In the midst of a brutal schedule, junior Kyle James and his St. Rita teammates knew what was at stake when they visited Providence in New Lenox on Oct. 4.
The Mustangs needed a win any way they could get it to boost their playoff hopes.
Thanks to a dominant second half, St. Rita got that win.
With Providence stymied by injuries, the Mustangs finally pulled away for a 22-0 win in Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference-Green action.
“It was a back-against-the-wall game. At 2-3, you’ve got to get to that 5-win mark to get to the playoffs,” James said. “So, we were just playing with our backs against the wall. Everything was on the line. We just had to rally as a team, come with heart and make the plays when we needed to.”
The game was scoreless at halftime, but St. Rita found enough rhythm offensively to put points on the board.
Providence lost starting quarterback Kevin Conway to an injury, and he didn’t play in the second half. Celtics defensive back Max Pignotti was also injured and taken from the game in an ambulance, although he raised his arms while he was on the stretcher as if to signal he would be OK.
St. Rita (3-3, 1-1) scored the only points it needed on the opening drive of the third quarter, just after play resumed after Pignotti’s injury.
Sophomore running back Kaleb Brown (23 carries, 147 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns) burst through the left side for a 35-yard touchdown.
Providence (4-2, 0-2) didn’t pick up a first down in the second half, and the Celtics only had 148 yards of offense on the night, almost all of those in the first half.
The Mustangs had 3 interceptions, with James grabbing 2.
After sophomore Jorge Verduzco made a field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 9-0, James grabbed his first interception. Brown then raced in for a 9-yard touchdown.
James added another interception on Providence’s next drive, and three plays later, he sealed the win when he reversed back around the right side and raced in for a 27-yard score.
James credited the defensive line for setting up his interceptions.
“It really just starts up front,” he said. “They were able to get a good rush going, making the quarterback uncomfortable. That makes it easier for me.”
He also credited his offensive teammates in the trenches for St. Rita’s rushing attack gaining steam as the game wore on.
“I have to give all the credit to the big guys up front,” James said. “They’ve got a good line at Providence, a good program—[our offensive line] just played physical up front. Win the battle up front, and we can make plays in the back because we got skill.”
Brandon Norred had an interception in the first half for St. Rita.
The Mustangs stuffed Providence for several negative plays in the second half, and Celtics’ backup quarterback Jack Peterson went 1 for 7 in passing for 4 yards.
St. Rita Coach Todd Kuska said he was pleased his team got the win.
“It wasn’t a pretty game, by any means, offensively or defensively at times,” Kuska said. “I’m pretty pessimistic at times. But, it turned our way. We got a couple scores and got them to chase, and we were able to get after them.”
St. Rita closes the season with three home games, Marian Catholic (4-2), Benet (6-0) and Notre Dame (6-0). The Mustangs need 2 more wins to be eligible for the state playoffs.
James said the team is ready to put in the work.
“We really got to practice every down, every snap, like it’s the game, so when the game comes, it’s just natural. You just got to feel it,” James said. “Just rally together as a team and just have our faith and trust in each other, and we’ll be great.”