BELMONT CRAGIN — Football coaches consistently preach the idea of family.
At St. Patrick High School, it's easy for the players to buy into the philosophy.
That's because six of the 66 varsity Shamrocks are sons of former St. Patrick football players. Of the eight St. Patrick gridders to claim all-East Suburban Catholic Conference honors this season, three are descendants of Shamrocks greats.
"It's great and awesome to do what your dad did and able to experience the same things he did," said all-conference senior left guard Pat Moriarty, of Norwood Park, whose father, Kevin, also was a Shamrocks offensive lineman.
St. Patrick, founded in 1861 and Chicago's oldest all-boys Catholic school, is celebrating its 100th year of football this season. And the bloodline-deep roster has led the Shamrocks to their furthest trip into the postseason, as St. Patrick will host Schaumburg in the second round of the IHSA Class 7A playoffs at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hanson Stadium, 5501 W. Fullerton Ave.
"Every time you think about St. Pat's, you think about tradition," said head coach Dan Galante, who graduated from Loyola Academy but has 13 coaches in his program who are St. Patrick's alums. "There's a tradition of brotherhood here that's pretty special."
Pat Moriarty can speak of that tradition firsthand. In addition to having a father who suited up for the Shamrocks, his uncle Bill was a two-time all-conference linebacker and team captain in 1978. Bill's son, Billy, is a Shamrocks junior center, blocking the opposition directly next to his older first cousin.
Billy Moriarty said his dad started taking him to St. Pat's games when he was a child. If he has sons one day, he said, he won't be surprised if they go to the school, too.
"I won't force them to go here, but I think they will want to go here," said Billy Moriarty, of Edison Park. "I won't pressure them, but I'll demonstrate how much pride I have for this school."
In honor of the football program's 100th anniversary, Galante, of Rogers Park, wanted to have more alumni participation. The school has a "Senior Run" tradition before the last practice of the regular season in which the upperclassmen run around the field as sequential groups of freshman, sophomore and junior players salute them. This year, Galante invited former players, and almost 50 showed up at 4 p.m. on a Thursday.
"It was inspiring and emotional," said all-conference senior wide receiver/defensive back Mike Warner, of Wildwood, whose father, Robert, was an all-state linebacker at St. Pat's and was part of the Senior Run audience. "It was great to see all the former Shamrocks who were there."
Former players also have been delivering inspiring messages during pregame speeches. Before a week five game against Bloomington, St. Patrick had a 1-3 record. That's when 1981 team captain and all-conference linebacker John Haniacek told the Shamrocks, including his son and senior captain Joe Haniacek, they "had all the talent and just had to pull it together."
"He was right about that," said Joe Haniacek, an all-conference defensive lineman from Montclare. "We haven't lost since."
Indeed, 10th-seeded St. Patrick (7-3) has won six straight games heading into Saturday's game against second-seeded Schaumburg (9-1).
And even if the Shamrocks don't prevail, Mike Warner said he constantly embraces his dad's advice about St. Patrick's style of play.
"He said his teammates were the meanest bunch of guys ever," Mike Warner said. "They didn't always win, but they always put a hurt on the other team."