CHAMPAIGN—Nazareth used the same effective game plan it used all season during the Roadrunners’ 26-7 win over Lemont in the Class 6A state title game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The unassailable combination of a strong running game powered by a huge offensive line along with solid defense and special teams ensured Nazareth (14-0) its first state title in any sport.
“Obviously, this is a very special accomplishment for me in my 10th year at Nazareth,” said head coach Tim Racki, “but I’m even happier for the great kids on our team and the coaching staff. They are a selfless group that really worked hard to win a state championship. I’m thrilled for the entire Nazareth community.”
Senior running back Nolan Dean, who transferred to Nazareth from Neuqua Valley this year, ran 39 times for 199 yards and a couple of touchdowns to set the tone offensively. Offensive linemen Jack Shutack, Michael Owens, John Brunory and the Kilcommons twins, John and Patrick, paved the way all afternoon for Dean. The Roadrunners’ offensive line averages 6-3, 285 pounds per player. Sixty-three of the team’s 69 plays offensively were runs.
Nazareth opened the scoring when quarterback Jonah Beauduy (4-for-6, 89 yards) threw a 35-yard pass to Kevin Jackson at the 9:50 mark of the first quarter. Michael Hillsman kicked the point after to give Nazareth a 7-0 lead.
Lemont (13-1), which went 3-6 last season, responded with Thomas Bleka’s 4-yard touchdown run to even the score at 7-7 with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
On the final play of the opening quarter, Dean scored on a 1-yard push in to the end zone, capping off a 10-play, 62-yard drive by the Roadrunners.
Nazareth put the game away in the second half with two time-consuming drives. Julian Love scored on a 4-yard run to complete a 12-play, 50-yard march midway through the third quarter. At 10:29 of the fourth quarter, Dean struck again on a 17-yard scamper into the end zone, capping off a 13-play, 80-yard drive to make the score 26-7.
The Roadrunners also dominated defensively with three interceptions and three sacks. Along with Love, who finished with five tackles and an interception, Matthew Flach (two interceptions) and Donald Kelly (two sacks) led the defense.
Lemont quarterback Ryan Dawson completed 13 of 27 passes for 119 yards and rushed eight times for 28 yards. Bleka finished with 54 yards rushing on six carries, while Duke-bound wide receiver Flynn Nagel had six catches for 70 yards. When the Roadrunners made a defensive adjustment, assigning Love to defend Nagel, the latter was held in check.
Nazareth finished with 18 first downs, 69 plays for 337 yards of total offense and converted 9 of 18 third downs and 3 of 4 fourth downs. By comparison, Lemont had 12 first downs and 45 plays for 202 yards of total offense and finished 1-for-8 on third-downs conversions. The Roadrunners also won the time of possession battle, with a 30:56 to 17:04 edge on the Indians.
Racki notched his fifth state championship. Previously, Racki won four straight state titles at Driscoll Catholic between 2001 and 2004. Driscoll Catholic, which earned eight state titles in football overall, closed in 2009 due to low enrollment and a lack of funds.
“The season is a grind and every team faces adversity,” Racki said. “I think the kids I’ve coached at Nazareth and Driscoll have done a good job of blocking out a lot of potential distractions. The players have bought into our concepts of leadership, chemistry, hard work and selflessness.”