Football File Art

WHEATON — With a share of the blue division of the Metro Suburban Conference on the line against St. Francis, the Bishop McNamara football team gave it all it had before they fell to the Spartans 37-7 on the road in the final game of this year’s shortened football season.

“St. Francis is a very well coached team and so we knew they were going to be the class of the league,” said Irish coach Rich Zinanni. “So we’re fine with it …we will be back next fall and turn things around.”

The loss put the Irish at 3-2 overall with a third-place finish in the blue division of the MSC, meanwhile, St. Francis improved to 6-0 to take home the conference crown.

“It was a good effort to give it a shot the way we did,” Zinanni said. “My guys are very young, so I think things look good for the future.”

The Irish totaled just 160 yards of offense between the air and ground games because of the strong defensive front of the Spartans.

The deep backfield of Manny Harris, Jaydon Wright and Tony Philips never got into an offensive rhythm.

The Spartans defense continually won the line of scrimmage, which resulted in the trio of Irish running backs combining for a total of 136 rushing yards.

“Their defense is very quick and fast,” Zinanni said. “They haven’t given up many points all season, so, next year might be a different story, but this is their year. Unfortunately, for them, there is no playoffs or they’d make some noise.”

Bishop McNamara opened the game with a 63-yard punt return from Vito Criswell to put the Irish’s first drive on the Spartans 42-yard line. However, they quickly went three and out before St. Francis quarterback Tommy Rittenhouse, an Illinois State commit, connected with Tyler Bishop on the Spartans opening play for an 83-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter to go up 7-0.

Both teams eventually punted on their ensuing drives before McNamara drove it down to the Spartan’s 23-yard line. Yet, that’s when St. Francis was able to bring the pressure by sacking Irish quarterback Brady Bertrand on third down for a seven-yard loss. It resulted in the Irish having to go for it on a 4th and 17 from the Spartan’s 30-yard line, where McNamara turned it over on downs after Criswell’s reception was ruled a couple of yards short of the first down.

A few short plays later, and St. Francis was back in the end zone after Jackson Gerard broke free down the sidelines for a 65-yard touchdown reception from Rittenhouse to put the Spartans up 14-0.

St. Francis eventually scored again on a 14-yard touch pass to Elijah Lee one possession later after they forced another Irish punt to take a 21-0 lead at halftime.

“It’s funny to say it, but our defense was flying around hitting,” Zinanni said. “They hit on three passes that Rittenhouse put on the money that we covered well. It was awfully great execution by their quarterback and skill players.”

The second half went very similarly to the first half for the Irish as they produced just 98 yards of offense.

Bishop McNamara totaled five possessions in the second half, where they went three and out twice, punted, scored its only touchdown off a three-yard rush by Harris and gave up a safety thanks to a sack by St. Francis’ Kaden Mondy late in the final quarter.

“They are hard to run on and we’ve been able to run the ball pretty good on a lot of people,” Zinanni said. “It is what it is; they are a good football team, and we made way too many mistakes.”

St. Francis connected on two third quarter touchdown passes for 59 yards and 32 yards before they cruised to a 30-point victory.

STAT BOOK

Bertrand completed 5-of-12 passes for 57 yards to lead the Irish in the air. Harris finished with a team-high 94 rushing yards and a score. Wright chipped in 48 rushing yards.

Cody is a sports journalist who's been with the Daily Journal since 2020. He's been a sports reporter since his days at the University of Iowa where he graduated in 2019.