BOS­TON BOMBER’S DEATH SEN­TENCE OVER­TURNED; FILM­MAKER ALAN PARKER DIES

NAZARETH DE KEELER, C VIRELLI, MONTINI OL KUCZYNSKI TRANS­FER­RING OUT OF STATE TO PLAY IN FALL AF­TER ILLI­NOIS PUSHES FOOT­BALL SEA­SON BACK

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MIKE CLARK | @mikeclarkp­reps

The IHSA plans to play foot­ball in the spring, but at least three high-pro­file lo­cal play­ers al­ready have opted out.

De­fen­sive end Ryan Keeler and cen­ter Domenic Virelli, two re­turn­ing starters from Nazareth’s Class 7A run­ner-up team, won’t be with the Road­run­ners when prac­tice is sched­uled to start in Fe­bru­ary.

Keeler said Wed­nes­day he ex­pects to trans­fer out of state to play this fall or fin­ish his high school grad­u­a­tion on­line. Ei­ther way, he plans to grad­u­ate af­ter the first se­mes­ter to en­roll in col­lege early.

Virelli an­nounced Wed­nes­day on Twit­ter he is trans­fer­ring to Dowl­ing Catholic in West Des Moines, Iowa, and plans to play there this fall.

Also head­ing out of state is Montini of­fen­sive line­man Brett Kuczynski, who said Thurs­day on Twit­ter he is trans­fer­ring to New Smyrna Beach in Florida.

Keeler said he was “sad­dened” by the IHSA’s de­ci­sion to move foot­ball to the spring be­cause of the COVID-19 pan­demic.

“I would love to stay at Nazareth and do ev­ery­thing I can to help my team and coach [Tim] Racki win an­other state ti­tle,” Keeler said.

But with­out fall foot­ball and given Nazareth’s pol­icy pro­hibit­ing early grad­u­a­tion, Keeler said the de­ci­sion to leave “is easy now.”

Keeler, a 6-5, 250-pounder, is one of the state’s top un­com­mit­ted play­ers in the Class of 2021. The three-star prospect is 18th in Illi­nois in 247sports.com’s com­pos­ite rat­ings and has more than 30 schol­ar­ship of­fers, in­clud­ing two from the SEC (Mis­sis­sippi, Ken­tucky) and 10 from the Big Ten.

He plans to com­mit be­fore the end of the sum­mer, a timetable that hasn’t changed be­cause of the COVID-19 shut­down.

“Just tough be­cause we can’t go on any vis­its and see the [col­leges] any­more,” Keeler said. “The coaches re­cruit­ing me have done a great job do­ing the Zooms and virtual tours. Still doesn’t re­place the ac­tual feel­ing you can get from be­ing on cam­pus.”

Though Keeler has plenty of op­tions, he knows many other play­ers don’t. And Illi­nois’ move to spring foot­ball won’t im­prove that sit­u­a­tion.

“I see this af­fect­ing kids’ re­cruit­ing in a big way,” he said. “The first three to four games of the kids’ [se­nior] sea­son is the make or break in a schol­ar­ship of­fer. Se­niors will not have that op­por­tu­nity any­more.”

That re­al­ity helped Virelli make up his mind to move to Iowa. Though he has been get­ting small-col­lege in­ter­est as an of­fen­sive line­man, Virelli is a na­tion­ally ranked long snap­per prospect with in­ter­est from North Dakota State, Wis­con­sin and In­di­ana.

To get the col­lege of­fer he’s look­ing for, Virelli fig­ured play­ing fall foot­ball is a must. “I can’t wait till the spring,” he said. Iowa made sense as a des­ti­na­tion be­cause his fam­ily has roots there, and Dowl­ing made sense for an­other rea­son.

“I wanted a school that would mir­ror Naz as much as pos­si­ble,” he said.

Virelli said leav­ing his team­mates won’t be easy. He was look­ing for­ward to a re­turn trip to state af­ter los­ing to Mount Carmel in the fi­nal last year.

Keeler and Virelli also will miss play­ing for Racki.

“Every­body knows about coach Racki,” Virelli said. “He’s been pretty much a sec­ond dad to me.”

“Coach Racki and I will al­ways be friends,” Keeler said. “He is a true men­tor and a great man. He cares about what you do off the field 10 times more than what you’ll ever do on the field. He is focused on de­vel­op­ing great men, not just great foot­ball play­ers.”

Kuczynski, a 6-foot, 235-pounder, also is a na­tion­ally ranked long snap­per prospect. He wanted a sim­i­lar time­line to Keeler’s, which is why he’s headed to Florida.

“It was a long and hard de­ci­sion,” Kuczynski wrote on Twit­ter, “but my mo­tives are to play the sport I love my se­nior year, grad­u­ate early and have an in-school ed­u­ca­tion.” ✶

“I SEE THIS AF­FECT­ING KIDS’ RE­CRUIT­ING IN A BIG WAY. THE FIRST THREE TO FOUR GAMES OF THE KIDS’ [SE­NIOR] SEA­SON IS THE MAKE OR BREAK IN A SCHOL­AR­SHIP OF­FER. SE­NIORS WILL NOT HAVE THAT OP­POR­TU­NITY ANY­MORE.”

RYAN KEELER

ALLEN CUN­NING­HAM/SUN-TIMES

De­fen­sive end Ryan Keeler (99) has more than 30 schol­ar­ship of­fers, in­clud­ing 10 from the Big Ten.

PRO­VIDED

Domenic Virelli is na­tion­ally ranked as a long snap­per prospect. He has in­ter­est from Wis­con­sin and In­di­ana.

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