By Jeff Vorva
For a while, it was dealer’s choice – quarterback style.
St. Rita signal caller Tommy Ulatowksi had some talented choices and threw touchdown passes to Kaleb Brown (67 yards), Kyle James (42 yards) and Isaiah Bragg (52 yards).
Providence Catholic QB Kevin Conway also used three different receivers for scores, as Michael Alvarado nabbed passes of six and 35 yards, Jameson Geers added one for 42 yards and Brayden Garrison nabbed one for eight, helping the Celtics to a 28-26 lead with 11 minutes, 52 second left in the game.
But in the end, it was an electrifying 94-yard kickoff return from St. Rita’s B.J. Hall, and an interception in the end zone from James in the closing seconds, that enabled the Mustangs sweat out a 33-28 home victory Thursday night in a Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference Green battle.
With the victory, St. Rita (2-1, 2-0) is guaranteed at least a tie for the conference championship in the four-team division. With no postseason in this six-week season, a conference title is the biggest prize available.
After two non-league games scheduled against Leo and Nazareth, the Mustangs will try to win it outright at Niles Notre Dame on April 23. Notre Dame had beaten Providence 7-0 in the second week of the season.
Hall was brought up to the varsity as a sophomore toward the end of the 2019 season and had a couple of big returns to help the Mustangs finish second in the state in Class 5A.
“This is my biggest one so far,” said Hall, who credited James for making a key block during the return.
Touchdowns on special teams aren’t expected at St. Rita, but there are some players with speed and moves to pull it off.
“We’ve had about four or five guys in the last two years who have all returned kicks, and they are still returning them,” St. Rita coach Todd Kuska said. “We have some weapons back there, and when they get that opportunity they want to take advantage of it.
“We expect to get good field position. Whether it’s returning a kick or forcing a bad kick. We put a lot of emphasis on the special teams and we expect good things. We expect positive things. Obviously, getting points are great. You can’t count on kick returns [for touchdowns] but you can count on good returns.”
On defense, St. Rita’s Djabril McNabb was in on five sacks, including three solos. Ulatowski finished 7 of 14 for 189 yards. Brown, a junior receiving numerous offers from high-level colleges, had 94 yards on the ground, including a 60-yard touchdown run, and caught two passes for 71 yards.