Undefeated Loyola Academy used its Saturday Oct. 14 game against Benet Academy as another lopsided warmup for the Ramblers’ last — and biggest — game of the regular season back at Hoerster Field against undefeated Mount Carmel.
After winning by 47 points the previous weekend in Elmhurst at Immaculate Conception, the Ramblers scored their eighth victory by trouncing Benet Academy 41-7 in Wilmette.
Leading the onslaught was senior Finn Miller with touchdown runs of 33, 43 and 50 yards. He made a point of praising the offensive linemen “for making huge holes for me.”
The well-built running back played football at Loyola his freshman year but then transferred to Culver Military Academy in Indiana before returning to Loyola for his junior year during which he played lacrosse but not football.
“I missed it,” Miller said. “I regretted not playing. I thought I’d be doing myself as a disservice if I did not go out. Last year I was at the Mount Carmel (game, which was the Ramblers’ only loss) and it still burns a little bit. I thought: ‘Why am I sitting in the stands?’”
Coach Beau Desherow recalled: “We were looking for help this summer when we learned that Will (Nimesheim) and Luke (Foster) were out for the season. We didn’t have a lot of depth at running back. Finn emailed me during the summer and said: ‘Coach, I’d like to play this fall.’ I told him to come to my office and when I saw him I said: ‘We’d love to have you!’
“Finn is a tremendous kid and has been really impressive. The more experience he gets the more confident he gets and the more confidence he gets the more impressive he is.”
In addition to his TD trips, Miller carried one more time for 3 yards in his best performance of the season, giving him a season total of 399 yards in 47 carries.
Starter Drew MacPherson also carried four times against Benet and gained 10 yards, increasing his season output to 449 yards in 82 rushes. The junior also caught two passes for 17 yards, one of which was an 8-yard touchdown reception.
Miller’s 33-yard jaunt began the Ramblers’ rampage with 8:02 to play in the first quarter, and it was followed by MacPherson’s TD catch and a 60-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzgerald to wide receiver Nicholas Arogundade. Michael Baker kicked all three extra points, and the Ramblers ended the first quarter holding a 21-0 lead.
Arogundade dropped his first pass but he wound up with four catches for 85 yards.
“It didn’t go through my mind ‘I can’t go to him anymore’ after the dropped football,” Fitzgerald said. “It was raining and I’ve said all season: ‘It’s about trust.’ I trusted him and kept finding him. Last year (as a junior) he didn’t play much but he has come back and been one of our greatest leaders. He’s such a great guy.”
Arogundade said he was wearing gloves and felt uncomfortable when he flubbed the catch: “After that I took the gloves off and was fine.”
Early in the second quarter the Red Wings scored their only touchdown on a 7-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Kuback to wide receiver Rocky Rosanova. Setting up the TD was a trick play: Rosanova’s 16-yard pass to 6-foot-5 tight end Ahren Becker.
Loyola answered later in the quarter with Miller’s second touchdown run followed by Baker’s field goals of 40 and 48 yards. In the third quarter, Miller’s last TD trip and Baker’s fifth extra point completed the scoring.
Desherow rested his best players during the second half. Fitzgerald, who was 6-for-8 passing for 101 yards, was replaced by Lucas Holubar (8-for-14 for 63 yards), and Francis Corrigan, Casey Doell and Devion Johnson assumed the running back responsibilities.
Johnson also did double-duty as a saxophone player in the band before the game and when there was a break in the action.
The Loyola defense, which has two shutouts and has allowed more than seven points in only one of the eight games, continued to stand out. The Red Wings amassed only 162 net yards versus the Ramblers’ 350.
Now comes the showdown between the defending IHSA Class 8A state champion and defending 7A state champ Mount Carmel (also 8-0), the only team to defeat the Ramblers in the past two seasons and the team that again stands between them and the Catholic League Blue Division title.
The Saturday, Oct. 21 showdown will begin at 1 p.m., a half-hour earlier than the starting time for the other Hoerster Field home games this season.
“Our goals all year have been: No, 1 get playoff eligible; No. 2 win the Catholic League; and No. 3 advance as far as we can in the state playoffs and try to win another championship,” Desherow said.
As one of the Ramblers’ defensive stalwarts, Jimmy Govern, sees it: “Mount Carmel is the real deal—I like to call it ‘an immovable object against an irresistible force.’”
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.