Brother Rice senior Danny Fitzgerald is one of those loud, competitive types according to Crusaders coach Brian Badke.
“Danny has been working really hard,” Badke said. “He drives us crazy but we love him. He’s just a really good competitor.”
Fitzgerald has plenty to crow about after his performance on Friday in No. 14 Brother Rice’s 35-3 win against No. 12 Loyola.
Fitzgerald had a special game. He had two of the four interceptions the Crusaders grabbed. Things were going so well that a ball even popped out of a Loyola running back’s hands and flew right into his. Fitzgerald returned it 55 yards for a touchdown.
“I was pursuing to the ball to help out with the tackle and it just popped into my hands,” Fitzgerald said. “That was a good one.”
Fitzgerald and his defensive mates were rock solid. Visiting Loyola (2-2, 0-1 Catholic League Blue) was unable to establish a running game. Ramblers quarterback Matthew Schiltz was 15-for-26 passing for 168 yards and four interceptions.
Brother Rice’s K.J Love (20) pulls down Loyola’s Trevor Cabanban. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
“[The defense] is a special group,” Badke said. “We’ve had an explosive offense the past few years and probably had better players on the offensive side. But now this year we have a really talented group of kids [on defense]. It starts up front and they did a great job.”
The Crusaders also have a talented quarterback. Senior John Bean seemed to always make the right decision. He even turned blown plays into big gains.
There was one very impressive play in the second quarter. Bean saw the pass rush was almost at him. He spun around, scrambled to the opposite side of the field and threw to wide receiver Jahlil Pettis for a 26-yard completion.
“They brought the blitz and I had to figure out the way to get out of it,” Bean said. “I knew my teammate was going to be there for me when I needed him.”
Bean was 14-for-20 passing for 247 yards with one touchdown. He had 10 carries for 36 yards and one touchdown.
“[Bean] is always going to go forward, “Badke said. “He’s a load and he’s become a great student of the game and a leader of our team.”
Running back Jessi Plunkett was a dependable workhorse with 19 carries for 50 yards and one touchdown.
“We had this date circled on our calendar since last year,” Bean said. “We prepared for it all week and we were ready. The defense did an unbelievable job tonight and this win goes to them. The way they played tonight was outstanding.”
Brother Rice (4-0, 1-0) last beat Loyola in 2014.
“Our guys were prepared, they worked extremely hard,” Badke said. “They are a fun group to coach and they love to compete. When you are around that every day as a team you are going to develop to do great things.”
The Crusaders weren’t talked about a ton in the preseason but wins against Marist and the Ramblers have changed things.
“We had state championship circled ever since last year,” Bean said. “We just love being the underdogs.”