||More Sports||Sign up||School Finder|
St. Rita quarterback John Kelley throws the ball before Brother Rice's Mark Tilkes makes contact. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Todd Kuska knows no one is feeling sorry for St. Rita.
The Mustangs head into the final two weeks of the regular season needing at least one win to reach the IHSA playoffs for the 13th straight season. Though some five-win teams will miss the playoffs because of a weak schedule, that won’t be an issue for St. Rita, which hasn’t played a team with a losing record all season.
But if the goal is simple enough, the path to it is anything but.
St. Rita (4-3) finishes the year with a pair of Me-TV/Sun-Times Catholic League Blue Games of the Week: Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Gately Stadium against No. 5 Mount Carmel (6-1) and on Oct. 20 at No. 4 Loyola (6-1).
The Mustangs are in must-win mode after losing to No. 7 Marist, No. 18 Providence and Brother Rice. “We dug ourselves a hole and we have to get ourselves out of it,” St. Rita coach Todd Kuska said.
Motivation shouldn’t be an issue this week, and not just because of the playoff implications.
“We said [to the players], ‘This is a big game,’ ’’ Kuska said. “Obviously this is a rivalry game. We always want to do well in conference. We’re looking for that fifth win. We can’t look past anybody, let alone Mount Carmel.”
The Mustangs are a little healthier on offense than they have been. Quarterback John Kelley (51-of-101, 791 yards, seven touchdowns) is back after missing time due to injury and so is receiver Malik Space, who has played only five quarters all season. With running backs Derrick Miles (73 carries, 380 yards, four touchdowns) and Tim Lombard (56 carries, 278 yards, nine touchdowns) and receiver Julian Crum (26 catches, 330 yards, five touchdowns), St. Rita has a few more options on offense now.
“We’re almost at full strength,” Kuska said. “It’s good to get the pieces back together.”
That’s come at a good time with Mount Carmel up next. The Caravan is an overtime loss to Loyola away from being unbeaten and features a potent offense that averages 8.1 yards a play and 46 points a game.
Senior quarterback Don Butkus has accounted for 850 yards and 16 touchdowns as a passer and runner, while junior Matt Domer averages 13.7 yards a carry (825 yards, 14 touchdowns). Mount Carmel also has some playmakers on defense, including Steven Richardson (12 tackles for loss) and Enoch Smith (10 tackles for loss).