Thrust into the starting quarterback spot at halftime of a Week-9 game against Mt. Carmel, Br. Rice sophomore Jack Lausch improvised on the fly in his first action under center and in shotgun, leading the team to 2 touchdowns.

Now with weeks of practice under his belt, Lausch and the Crusaders are rolling.

In a Class 8A second-round game on Nov. 9 at Br. Rice, Lausch rushed for 2 touchdowns against South Elgin as a dominant ground game set the tone for the Crusader’s convincing 25-7 victory.

“After that first week, I had a full week just to prepare and watch film. I’m really happy to be here playing QB,” Lausch said. “It’s excitement. It’s that thought going through your head, ‘This drive we’ve got to get points!’”

Br. Rice (7-4) will host No.-1 seed Minooka (11-0) on Nov. 16, at 5 p.m., in the Class 8A quarterfinals.

Lausch (St. Barnabas) led a balanced rushing attack with 58 yards and 2 touchdowns with junior Willie Shaw (Kellogg) adding 69 rushing yards and a TD and junior Josh Bell finishing with 61 yards as the Crusaders controlled possession and limited South Elgin’s time on the field.

Shaw also added 4 catches for 68 yards.

“We have a very good offensive line and very good running backs,” Lausch said. “Our receivers are great at blocking, and our defense was shutting them down. We wanted to control the clock and keep our defense off the field. It was a team effort. Everyone is unselfish, so we wanted to pound the rock.”

Excelling on the offensive line were Sean Corbett (St. Cajetan), Liam McElligott, Carter McAlilly (St. John Fisher), Luke Murphy, Max Mallon and Jack O’Leary.

Br. Rice Coach Brian Badke said he’s been impressed with Lausch’s play. The sophomore had played safety through the first eight-plus weeks of the season.

“Jack is a natural-born leader,” Badke said. “To see him evolve, having played safety, we gave Jack the opportunity in the second half against Mt. Carmel, and he’s special. I’m glad we’ve got him for another two and a half years.”

In a slug-it-out first half, the Crusaders defense provided the spark late in the second quarter. With South Elgin backed up against its own end zone, junior Mick Badke (Christ the King) delivered a sack and a safety on back-to-back plays.

The safety put Br. Rice up 8-7 with 1:23 left in the half.

“I was on a blitz and had to keep my contain, make sure the QB didn’t run out. On the safety, it was a pitch out. I was lucky enough to make the play,” Badke said. “We had to make a big play toward the end of the half, get the momentum going into the second half. We knew we were getting the ball.”

Freshman Jack Welniak (St. Cajetan) connected on a 27-yard field goal early in the third quarter to extend the lead to 11-7.

Austin Veal (sack), Denver Warren (sack) and Giacomo Iraci (interception) led the defense.

“Our offensive and defensive lines won the battle in the trenches,” said Coach Badke. “That was the key to the game. It’s special to see this group come together. We’re clicking at the right time. It’s all you can ask for.”