Nazareth High School head football coach Tim Racki had two game plans at the ready (one for a wet field, the other a dry one) for Saturday’s Class 5A semifinal game at St. Laurence.
All the Roadrunners really needed was Julian Love. The senior running back ran for 283 yards and four touchdowns on 11 carries in snowy conditions during a 34-0 win over the host Vikings.
“Whether it’s during a game or practice, Julian never ceases to amaze me,” Racki said. “My jaw was on the ground. It looked like he was playing on a dry track and everybody else was playing in the snow.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. He was just gliding on top of the snow like it was regular turf. I don’t want to age myself but Julian looked like Gale Sayers out there.”
Love, who has committed to Notre Dame, sprinted 99 yards for a touchdown on the Roadrunners’ first play from scrimmage. He found the end zone three more times on runs of 32, 28 and 75 yards as Nazareth overwhelmed St. Laurence with its potent ground game. Ivory Kelly-Martin rushed 11 times for 75 yards and the Roadrunners amassed 374 rushing yards on 25 carries.
“If teams attempt to take away Julian, they have to account for Ivory,” Racki said. “He is as explosive between the tackles and he is in the open field. Ivory is even more punishing than Julian when it comes to trying to take him down.”
Defensively, Joe Muscolino led the way with a team-high 8 ½ tackles including 1 ½ for loss and 1 ½ sacks. Love (7 ½ tackles) and Matt Prendergast (3 ½ tackles) also contributed for Nazareth. The Roadrunners recorded four sacks and seven tackles for loss overall.
Nazareth shut down the Vikings star running back Fayezon Smart, who had rushed for over 2,000 yards in 12 games. He finished with 26 yards on 19 carries against the Roadrunners.
“We knew that the weather could punch us in the mouth,” Racki said. “Obviously in those types of conditions, we just wanted to pound the run out of some good running formations.
“Defensively, we loaded the box up with some five-man even six-man fronts and tightened our coverages like an umbrella to not let anything leak through. We absolutely installed a plan during the week for inclement weather.”
Nazareth (11-2) will play Lincoln-Way West (11-2) in the 5A state championship game on Saturday, Nov. 28. Kickoff is 10 a.m. at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.
The Roadrunners are vying for their second straight state title. Nazareth defeated Lemont 26-7 in the 6A championship game last year.
“It’s a great feeling,” Love said earlier in the playoffs. “Most of us have been here before and we know we’re so close. We’re breaking records here. We’re trying to build a dynasty and this win gets us one step closer to building that dynasty.”