Loyola's defense overpowers St Rita for conferenceWilmette 10/22/11-The Ramblers of Loyola Academy take on the Mustangs of St. Rita in Wilmette. Michael Scott Loyola sets in front of Mike Zunica St rita to intercept a pass and run in for a score.| Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 22, 2011 5:51PM
Michael Scott saw it coming, but St. Rita probably didn’t.
Scott returned an interception for a touchdown less than three minutes into the game, jump-starting another dominant defensive effort for Loyola in a 34-7 win over St. Rita Saturday in Wilmette.
The No. 4 Ramblers (9-0, 4-0) clinched an outright Catholic League Blue title and wrapped up their first unbeaten regular season since 1991. No. 6 St. Rita (7-2, 3-1) lost to an in-state team for the first time this season and turned the ball over three times in having a six-game win streak snapped.
Scott’s second pick-six in four games went for 41 yards and gave the Ramblers a 7-0 lead with 9:35 left in the first quarter.
“I went upfield, I saw the quarterback [Scott Thomas] look this way, I put my hands out and he threw it right to me,” Scott said. “As the play was developing, I knew it would be a screen.”
“We talked about it all week: recognize it and sniff it out,” Loyola coach John Holecek said.
He and St. Rita coach Todd Kuska both saw Scott’s play as a game-changer.
“The early pick kind of sent little shock waves,” Kuska said. “I thought our defense played very well. Offensively, I don’t think we got off the bus today. If we did get off, we got off pretty late.”
“It’s a psychological advantage for us and really a disadvantage [for St. Rita],” Holecek said. “The screen game has been a big part [of the Mustangs’ success]. They have a good concept.”
Loyola held an opponent to seven points or fewer for the sixth time this season.
Luke Ford returned another interception 40 yards for a touchdown with 7:50 left in the third quarter and Scotty Suhey had the Ramblers’ third pick. Loyola also stopped St. Rita all three times the Mustangs attempted a fourth-down conversion.
“We didn’t get many breaks, but man, that’s a very good football team,” said Kuska, whose team had 61 rushing yards on 39 carries and was 9 of 26 passing for 114 yards. “They’re very deserving of the [Catholic] Blue title.”
Loyola also got a special-teams touchdown when Richie Wehman ran a punt back 70 yards late in the third quarter. The Ramblers’ offense had a quiet day – 66 rushing yards and 103 passing – but did get touchdown runs of nine yards by Marquese Martin-Hayes and three yards by Ryan Ribordy in building a 21-7 halftime lead.
Mike Zunica scored St. Rita’s lone touchdown on a two-yard run 3:56 before halftime.