Senior Matt Prendergast of LaGrange Park has great memories of Nazareth Academy football, including playing both ways for the Roadrunners in their 26-7 victory over Lemont for the 2014 Class 6A state championship.
“It felt like I was floating the whole day,” Prendergast said. “It was unbelievable, unreal. It was awesome.”
With several new key players, the Roadrunners moved to 2-0 this season with a 42-12 victory over Leo Saturday in LaGrange Park.
Quarterback Carson Bartels ran for 9-yard TD and threw a 25-yard TD pass to Chris Simmons.
Ivory Kelly-Martin rushed for 152 yards including touchdown runs of 23 and 11 yards. Cameron Weems and Notre Dame recruit Julian Love had rushing TDs of 9 and 3 yards, respectively. Sam Byczek kicked four extra points and Kelly-Martin added a two-point conversion run.
Prendergast (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) is among a handful of returning starters from a 14-0 season and the school’s first IHSA state title in any sport. In early August, he verbally committed to a football scholarship at NCAA Division I FCS Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Pa.).
Love, Simmons and Justin Weller return as receivers for Bartels, who was among three quarterbacks in 2014 and threw for 7 TDs and 772 yards. Love had 25 touchdowns, second to graduated standout running back Nolan Dean, with 749 rushing and 547 receiving yards.
“Obviously people are going to bring (the state title) up to you, but it’s something you have to put in the past,” Prendergast said. “It was that senior class that made their mark and now it’s time for us to make our mark.
“(Our goals are) stay together, prepare, stay healthy, hopefully, and win state again.”
In the championship game, Prendergast started at tight end and had two tackles defensively. This season, he’s starting at defensive end and now left offensive tackle after the entire line graduated.
Bryan Behrendt and Devonte Dunn also contribute after starting on the 2014 defensive line. Prendergast played offensive line in fifth through eighth grade for St. Francis Xavier School in La Grange.
“I didn’t even have to ask him twice to change (from number 8 to a lineman’s 52). He said, ‘Coach, whatever the team needs,’ ” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said. “We lost everybody, but a lot of kids played because we had 10 running clocks.”
Nazareth scored TDs on its first four possessions Saturday and opened a 42-0 lead with 3:58 left in the third quarter to initiate a running clock by virtue of a 40-point scoring margin.
Defensively, Prendergast’s recovery of a high shotgun snap at the 11 set up the fifth touchdown. Prendergast, Joey Muscolino, Michael Rotolo and Christian Sampleton also recorded sacks. Nicholas Lugo added an interception that the Roadrunners retained after he was hit and Weller recovered the fumble.
The state championship had extra meaning for Prendergast because he lives only blocks from the school and has attended games “since I was like 2.”
One of his neighbors is former Lyons Township High School standout Jimmy Mitchell, now a junior defensive lineman for Lehigh.
“We’re the only two kids from Illinois on the roster next year and we live three houses away from each other,” said Prendergast, who will major in finance. “We’re actually distantly related, too, which is kind of funny.”
Racki said Prendergast is known for his sense of humor.
“I’d probably classify myself as the team clown. I keep things loose, I would say,” Prendergast said.