EAST ST. LOUIS — Taking on the state's top-ranked Class 8A team in the Loyola Academy Ramblers proved to much of a chore for O'Fallon on Saturday at the Fourth Annual City of Champions Foundation Football Classic.
Quarterback Jack Penn rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown and the Ramblers, from the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, took advantage of numerous O'Fallon mistakes in a 44-20 win at Clyde C. Jordan Stadium.
Penn also fired a 11-yard scoring pass to receiver Joe Joyce for Loyola (2-0), which built leads of 17-0 and 27-6 over the Panthers.
But O'Fallon, ranked fourth in the Associated Press' Class 8A poll, battled back thanks to the passing combination of quarterback Camden Bauer and Tae'Mon Franklin.
With O'Fallon trailing 27-6 late in the third quarter, Bauer fired an 18-yard scoring pass to Franklin to bring O'Fallon to within 27-13.
Then, following a daring fourth-down call from its own 20-yard line in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, the Panthers struck again.
Following a 1-yard plunge by running back Kentrail Moran which gave the Panthers a first down, Bauer found a streaking Franklin open over the middle of the field for an 81-yard scoring strike, which cut the lead to 27-20.
Like it did for much of the second half, the Panthers defense held the Ramblers once again.
O'Fallon took possession inside its own 30-yard line and was once again faced with a fourth-down situation.
Pushing its fate for a second time, the Panthers came up short when Moran was stopped shy of the first down after taking a shovel pass from Bauer.
Three minutes later, kicker Mike Kurzydlowski booted his third field goal of the game -- this one from 35-yards out -- to give Loyola a 30-20 lead.
"That was a big sequence in that after they (O'Fallon) scored, they had all the momentum. We were able to stop them on fourth down and while we didn't take it in, we were able to get a field goal and make it a two-possession game again,'' Ramblers coach John Holecek said. "We made some mistakes, but when we needed to make plays we were able to get it done."
Reserve running back Donnel Haley added a pair of scoring runs late in the final period to provide the final margin.
O'Fallon (1-1) was seemingly in a hole from the outset.
A crucial offsides penalty early in the first quarter gave the Ramblers a first down and led to their first touchdown of the night -- a 1-yard run by Penn with 6:22 left in the first quarter.
O'Fallon spent much of the rest of the first half buried deep in its own territory.
The Ramblers got a 36-yard field goal from Kurzydlowski and a 12-yard scoring pass from Penn to Joe Joyce with 43 seconds remaining in the second quarter, making it 17-0.
Panthers kicker Tucker McCann booted field goals of 46 and 51 yards in the second quarter as the Panthers closed to within 17-6.
"We made some mistakes with some penalties early and we just didn't have good field position. It seemed like we were in a hole and we just couldn't get out,'' O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said. "I was pleased with our effort in the second half. We kept battling and were able to get back in the game."
Bauer, who threw for 246 yards, made a costly mistake early in the second half.
Buried inside his own 10, Bauer threw a pass in the flat which was intercepted by Ramblers defensive end John Kecki, who rumbled home into the end zone from 7-yards out to put Loyola up 27-6.