Trevor Tovey and his St. Rita offensive linemates want to give star sophomore running back Kaleb Brown as much running room as possible.
But, as Brown has shown, he doesn’t need much room to do some serious damage.
Continuing his season-long assault on opposing defenses, Brown racked up 138 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns and a kickoff return for a score as host St. Rita romped over Boylan Catholic-Rockford 42-21 on Nov. 23 in a Class 5A state semifinal matchup.
“Kaleb makes it easy. One little crease, and it’s there,” Tovey said. “It’s awesome watching him run down the field. He makes us look great. We’re working hard in practice every day, and so is he. Our O-line and him together, that’s hard to stop.”
St. Rita (10-3) will face Rochester (12-1) on Nov. 30 at 10 a.m. in the state title game at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.
St. Rita has won 2 state titles in its program history, 1978 (Class 5A) and 2006 (7A).
Any hope of a third state title looked bleak for the Mustangs after a difficult defeat against Montini in Week 4. Well, bleak to everyone but St. Rita Coach Todd Kuska.
“These guys fought through it. At 1-3, there weren’t a lot of people saying how great we were,” Kuska said with a laugh. “We knew we had it. They believed it. It would have been easy not to believe, but it was one week at a time.”
The Mustangs ride a 9-game winning streak into the title game.
The 12-0 Boylan squad had surrendered just 96 points all year, but St. Rita went wild on offense in the third quarter. Working with a 14-7 lead, Brown rushed for 2 scores and returned a kickoff for another.
Junior Kyle James (Beverly, Sutherland) added his own rushing score, his second of the day, as part of the 28-point outburst in the third. James finished with 113 rushing yards and 2 TD.
For Tovey (Mt. Greenwood, St. Christina) and his senior classmates, the win was especially satisfying, especially after the team missed the state playoffs a year ago.
“This is a lot. We were 2-7 my freshman year. We won conference as sophomores and were Prep Bowl champs last year,” Tovey said. “We wanted more. For this senior class to come together, I can’t even explain. I don’t even know what to say. This is the best thing ever.”
Michael Gaughan (12 tackles) and Michael Milton (9 tackles) led the defense. Zenin Hall and James (INT) had 7 tackles each. Tramon Lias (blocked punt) and Mykai Harris added 6 each, and Evan Wojcicki chipped in with 5 tackles and 2 sacks.
Milton, a Beverly resident and Sutherland Elementary School graduate, said the Mustangs love to get after opposing runners.
“It’s speed and determination for our defense,” Milton said. “We’re hunting the ball every time where everyone is running to the ball. As many blue or red shirts, whatever we’re wearing, we’re to the ball every single time. Everyone’s doing their job. That’s what makes this defense this special.”