Nazareth rallies, advances in Class 5A
Taylor and Harris lead the way for Road Runners
By Steve Metsch
Powered by faith and trust – two words heard often after the team’s latest win – there’s no telling how far Nazareth can go in the Class 5A playoffs.
Nazareth (7-4) will host Fenwick (9-2) in a quarterfinal game after rallying to beat Aurora Marmion, 23-14, on Nov. 6. The time and date of the Fenwick game will be announced later today, Nov. 8.
It was a tense game, but Coach Tim Racki had faith in a team that has rallied from an 0-3 start to now find itself three wins wins from another state championship.
That 28-14 loss on Sept. 10 to powerful Marist “was a moral victory” that showed Racki his team had a lot of spirit. Since then, Nazareth has won seven of eight.
Racki also had faith in Week Three to start freshman quarterback Logan Malachuk, who has thrown 16 touchdowns while winning seven of nine starts.
Malachuk, in turn, said he trusted senior receiver Justin Tayor to catch a fourth-down, 41-yard pass for a key touchdown.
“I knew I had the guy beat,” Taylor said. “Tough it out. It felt good knowing I sparked the team. … I have a lot of faith in Logan. He’s very poised, everything you want in a quarterback.”
Add kicker Ryan Short to the list of believers.
“I trusted my alignment, my guys up front, my holder and my snapper” Short said of his 21-yard field-goal attempt with a 14-all tie.
Short nailed it with 6:42 left in the fourth quarter put Nazareth ahead to stay, 17-14. And, that was after he badly missed a 37-yard kick in the second quarter.
With his team at the 4-yard line, Racki admitted he wanted to score a touchdown.
“(During the time out) assistant coach Joe Reynolds talked me out of it,” Racki said. “He’s a lot smarter than me.”
Harris, a senior, has the smarts on defense.
While Harris’ 5-yard touchdown run put Nazareth up 14-7 at 7:27 of the third quarter, and he ran the game’s opening kickoff back to Marmion’s 12, his biggest play was his interception.
Trailing 7-0, Harris picked off a wobbly pass into the wind from senior QB Daniel Chung to give Nazareth the ball at its own 41 with 2:11 left in the first half.
Harris knew the tendencies of Chung and receiver Dane Pardridge after playing 7-on-7 football with them in the summer.
“I’ve gone against Danny multiple times,” Harris said. “I just tried to stay in (Pardrige’s) hip pocket.”
The Road Runners’ drive appeared dead facing fourth-and-6 at Marmion’s 41-yard line with 32.6 seconds left in the first half.
That’s when Malachuk heaved the ball down the middle. Taylor caught it near the 5, and fought past two defenders into the end-zone ti tie the game, 7-7.
“I trusted Justin,” Malachuk said. “We’ve been working all season on that. I just let it fly. He was there to get it. It’s all about trust.”
Taylor has played on varsity four years. “He has a football IQ that’s off the charts,” Racki said.
Taylor added a 4-yard TD run with 1:58 left to play.
Harris simply smiled when asked how far Nazareth can go.
“It’s a mindset,” Harris said. “(Some people) thought this was a rebuilding year, that we’d give up. We just trust our brothers, trust our coaches, and we got better week by week, including this week.”