If the Nazareth Academy football team surpasses its stellar 2017 season this year, the Roadrunners need to win a state championship. Nazareth lost an instant classic to Prairie Ridge 28-21 in the Class 6A state title game last year.
After two state titles and three appearances in the IHSA playoffs since 2014, high expectations (and results) have become commonplace at Nazareth.
"We have a lot of guys returning so we know we're going to get a lot of preseason press," head coach Tim Racki said. "More importantly, we're going to get every team's best game each week. We're not hiding from anybody."
The Roadrunners open their season outside of conference against Lutheran North, a perennial power from St. Louis. After that interstate clash, Nazareth visits highly regarded Lake Zurich for another tough nonconference game.
With the exception of a 42-0 loss against Marist in Week 7, Nazareth dominated their opponents during the regular season in 2017.
"Our goal within this program is always to get six to nine wins," Racki said. "The higher number we get, the better seed we'll get in the playoffs."
The Roadrunners' offensive line is one of the most experienced and talented groups on the squad. Three-year starter Elijah Moscinski and two-year-starter Matt Keeler anchor the line at right and left tackle, respectively. Moscinski and Keeler are 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6, respectively, and hover around 300 pounds each. Louis Stec, another three-year starter, pads the middle at a guard position.
"We've got a heck of a lot of experience upfront," Racki said. "They don't get a lot of shine, but without them, we're not going to do much."
Michael Love and Devin Blakley are dynamic playmakers on offense. Promising sophomore J.J. McCarthy gets the call at quarterback.
Defensively, the Roadrunners are also tough up front. Stec and four-year veteran Cameron Leach (6-2, 280-pounds) anchor the defensive line.