Written by: John Nee '93
If you’re a St. Rita football fan, there has been some real drama in your life on quite a few Fridays this fall. With a 7A playoff berth on the line last Friday night in Aurora why would it be any different? The Mustangs were trailing the Marmion Cadets 23-22 and 4.5 seconds on the clock when sophomore kicker Gavin Mottl trotted onto the field and connected on a 24-yard field goal as time expired, sending the St. Rita faithful home happy with a 25-23 victory and a spot in the Class 7A playoff field.
The Mustangs started slowly versus the Cadets falling behind 7-0 as the game approached halftime. Then senior Mike McDevitt (three receptions, 41 yards) made the play of the night, a diving 27-yard reception that set the Mustangs up first and goal at the Marmion seven-yard line. Two plays later, senior running back Shaun Rule (22 carries, 135 yards, two touchdowns) plowed over the goal line to send the teams to the halftime locker room tied at 7-7.
St. Rita, who amassed 377 yards of total offense, moved the ball well all night long only to suffer some breakdowns in Cadet territory keeping the score tied heading into the final quarter. After a long Marmion touchdown pass put them in the lead with under eight minutes left, junior Chris Childers took the stage returning the ensuing kickoff 98-yards for a touchdown, possibly saving the Mustangs’ season.
After an interception by senior safety Sean Macander thwarted another Cadet drive, the Mustang offense quickly went three-and-out causing them to have to punt the ball out of their own end zone back to Marmion with just over three minutes to play. A high punt snap then sailed out of the end zone for a safety and a 16-14 Marmion lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, junior reserve linebacker Darius Allen jarred the ball loose from the Cadet return man. It was recovered at midfield by senior Jack Owens. Three plays later on fourth-and-one from the Marmion 41-yard line, Rule took the ball off right tackle and bounced it to the sideline all the way into the end zone for a 20-16 Mustang lead. St. Rita then lined up to go for a two-point converstion, handing it off to sophomore Jake Stefanski on the end around for an easy conversion and a 22-16 St. Rita lead with 1:48 to play.
The drama did not end there.
After returning the Mustang kickoff back to their own 42-yard line, the Cadets needed only 44 seconds to reach paydirt as the re-captured a 23-22 lead with 1:04 to play. It’s a position that junior quarterback Jake Zylman (7-17 for 122 yards, one interception, 17 rushes - 57 yards) and the rest of the St. Rita offense has found itself in three previous times this season, and each time they have delivered.
This night would be no different!
After a touchback, the Mustangs took over on their own 20-yard line with one timeout remaining and their season in the balance. After a personal foul brought the ball out to their own 39-yard line, Zylman hooked up with senior receiver Timmy Zaleski (four receptions, 81 yards) on a 35-yard completion to move the ball to the Cadet 30. After a short completion to McDevitt moving the ball inside the 25, Zylman kept the ball on a counter play dragging tacklers down to the Marmion 12. Rule then rushed to his left, setting up Mottl in the middle of the field at the Cadet seven yard line for his game-winner at the buzzer, his second game-winning field goal on the final play of the game this season.
St. Rita (5-4) received the #25 seed in the Class 7A playoff field and will travel this Friday night to Rockford to play the #8 seed Auburn Knights (8-1). Game time is 7:30pm.