LA GRANGE PARK – After a fifth straight win to close the regular season, Nazareth heads into unfamiliar territory for the postseason.
The Roadrunners knocked off Marian Catholic 52-21 in the regular season finale on Saturday to finish the season 7-2 and tie for second in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
Nazareth also learned its playoff fate Saturday night. The Roadrunners will travel to Chicago’s Gately Stadium to take on Brooks at 7 p.m. Saturday in their first road game against a Chicago Public League school since beating Manley 49-12 in the first round of the 2007 playoffs.
“They got great speed at the skill positions at running back and receiver,” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said of Brooks. “They run a pro-style offense. Defense, same thing, they have a lot of speed, especially in the defensive backfield. Their line is a good size.”
Brooks brings an 8-1 record to the postseason after winning the Illini Heartland Conference. The Eagles went 7-0 against Chicago opposition and gave up a combined 14 points in those games.
Brooks put a running clock on six opponents. That domination can make it more difficult to evaluate them on film since the starters were resting in the second half of many games, but Racki still thinks his team has an idea of what Brooks is like.
“You absolutely can get a read on their technique, how fast they, are how well they execute,” Racki said.
The Eagles beat Harper 17-6 in their only close conference game. Earlier in the year Brooks lost to 8-1 Kaneland 27-7 and beat 7-2 Oak Forest 27-24 in Week 2.
The way the Roadrunners have been playing it’s hard to pick against them. Wins over playoff-bound Notre Dame and Benet have highlighted their winning streak.
“We’re still peaking,” Racki said. “Getting through the regular season, everybody refers to the playoffs as the second season. You just want to continue the momentum. I’ve been really proud of our guys because we’ve been improving since [losing to Joliet Catholic].”
The Roadrunners (7-2, 4-2 ESCC) led 21-0 and 24-7 at halftime and didn’t let up in the second half against Marian Catholic (2-7, 0-6 ESCC).
Racki believes his team is ready for the postseason.
“They’re a very selfless group,” he said. “They’ve really bought into the team concept. We’ve got so many guys that are contributing offensively. Defensively, we have a nice group of guys that are subbing in and out.”
Nazareth 52, Marian Catholic 21
Naz rushing leaders
• Julian Love 9-106, 3 TDs
• Cyle Tucker 16-104, 2 TDs
Playoff opener: Nazareth at Brooks
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Gately Stadium, 744 E. 103rd St., Chicago
Records: Nazareth 7-2, Brooks 8-1
Outlook: The Roadrunners are one of the hotter teams around with five straight wins and two of those coming against playoff teams. Brooks went 5-0 in the Chicago Public League Illini Heartland Conference and won six games by more than 40 points. The Eagles' only loss was 27-7 to 8-1 Kaneland and they also beat 7-2 Oak Forest in non-conference play.