Nazareth one win away
Tyler Morris scores five TDs in semifinal rout
By Steve Metsch
Thanksgiving morning will find Nazareth Head Coach Tim Racki, his assistants and team practicing on their football field behind the school.
They don’t mind one bit.
“It’s the best practice of the year,” Racki said Saturday. “You go in the morning, you’re playing football, then you go eat turkey, then you sleep in Friday, and practice again.
“You’re not going to a Turkey Bowl with the neighbors. You’re going to practice for a state title,” Racki added.
Behind the dazzling performances of sophomore receiver Tyler Morris and junior quarterback J.J. McCarthy – who teamed for five touchdowns – Nazareth beat host Rolling Meadows 42-14 in a Class 7A semifinal game. Rolling Meadows came into the game 12-0.
“You never expect that in a semifinal game,” Racki said, “but I did stress all week that we wanted to have a fast start.”
Nazareth delivered, scoring on its first four possessions.
Morris caught four touchdowns from McCarthy in the first quarter. Morris finished with nine receptions for 228 of the team’s 509 total yards. McCarthy was 20 of 27 for 350 yards.
Sophomore Tyler Morris, left, caught five touchdown passes from J.J. McCarthy in Nazareth’s 42-14 rout of Rolling Meadows. The win puts Nazareth in the Class 7A state title game against Mount Carmel at 4 p.m. Saturday at Northern Illinois University. Photo by Steve Metsch.
The win sets up a clash of unbeatens when Nazareth plays Mount Carmel at 4 p.m. Nov. 30 at Northern Illinois University for the Class 7A crown. The defending 7A champ, Nazareth is in its third straight title game and fifth in six years.
Racki “knew we were ready” after Thursday’s practice.
“Our execution was precise. Our technique was impeccable. Our focus was locked in. That’s why (Friday’s) practice was just a little under an hour,” Racki said.
Morris downplayed his glittering numbers: “One player can’t win the game for you … It’s my teammates blocking. It’s J.J. making the throws. It’s not just all me.”
Morris nearly had a sixth touchdown but stepped out of bounds: “It would have been nice to have another, but I wasn’t too mad about it.”
Nazareth’s stingy defense held Rolling Meadow to 205 total yards, and set up the first two scores.
Junior defensive end Daine Hanson pounced on a loose ball at the 10-yard line after Rolling Meadows botched a lateral pass on its first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Morris caught a 7-yard TD pass.
Hanson said, “I thought ‘it’s behind the line of scrimmage, I’ll just jump on it’.”
On the Mustangs’ next possession, freshman defensive back Kaleb Miller intercepted a pass and returned it to Rolling Meadows’ 35-yard line. McCarthy threw a touchdown pass to Morrison the first play.
“We were off to the races after that,” Racki said.
That race slowed when Nazareth faced fourth and 22 at Rolling Meadows’ 26-yard line. But it soon resumed when McCarthy zipped a pass over the middle to Morris around the 10. He split two defenders for a 21-0 lead.
Landon Morris gained 24 yards on this reception, setting up Tyler Morris (no relation) for his fourth touchdown catch of the first quarter. Photo by Steve Metsch.
The next series, after Landon Morris (no relation) had a 24-yard reception, McCarthy threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Morris for a 28-0 with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
“We ran into a buzz saw. That’s an extremely good football team,” Rolling Meadows Head Coach Matt Mishler said. “We just didn’t execute well all day. That’s in large part due to Naz and what they were doing.”
McCarthy credited receivers Landon Morris, Tanner Koziol, Isaiah Emmanuel and Miller with drawing defenders away from the speedy Morris.
Racki knows Morris – who has caught 17 of McCarthy’s 33 touchdown passes this season – is dangerous.
“Whenever you get Tyler the ball in an open space – which is what he does well and J.J. knows that – he’s going to create plays, which is what he did.”
Senior running back Alex Carrillo made it 35-0 with a three-yard run in the second quarter. Nazareth led 42-0 after McCarthy threw his fifth TD pass, a 61-yard play, to Morris to the sidelines for Morris with 9:42 left in the third.
Rolling Meadows senior quarterback Carson Schiller, who threw late touchdowns of 50 and 10 yards, said Nazareth’s defense is “a lot more physical.”
“They were showing different blitzes. Then they’d back up and send someone else,” Schiller said. “(We had) no momentum on offense.”
Asked about returning to the title game, McCarthy smiled and said, “It means a lot to get there, but we’re not done. We’re not satisfied. We haven’t won anything yet.”
Mount Carmel beat Willowbrook 26-7 Saturday. Caravan Head Coach Jordan Lynch is trying to win his first state title while Racki (7-1 in title games) is trying to win his eighth.
“It stinks to lose,” Racki said, “but your goal is to play in the last game of the year. This is a huge accomplishment for us. It’s going to be a tremendous game.”
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