LA GRANGE PARK – After receiving plenty of preseason hype, Nazareth lived up to it in the season opener.
The Roadrunners trounced Bloomington on Saturday, winning 42-7 after jumping ahead to a 30-0 lead after the first quarter.
Playing linebacker and running back, senior transfer Nolan Dean had a standout Nazareth debut with two rushing touchdowns and a safety. Dean started the scoring by earning a safety for the Roadrunners’ defense on Bloomington’s first possession. He scored both of his touchdowns in the first quarter.
Dean, a transfer from Neuqua Valley, easily adjusted to the Roadrunners’ offense thanks to the team’s big and talented offensive line.
“You see the holes open up and you try to juke out defenders, but it’s just our linemen,” Dean said. “It’s just big holes. We have a great line.”
Like last year, Nazareth still used several different running backs on the day. Sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin was not one of them due to an injury, but the Roadrunners didn’t miss the talented young running back on Saturday.
Dean’s standout debut was not a surprise to coach Tim Racki, who has seen Dean perform in practice throughout the summer and early fall practices.
“I see that every day so I get spoiled by it,” Racki said. “I was impressed, but not surprised. He’s an explosive runner. He was out early in camp with an injury so he still needs to get his wind back. That’s why it was good that we have that depth where we can play him on one side of the ball and pick our spots with him on defense.”
Dean is a college level talent, but has yet to receive any offers. He still lives in Naperville and believes the offers will come if he keeps working hard.
“I like the small environment with the school,” Dean said of Nazareth. “I have interest. I talk to a lot of coaches every day so I just want to get my grades high and keep on playing. I think we have a good team so it should come.”
Nazareth led 42-0 at halftime and had a number of players make big plays. Kevin Jackson had a first quarter interception to set up one of Dean’s scores. The Roadrunners led 16-0 with 8:37 left in the first quarter.
Dean couldn’t speak highly enough of the offensive line. Four returning starters – Jack Shutack, Mike Owens, Patrick Kilcommons and John Kilcommons – worked hard in the offseason to become one of the best units in the area.
“When we lost in the second round of the playoffs last year to Sycamore, as we were going into the locker room, Mike Owens came up to me and said ‘I want the weight room open on Monday,’” Racki said. “I just said OK. All the linemen were there that Monday after the loss and they’ve never left. It shows because they’re getting a lot of attention and a lot of press.”