John Bean passed for 253 yards and a touchdown for the Crusaders (4-0, 1-0), who beat Loyola for the first time since 2014. Bean also rushed for 53 yards and a TD, while Jessi Plunkett ran for a pair of TDs. Dylan Summers had seven catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Matthew Schiltz threw for 167 yards for Loyola (2-2, 0-1) but was intercepted four times. The Ramblers, who also had four interceptions in last week’s loss to Mount Carmel, have dropped consecutive games for the first time since losing three in a row in 2006.
This night belonged to Rice’s defense, which also had a TD on Fitzgerald’s 55-yard fumble recovery.
“We always are told, bend but do not break,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve got to pick our teammates up. Everyone knew their calls, everyone knew their assignments.”
Fitzgerald’s job was made easier by Rice’s front four of Zach Wareyko, Joe Fitzgerald, Tyrhen McCoy and Justin Jefferson, who helped to limit Loyola to 44 rushing yards in the first three quarters.
“That’s a special group,” Rice coach Brian Badke said of the defense. “The past few years, we’ve had an explosive offense and we’ve probably had our better players on the offensive side.
“But … this year, we’ve got a really talented group of (defensive) kids and it starts up front.”
Coming off a 2-7 finish in 2017, Rice didn’t get much notice in the preseason.
But a Week 1 victory over neighborhood rival Marist opened some eyes, and now the Crusaders have another signature win.
“We had this date circled on our calendar since last year and we were ready for it all week,” Bean said.
The Crusaders have bigger goals than beating a couple of ranked teams in the regular season, though.
“We had state championship circled ever since last year,” Bean said. “We just love being the underdogs.”
That role may may have fit coming into the season, but not so much now.
“Last year was extremely hard on us,” Badke said. “We had a lot of key injuries. What happened was, these guys used it as motivation.”