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Disabato: The sky is not falling at St. Rita

St. Rithead coach Todd Kusktalks with player #11 Tom Adent  during their game against Marist Soldier Field Chicago IL

St. Rita head coach Todd Kuska talks with player #11, Tom Adent during their game against Marist at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL on Saturday August 25, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 29, 2012 6:26AM



Last I checked, the sky is not falling and the sun continues to rise each and every morning.

Don’t try to explain that optimism to some St. Rita football fans who have reached out to me and who have all but thrown in the towel on the current season.

News flash: This isn’t the time for a fan base to divide, but to unite. I hate to go all Knute Rockne on you, but whatever happened to “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”?

Granted, times are tough for the Mustangs, who have considerable work to do if they’re going to extend their streak of qualifying for the playoffs to 13 straight seasons.

St. Rita needs five wins, a mark it generally reaches by Week 7. In that regard, Mustang fans have been spoiled.

The Mustangs, however, are currently 2-3.

I’m not a mathematics major, but I’m pretty certain they’ll need to win three of their final four to finish 5-4 and gain entry to the Big Dance.

“We’re not folding up the tents,” St. Rita coach Todd Kuska said. “We’re still working hard every day. If you would have told me before the season we’d be 2-3, I’d have said, ‘no way.’ But when you look at how we’ve played, yes, we’re a 2-3 team. But we’re confident we still have a chance to get to five wins.”

The issue?

Undefeated Mount Carmel and 4-1 Loyola remain on the schedule.

Somehow, some way, St. Rita has to win one of those games, while sweeping Hales and Bishop McNamara.

If there’s a silver lining to that challenge, it’s that those potential make-or-break battles against the Caravan and Ramblers don’t arrive until weeks 8 and 9, respectively.

That will allow the Mustangs time to get their house in order.

“It hasn’t been a good start,” said Kuska, who has racked up a 131-51 mark in 14 years. “We have failed to take care of things on our own end. We’ve had some costly turnovers, we haven’t made some plays at crucial times. Things have caught up to us.”

Kuska wouldn’t use it as an excuse, but the Mustangs have been hit pretty hard by the injury bug.

In fact, the offense has yet to play a single game with all of its regulars on the field.

Whether it’s been on the line (Alex Zaleski) or at the skill positions (quarterback John Kelley, wide receivers Tom Adent and Malik Space), the Mustangs have pretty much played short-handed all season.

I know what you’re thinking: Injuries are a part of the game and an elite program like St. Rita should be better positioned to compensate for such losses.

But take a look at the Mustangs’ losses: to No. 1 Marist, No. 6 Providence and Brother Rice.

They’re a combined 12-3.

Losing a single starter, much less multiple starters, is tough to overcome against quality competition.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re Marist, Mount Carmel or Lincoln-Way East, the three teams sitting atop our Top 10 poll.

The dings have forced Kuska to move personnel around. But the rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul method, one Illinois government uses as its financial blueprint, has proven ineffective.

“You move one guy around and it affects things,” Kuska said. “We had to move Tom McCormick, one of our better receivers, to quarterback against Providence. Tom is talented, but he can’t throw the ball to himself.

“We’ve played a pretty good schedule. We haven’t handled it as well as we could have. We’re a couple of plays away from being a real good team. But we have no excuses. We have to take care of the ball better and tackle better.”

If that happens and the Mustangs get healthy, a 3-1 finish can happen.

Do I have to remind doubters that entering the season, St. Rita, ranked No. 4, was considered among the best teams in the area? That wasn’t based on reputation, but talent.

That skill remains on the roster.

Back in August, many fans expected the Mustangs to compete for the Catholic Blue title.

With two losses in the Blue, that’s no longer a realistic possibility.

Yet, I have a feeling that with a win over Mount Carmel in Week 8 — though I believe a victory in Week 9 vs. Loyola is more likely — all would be forgotten.

“We’ve got to get to three wins before we get to our fourth and fifth wins,” Kuska said. “It’s a cliche, but we’re taking it one day at a time. We need to get healthier and play better and I think the results will be different.”



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