By: John Nee '93
After not making the IHSA playoff field following a disappointing (3-6) regular season in 2018, Head Coach Todd Kuska '90 has his team back in the state playoffs for the 17th time in his Hall of Fame tenure. This year the Mustangs will be placed for the first time since the expansion to eight classes in the IHSA Class 5A bracket where ironically St. Rita was placed during their run to the 1978 state championship. Teams that have won three playoff games combined over the past two seasons are subject to the success factor of the multiplier for non-boundaried schools, but since St. Rita failed to qualify for the state playoffs last season, their placement will be based solely on their actual number of students (580) thus placing them in the Class 5A field.
St. Rita, seeded 8th in the north bracket, opens the playoffs with Upstate Eight conference member and 9th-seeded (Glen Ellyn) Glenbard South (6-3). This marks a rematch of a Class 7A second- round matchup back in 2004 with the Mustangs handling the Raiders easily behind junior running back Wade Weyer's huge game. St. Rita would advance to the semifinals in 2004 losing to Bloomington 20-7.
Glenbard South is led by their senior quarterback Nick Pleso, who has an offer to play at Culver-Stockton College. In addition, sophomore running back Trevor Burnett is a future D1 player, and together they have powered the Raider offense to an average of 23 points per game.
The CCL/ESCC Green champion Mustangs (6-3, 2-1), who ride a five-game winning streak into Friday night's playoff opener, are led by sophomore running back and Lawless Award winner Kaleb Brown, who has totaled over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns on the season. Joining Brown as first-team all-conference selections are senior left tackle Trevor Tovey, junior tackle/guard Bode Turner, and senior punter/wide receiver Joe Polselli. Sophomore quarterback Tommy Ulatowski took over the reins under center in the second half of week 8 and has totaled 3 touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing) over the past 2 weeks.
Defensively, St. Rita is led by four first-team, all-conference selections: senior defensive end Michael Milton, senior defensive backs Zenin Hall and Tommy Hixson, and junior linebacker Mike Gaughan. The Mustangs have posted two shutouts on the season and, after giving up 45 points in a week 4 loss at Montini, have held opponents during St. Rita's five-game winning streak to an average of under 7 points per game.
This Friday's first-round matchup will be played at Doyle Stadium with opening kickoff scheduled for 7pm. The winner of the game between St. Rita and Glenbard South will play the winner of the #1 versus #16 game, Sterling and Marian Catholic. If the Mustangs win, they will be assured to be on the road for round 2. Come on out to Doyle Stadium/Pat Cronin Field Friday night at 7pm as the Mustangs begin their quest for the third state championship in the school's storied football history.