By Steve Metsch
Brother Rice running back Willie Shaw and his fellow seniors did not want their pandemic-abbreviated six-game season to end with a loss.
Shaw’s battering running, the gritty play of junior quarterback Jack Lausch and a stifling defense led the host Crusaders past Mount Carmel, 20-13, in the season finale on April 23.
“I’m glad we got away with a win, especially on our home field,” said the 6-foot, 200-pound Shaw. “With this being my last year, I wouldn’t want it any way else.”
The Crusaders and IHSA Class 8A defending state champion Caravan both finished 4-2, 1-2.
It’s a victory Shaw, who had surgery on his left hip Dec. 8, will savor.
“I just wanted to end it how I started with my brothers, the people I love the most,” he said.
Shaw carried 16 times for 167 yards and one touchdown and had the game’s biggest play. On first-and-10 from the Rice 42 yard line, junior quarterback Jack Lausch handed the ball to Shaw, who cut left, broke free and outraced several Mt. Carmel defenders for a 58-yard touchdown.
The score put the Crusaders up 13-7 after one quarter.
“When I’m on the field, I just run,” Shaw said. “I don’t remember what happens until I see the film. It was just instincts.”
Brother Rice coach Brian Badke said Shaw has worked hard in practice and with trainers to rehab after a microfracture in his hip.
“I feel great,” Shaw said. “I’m ready to go back in and play some more football with my guys.”
Lausch noted Shaw could have sat out the shortened season to prepare for college football at Toledo.
“It shows his character and how much he cares.” Lausch said.
Lausch opened the scoring with a 1-yard keeper after an 80-yard drive. He carried 25 times for 122 yards.
“That’s a warrior: Jack Lausch. A warrior,” Shaw said.
Lausch was 7-of-13 passing for 74 yards, including a 52-yard bomb to senior Dwayne Moorehead on the Crusaders’ first drive.
The Crusaders peaked at the right time, Badke said.
“The seniors are a special group,” he added. “Today’s our day.”
A few fortunate bounces helped. A second-quarter Caravan punt ricocheted high off a Brother Rice helmet into the arms of senior Ben Somers.
Another break came on the Crusaders’ last touchdown, which proved to be the game-winner.
With the ball on Mount Carmel’s 7-yard line, Lausch rolled right and passed to junior Henry Boyer in the end zone. The ball bounced off Boyer’s hands and into the arms of Crusaders junior Khary Shaw for a 20-7 lead with 3:31 left.
“We drew it up that way,” Badke joked.
The Caravan did not quit.
Senior quarterback Justin Lynch, who will play at Temple in the fall, found junior tight end Joey Thompson over the middle for a 50-yard scoring play with 2:20 remaining. Senior Julian Patino missed the extra point, leaving Rice with a 20-13 lead.
A miracle finish was possible until Lausch’s punt on the Crusaders’ ensuing possession was downed at the Caravan 1 with 1:05 left.
“Jack Lausch is special,” Badke said. “He’s a natural-born leader. “I’ve talked to college coaches and told them you can’t go wrong with him.”
Rice junior Mike Fahy ended the game by intercepting Lynch at the Caravan 25.
Senior linebacker Myles Jones said the Crusaders’ goal was to force Mt. Carmel to pass.
“We bend, but don’t break,” Jones said. “Tonight, we sent everything we had at them. We wanted to stop the run.”
Although Lynch racked up 253 yards passing (21-of-38), the Caravan ran for just 59 yards. Lynch gained eight yards on 14 attempts. Rice held senior running back Kenenna Odeluga to 51 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
“Tackle low and gang tackle,” Jones said of stopping the powerful Odeluga. “That’s how we practice.”