After undergoing hip surgery in December, Br. Rice senior running back Willie Shaw made his season debut in Week 2 against Marist.

He played a supporting role, seeing time at wide receiver.

Slowly but surely, as he got stronger, Shaw’s role continued to expand. By the end of the six-week spring football season, Shaw was back at it.

Helping lead host Br. Rice to a 20-13 win on April 23 over Mt. Carmel, Shaw ran for 145 yards and a touchdown in the Chicago Catholic League-East Suburban Catholic Conference (CCL/ESCC)-Blue showdown.

“We were pumped up for this. It’s been three years of close games, hard-fought battles, adversity, everything,” Shaw said. “I’m just glad we got away with a win, especially on our home field and it being my last year. I wouldn’t want it any way else.”

Br. Rice finished the season 4-2, 1-2.

Working his way into an expanded role in the second half of the season, Shaw saved his best for last. In a Week 4 win over St. Laurence, he ran for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns and then racked up 125 yards and 2 TD against Carmel of Mundelein.

The Crusaders won their last 3 games by establishing their run-heavy, smash-mouth offensive identity.

“I feel great. I’m ready to go back in and play some more football with my guys,” Shaw said. “I’ve been working hard with our trainers and the coaches. Every day through the last four, five months, we’ve been preparing. It all paid off.”

Shaw, 6’, 200 pounds, is a University of Toledo recruit.

Br. Rice quarterback Jack Lausch (St. Barnabas) was a workhorse as well, running the ball 25 times for 128 yards and a touchdown. He also threw for 75 yards and a TD.

Lausch loved Shaw’s effort in the season-ending game that didn’t have much on the line other than pride. Mt. Carmel needed a win and a Loyola loss to clinch a share of the CCL/ESCC-Blue title.

“26 [Shaw] is a warrior,” Lausch said. “It shows his character and how much he cares. He could have easily called it a year and taken it easy. He loves football so much. It’s awesome he came back. I’m glad he did.”

The Br. Rice offensive line includes seniors Max Mallon and Luke Murphy and juniors Carter McAlilly, Jackson Judeh and Patrick Galeher.

Shaw’s 58-yard touchdown late in the first quarter put Br. Rice up for good at 13-7. The Crusaders extended the lead in the fourth on a Lausch roll-out to the right with a pass into the end zone to Henry Boyer.

The ball deflected off the 6’7” Boyer but directly to junior Khary Shaw in the back of the end zone for the 4-yard score. Br. Rice went up 20-7 with 3:31 left.

Mt. Carmel answered with a quick 50-yard TD strike from Justin Lynch to Joey Thompson. But, after a quick three-and-out, a Lausch punt pinned the Caravan at the 1-yard line in the final minute.

The game ended with Br. Rice junior Mike Fahy picking off a Lynch pass on a fourth-down play.

“We had that motto of ‘bend but don’t break,’” said Br. Rice senior linebacker Myles Jones. “We were going to get after it and send everything at them. We sent everything we had.”

Mt. Carmel struggled to gain a foothold with its running game against a stingy Br. Rice defense. Senior Kenenna Odeluga finished with 11 carries for 52 yards and a one-yard TD run.

Turning to the aerial attack, Lynch finished with 21-of-38 passing for 254 yards, a touchdown and 2 interceptions. His favorite target was Thompson, a 5’7” junior tight end, who finished with 16 catches for 179 yards and the 50-yard touchdown.

“It’s been a rollercoaster these past three years,” Jones said. “It’s the best way to send off a team. We wanted to prove something. We had to stop the run and force them to pass. We had trust in our secondary, so stop the run and control the pass.”

Senior KJ Love added an interception for Br. Rice, picking off a Lynch pass in the end zone late in the second quarter.

Senior lineman Ryan Whelan finished with 2 sacks for the Crusaders.

“We were peaking as a team at the right time,” said Br. Rice Coach Brian Badke. “Unfortunately, it was our last game. These guys dealt with adversity. These seniors were a special group. For them to end it this way, I’m extremely proud of them.”