LaGrange Park, IL- This is the first in a series highlighting Nazareth Academy’s run to the 5A @IHSA state finals in DeKalb at NIU’s Huskie Stadium. The Roadrunners (11-2) a #7 seed will face off against the other 5A #7 seed, (New Lenox) Lincoln-Way West (11-2) Saturday at 10:00 am.
Nazareth beat St. Laurence HS last Saturday in Burbank braving very wintry conditions 34-0. I spoke to several key components of the Roadrunner juggernaut that’s poised to win their second straight title (won Class 6A last year) with a win Saturday. Over the next few days we will get an insight into “the brotherhood’ called Roadrunner football. I appreciate the inside access I’m allowed to enjoy from Head Coach Tim Racki and team Dr.’s Tom Nelson & Eric Janota. Here we go:
One of the key contributors to the Naz defensive line is Junior Devonte’ Dunn. Dunn, a defensive tackle, who at 6’2″ 270 lbs is a man on a mission. Unassuming off the field and a menace for the opposing team on it, Dunn is the epitome of Head Coach Tim Racki’s ideal team player. Dunn had to this to say about the game vs the Vikings, “Basically we just dealt with the weather. It doesn’t matter what the weather is, it was a 100% team effort. It took everyone to go all in and get where we wanna go.”
When asked if he was extra pumped for the Vikings, Dunn responded, “I wanted to play with great intensity. I guess I was angry out there and tried to get my teammates angry, too. I just played like a beast out there.” Like he has all season, Dunn IS a ‘beast’.
Senior Joe Muscolino is a hard hitting linebacker who is more demonstrative off the field than Devonte’ Dunn but equally as hard hitting and relentless in the pursuit of the team’s goals between the stripes. Muscolino on the game conditions, “Oh you know we knew it was going to snow. All week we talked about that (weather) and it wouldn’t be a factor and we just played. It was slushy and slippery for them (Vikings) too and we came out hot and we played hard. That was all.”
On their preparation going into this week, “Now going into the week we’re gonna keep practicing hard. We’ve been there before. We are experienced kids. We’ve been playing together for awhile, so we’re gonna keep playing football. Nazareth football. That’s all we do.” Muscolino added.
On the St. Laurence potent offense attack, “Oh yeah, we practiced for it all week. We knew they had a high scoring offense and they score a lot of points. They were one of the top 5 offenses in the state. They have a great quarterback, Alex Martinez, who’s a friend of mine. We knew we were gonna have to do it (play good D) and we stressed it all week. We played hard. We play determined. We came out hot. We played Nazareth football.” Muscolino leaves it all on the field.
Every great team has a quarterback who leads through both playing hard and getting results. Roadrunner play caller, Senior Carson Bartels, hit that mark and some. The quality play he exhibited all year is as important to Nazareth’s success as was any player. Bartels speaking on the weather Saturday during the game, “It was one of those things were we came in and we knew they would be the worst conditions of the year. With the guys in the backfield all I had to do was secure the snap and hand it off to (running backs) Julian (Love) and Ivory (Kelly-Martin). There is no better tandem in the state.”
“We prepared for it all week. We do wet ball drills where the coaches take a water bottle and pour it all over the ball before the snap. We’re prepared for things like that. It wasn’t the first time we dealt with that.” Bartels said.
On next Saturdays game, “We’ll just go out and do what we’ve done all year. The Brotherhood we’ve built can’t be broken by anything. As long as we practice like we’ve practiced and play like we’ve played, we’ll be alright.” With Bartels at the helm, you can see why the Roadrunner’s ship sails true and strong.
Next up: Julian Love, Gavin Smith, Coach Tim Racki, Dr. Tom Nelson, Dr, Eric Janota and much more. Go Roadrunners!!
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