High school football: Resurgent young Nazareth shuts out Morgan Park, advances to 5A semifinals

The first sack in Nazareth’s 29-0 shutout of Morgan Park on Saturday was by freshman Lesroy Tittle. Then later in the first quarter sophomore Gabe Kaminski got in on the action, sacking Mustangs quarterback Marcus Thaxton.

It was that kind of afternoon for Morgan Park, which was overwhelmed by the young Roadrunners in a Class 5A state quarterfinal game in LaGrange Park.

“Our coaching staff is the best in the state so we were prepared,” Kaminski said. “[Morgan Park] played exactly how we thought they would.”

Nazareth relied on its rushing game offensively. Sophomore Alexander Angulo had 21 carries for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Justin Taylor contributed 53 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

“There has been so much growth from Week 1 until now,” Roadrunners quarterback Logan Malachuk, a sophomore, said. “We have come together now and are looking pretty good.”

Malachuk, who took over as the starter late last season, was 7 of 11 for 55 yards with one interception.

Nazareth (8-4) lost four of its first six games. All of the losses were to ranked teams, but it is unique to see a team recover from a 2-4 start and make the state semifinals.

“It’s been incredibly rewarding for me,” Roadrunners coach Tim Racki said. “I’ve never had this many young kids. I didn’t yell at them early. I kept picking them up and they responded to that. About Week 7 we really saw the maturing and they knew they belonged up here.The seniors were always patient with them. It was like raising a kid. You see them grow in to men and now I took the training wheels off and I’m a proud dad.”

Nazareth will be on the road against undefeated Sycamore in the semifinals.

Morgan Park (10-2) played most of the game without star junior Tysean Griffin. The talented junior had seven carries for 23 yards.

“We knew he was only 50 or 60 percent healthy but he’s our guy and we wanted to give him a chance,” Mustangs coach Chris James said. “But he wasn’t even close to being who he needed to be.”

Sophomore quarterback Marcus Thaxton was 9 for 21 passing for 99 yards with one interception. Junior Chris Durr had six catches for 76 yards.

“They had the most speed we’ve seen since Kankakee,” Racki said. “But the boys responded to our game plan. It was an incredible defensive performance. I did not think we would shut them out.”

Morgan Park battled with bad field position throughout the first half and was unable to connect on a big offensive play in the game.

“We’re a young team,” James said. “I don’t want to downplay the contribution the seniors made but we have a heck of a group coming back, just losing four starters. So we will get back to work and keep building.”

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