It has taken sophomore Will Nimesheim only three games to become an important cog in the Loyola Academy attack.
Called up from the sophomore team after superstar running back Marco Maldonado was injured and then becoming a starter because of an injury to dependable backup Mike Regan, Nimesheim made a significant impact for the second straight game Friday night, Oct. 15, when the undefeated Ramblers pummeled St. Patrick’s 35-7 at Triton Junior College.
He led the Ramblers in rushing with 126 yards in 23 carries, scored their first touchdown on a 1-yard run after leading the 63-yard drive and was prominent in the drives for their third and fifth TDs.
“I was definitely excited but the circumstances definitely were not great with Marco getting hurt,” Nimesheim said.
“The pace of the game is a lot faster (than against sophomore teams), the hits are harder and the guys are bigger. But I’m doing my best.”
The Ramblers (8-0) were at their best in the first half, scoring on every possession.
Quarterback Jake Stearney threw a 21-touchdown pass to tight end Jack Fitzgerald for the second touchdown of the first quarter, found Fitzgerald again on a 4-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and then teamed with Peter Gilroy on a 19-yard touchdown pass with 43 seconds remaining in the first half.
“In the first half we executed really well,” coach John Holecek said. “Jake had another terrific game and Will made some great cuts. Will is not the most powerful guy but he certainly knows how to run the football.”
From Holecek’s point of view the second half left something to be desired.
A pair of fumbles early in the third quarter — on the kickoff return and a punt return — put a crimp in Loyola’s offense in the second half and it wasn’t until 8:09 was left in the game that Stearney’s 7-yard run produced the fifth TD.
Michael Baker kicked all five extra points.
The Ramblers’ bid for second shutout of the season was frustrated when the Shamrocks Trever Wozny broke through around the left side of the line to go on a 33-yard touchdown run with 3:51 to play.
Although Fitzgerald has been one of Loyola’s primary receivers this season he hadn’t caught a touchdown pass prior to the St. Patrick’s game.
Stearney completed 13 of 20 passes for 166 yards, and Fitzgerald was one of eight players on the receiving end, joining Gilroy, Danny Collins, Spencer Leadbetter, Charlie Mahon, Kyan Gibbs and Corey Larsen.
“We have a great corps of receivers,” said Stearney, who has passed for 13 touchdowns and rushed for five this season. “And Will has done a great job stepping in when Marco and Mike got hurt and running the football.”
“We’ve been building for a year and a half,” said Fitzgerald, a junior who is the son of Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, looking back on 2020 summer and fall practice sessions and the six-game spring season in which Loyola flaunted a 6-0 record. “We’re tight-knit. We have a group like no other.”
The success during the spring campaign is sending Loyola into its last regular season game on Friday night (Oct. 22) at Mount Carmel (6-2) with a 14-game winning streak.
While Loyola was pummeling St. Patrick’s, Mount Carmel was scoring a 42-7 landslide victory at St. Viator.
“We’re going into the biggest week of the season,” Holecek told the Ramblers afterward. “I say that every week but this time it really is.”
Neil Milbert was a staff reporter for the Chicago Tribune for 40 years, covering college (Northwestern, Illinois, UIC, Loyola) and professional (Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls, horse racing, more) sports during that time. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on a Tribune travel investigation and has covered Loyola Academy football since 2011.