The Cardiac Mustangs Open Catholic Blue Slate with Epic Comeback

The St. Rita-Providence rivalry has produced some epic battles through their years together in the Chicago Catholic League. One that comes to mind is the Class 7A State Semi-Final game in 2006 when junior kicker Steve Flaherty kicked the game-winning field goal with just under 10 seconds to play to send the Mustangs to their first state championship game appearance since 1978. Believe it or not, Friday night’s Catholic Blue opener at Doyle Stadium between the two Augustinian rivals was even more memorable.

A two-point conversion run by sophomore wide receiver Jake Stefanski (7 rushes - 32 yards, 2 catches - 43 yards) was the difference as the Mustangs (2-1, 1-0) outlasted the rival Celtics 32-31 in overtime.

With St. Rita trailing 24-14 in the fourth quarter, junior quarterback Jake Zylman (12-30, 219 yards passing, 3 TDs, 20 carries, 79 yards rushing) led the Mustang offense on an impressive 18-play, 86-yard touchdown drive. The drive culminated with a 23 yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Timmy Zaleski (6 catches 92 yards, 3 TDs) to cut the deficit to 24-21. The Mustang defense needed one last stop to give the offense a chance to tie or win in regulation. After two long Celtic runs, they found themselves inside the St. Rita 1-yd line with just over 2 minutes to play and the Mustangs out of timeouts--then St. Rita interceded. The Celtics handed off to senior running back Richie Warfield only to have the ball fall to the ground and senior Mustang safety Liam Kelly recovered. The Mustang offense would take over on their own six-yard line with two minutes to play and no timeouts.

After an incompletion, Zylman hit senior running back Shaun Rule (2 catches - 57 yards, 10 rushes - 41 yards) on a wheel route up the St. Rita sideline for 38 yards--and the Mustang offense was in business. After consecutive negative-yardage plays, Zylman hit Zaleski for 20 yards on third-and-18, to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, Zylman hit Stefanski over the middle for 30 yards moving St. Rita deep into Providence territory. After three straight incompletions, including an almost circus catch by Zaleski in the corner of the south end zone for the win, sophomore kicker Gavin Mottl calmly came on and drilled a game-tying 36-yard field goal to send the game to overtime at 24-24.

The Mustangs would win the toss and choose to go on defense in the overtime period.  After a first down holding call against the Celtics marched the ball back to the 19-yard line, Providence scored on a seam route to their slot receiver to take a 31-24 lead.

St. Rita then took over from the 10-yard line and after three plays they had netted only one yard. Facing a fourth-and-goal with the game on the line, Zylman again called upon his best receiver. Zaleski made a diving catch in the back corner of the north end zone making the score 31-30. Head Coach Todd Kuska '90 had already made up his mind that if given the opportunity he would roll the dice and go for the win, so he did just that. With Jake Stefanski in motion, Zylman handed the ball off to the speedy sophomore, and he easily barreled into the end zone for a 32-31 Mustang victory. Pandemonium then set in on the Mustang sideline and in the home stands as St. Rita rushed the field to celebrate an unforgettable win!

St. Rita (2-1, 1-0) will host the St. Laurence Vikings this Friday night in the annual homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 7:30, which will be preceded by an alumni, family and friends party from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. on campus, at the McCarthy Center.