Team captain Zach Hayes holds the trophy as Coach Tim Racki and the Roadrunners celebrate the school’s fourth state football championship in nine seasons, and first since 2018. (Photos by Steve Metsch)
Nazareth rally celebrates fourth state football championship
By Steve Metsch
Two huge cheers rocked the Rooney Student Center at Nazareth Academy in La Grange Park late Monday morning.
The first was when Zach Hayes – joined by the coaches and teammates – walked in carrying the IHSA Class 5A state football championship trophy high over his head.
The second was when school principal Therese Hawkins made a special announcement.
“As you know, it’s a great tradition here at Nazareth Academy that when we have a state championship team in the house, we also have an extra day off,” she said.
Feb. 17 will be a day without school, she said, as the student body of 740 roared its approval.
When one considers there were only 13 seniors on this roster, another day off may be coming soon as state titles are also getting synonymous with Nazareth football.
The Roadrunners won a championship for the fourth time in the past nine seasons. Nazareth is now 4-2 in football title games.
The Roadrunners beat Peoria in a 45-44 thriller on Saturday at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium for their first title since 2018.
Head Coach Tim Racki, who won four straight state titles at Driscoll, thanked the parents, students, band, cheerleaders, poms, teachers and administration for their support.
Now 8-2 overall in title games, Racki said he’s humbled by accolades, adding it wouldn’t be possible with the assistant coaches he considers “some of the best in the state.”
“In terms of where we were at, there was never a doubt,” he deadpanned.
Nazareth became the first football team in state history to start a season 2-4 and win it all.
“The resiliency is something I’ve never experienced as a head coach,” Racki said.
The Roadrunners reeled off eight straight wins after that start.
“The destination is always wonderful, but, man, I can’t tell you how sad I am that this journey has concluded,” Racki said.
“I’m so proud and incredibly blessed to be surrounded by these young men and especially the seniors whom I’ll never forget,” he said. “Gentlemen, I love you.”
One of those seniors is Hayes, the team’s captain chair, whose interception in the closing moments sealed the victory.
Hayes said the team appreciated the support from the fans, credited the coaches for their hard work, and thanked his teammates who worked hard all year.
“This team means everything to me. … To see that we came out on top is so rewarding,” Hayes said. “I know each and every one of us sitting in those chairs would do anything for the guy next to him. That’s why I love Naz.”
Senior running back, receiver and defensive back Justin Taylor, a Wisconsin recruit, thanked “my brothers” and the coaches “for all the time you sacrificed for us.”
After the ceremony, Racki said he sensed something special was brewing after an emotional talk with the team then 2-4.
“I worked my tail off at motivation and leadership. I pretty much emptied my tool box. I told them, ‘Guys, I don’t know what else to say. Now it’s time for you to lead.’ From that moment on, we started growing,” Racki said.
“You develop that grit, that toughness. And they started believing.”
He refrained from comparing this title with his other seven. But he did praise the team’s focus, saying, “when you’re 2-4, it’s easy to tank.”
Sophomore quarterback Logan Malachuk, named Player of the Game after rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for two more, said “words can’t express how happy I am right now.”
“I believed we always had a shot because this team showed so much potential. And, of course, we’re so young. We had a lot of learning to do,” he said.
He praised the Nazareth defense that stopped running back Malachi Washington on a key two-point conversion late in the game.
“They came up big when we needed them. It’s that one play. And Zach’s pick as well. It’s the resilience. I’m super proud of them,” Malachuk said.
Washington – whom Racki called “the best running back I’ve seen in years” – carried 48 times for 289 yards. His six touchdowns tied a state record.
Before the football celebration, Nazareth’s girl sports were recognized for going downstate this fall in volleyball, tennis, golf and cross-country.
On a personal note, Racki coached the title game with a heavy heart.
Brother-in-law Flavio Gentile died suddenly on Nov. 23 from a bacterial infection in his blood, Racki said.
Gentile had played quarterback in high school at Fenwick.
“He was a huge football fan and supporter of mine since I was at Driscoll,” Racki said. “I knew he’d want me to lock in and take care of these kids. And that’s what I did. I knew he was with me the entire way.”
Tri-State lane closures start Monday as area ramps prepare to reopen
Spread the loveOvernight lane closures are scheduled next week to shift traffic on Interstate 55 and on the northbound Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) between Willow Springs Road and Plainfield Road and reopen the ramp connecting northbound I-294 to southbound I-55 and Wolf Road. On Monday, February 6, beginning at 9 p.m. and continuing until 5…
Comings & Goings: Orland Area Chamber installs new officers
Spread the loveRamzi Hassan of Edwards Realty Company was installed last week as president of the Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce. The 2023 board of directors was also installed and annual membership awards were handed out during ceremonies last Thursday at the Crystal Tree Country Club. Installation duties were performed by Orland Park Mayor…
Oak Lawn studio wants to be haven for artists
Spread the loveBy Joe Boyle An acorn may be the symbol that inspires the Oak Lawn community to unleash its artistic talents. The first official session of the Acorn to Oak Studios will be presented from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, in the north wing of the Pilgrim Faith Church campus, 9411 S.…
EPCHS names Matthew Dugan next principal
Spread the loveFrom staff reports Evergreen Park Community High School has hired Matthew Dugan as its next principal. Dugan’s appointment was made official during the January 24 meeting of the Evergreen Park Community High School Board of Education. Dugan will become principal on July 1, upon the retirement of current Principal Bill Sanderson. “I am…
GOP money tells quite a tale
Spread the love. By Rich Miller State records show that Dan Proft’s People Who Play by the Rules PAC spent almost $36 million during the second half of 2022, mostly on advertising boosting Sen. Darren Bailey’s gubernatorial bid and opposing Gov. JB Pritzker. Of that, $2.4 million was spent on consulting. Former ABC7 political reporter…
Lyons Township school board rejects sale of 70-acre parcel in Willow Springs
Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch The sale of 70 acres in Willow Springs to a developer who wants to build an industrial park has been rejected by the Lyons Township High School District 204 board, but the door remains wide open to a sale. The board voted unanimously Jan. 23 to reject bids of $46.5…
Georgis Catering owner vows to rebuild after fire
Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Georgis Catering owner Buz Georgis is maintaining an upbeat outlook despite the destruction of his business in an early-morning fire Friday at 63rd Place and Central Avenue in Chicago’s Clearing neighborhood. “It’s been a pretty crazy week,” he said Monday. “But we are moving forward and we plan on being…
BEDS Plus Soup & Bread event to raise money to assist the homeless
Spread the love By Steve Metsch One way to warm up on a cold winter’s day is with a bowl of soup. And on Sunday, soup lovers can sample 20 different soups and also get the warm feeling received by helping a local charitable organization. BEDS Plus, which helps the homeless through the southwest suburbs,…
Sandburg/MVCC dual courses could save plenty of money
Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva The price of college tuition keeps going up and shows no sign of ever going down. Thus, District 230 Board Member Dave O’Connor is urging Sandburg parents with college-bound students to take a long look at the school’s dual credit program with Moraine Valley. “We get students here who will…
Illinois’ biometric privacy law strengthened by latest high court ruling
By HANNAH MEISEL Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – People who’ve been subject to fingerprinting, face or retinal scans as either employees or customers of Illinois companies have five years to file lawsuits if they believe the business violated a stringent state privacy law, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled this week. It’s the latest in…
Pritzker seeks more info on AP African American Studies course
By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker this week asked the College Board for more information about its reasoning for changing the final framework of a new Advanced Placement course in African American studies after it had been criticized by Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. “Although we are pleased to…
Report pushes for greater focus on teacher recruitment and retention amid shortages
By NIKA SCHOONOVER Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Illinois schools are still grappling with a teacher shortage that seems to only be getting worse, a recent survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools shows. This mirrors the state’s own data, which shows Illinois’ teacher shortage is at the highest level in…
Illinois’ COVID-19 disaster proclamation to end in May
By HANNAH MEISEL Capitol news Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Exactly 38 months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Illinois will no longer be under a disaster proclamation as of May 11, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday. That’s the same day President Joe Biden will end the national public health emergency, which…
CAPITOL RECAP: Gun lawsuit restraining order remains in place
By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS SPRINGFIELD — A temporary restraining order that partially blocks Illinois’ new assault weapons ban from being enforced will remain in place after a divided state appellate court panel’s ruling Tuesday. The restraining order was issued Jan. 20 by Effingham County Circuit Judge Joshua Morrison, but it applies only to the 800…
Appellate court upholds restraining order on assault weapons ban
By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – A temporary restraining order that partially blocks Illinois’ new assault weapons ban from being enforced will remain in place after a divided state appellate court panel’s ruling Tuesday. The restraining order was issued Jan. 20 by Effingham County Circuit Judge Joshua Morrison, but it applies only…
Tony Sanders to become state superintendent of education
By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education announced Tuesday that Elgin-based School District U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders will become the next state superintendent of education. Sanders, 53, will succeed Carmen Ayala, who announced in November that she would retire effective Jan. 31. ISBE said Sanders will take…
Amid ‘unprecedented’ prolonged revenue boom, state finds budget breathing room
By JERRY NOWICKI Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Sustained higher-than-predicted state tax revenues have in recent months given lawmakers a level of budgeting flexibility that is, at least in modern times, without precedent in a state with a reputation for perilous finances. For the current fiscal year and the one before it, that’s led…
‘Omnibus’ health care bill passed amid criticisms
By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – A law recently signed by Gov. JB Pritzker will extend the deadline for the state to transfer criminal defendants deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial from jail to a mental hospital. That same bill, House Bill 240, also gives nursing homes in Illinois two more years…
Veteran Statehouse reporter Hannah Meisel joins Capitol News Illinois reporting team
By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS [email protected] Longtime Statehouse reporter Hannah Meisel has joined the Capitol News Illinois team as a full-time state government and politics reporter. She’s had a number of assignments covering the Statehouse and Illinois government since the 2014 legislative session, most recently serving as Statehouse editor for NPR Illinois from 2020 until after…