Marist outlasts Nazareth in offensive showdown
Like that famous Warner Brothers cartoon character, Marist’s prey Friday night was a roadrunner.
Actually, it was a whole lot of them, representing Nazareth Academy, and for a while they proved every bit as elusive as the single one that continually made life miserable for Wile E. Coyote. Case in point: The capital “R” Roadrunners, seemingly ready to be caged for good after falling behind 28-9 in the second period, suddenly slipped away.
A touchdown shortly before halftime gave Nazareth a boost, and then two series into the third quarter the Roadrunners zoomed in front. Two scores, bridge by a recovered onsides kick, gave Nazareth a 30-28 advantage.
“You could see how the momentum shifted,” RedHawks coach Pat Dunne said. “We always talk about how adversity is going to hit at some point. It’s how you respond to it [that matters].”
In this particular instance, Marist responded exactly the way its boss would have hoped. No sooner had the Roadrunners gotten done celebrating their unexpected grabbing of the lead than they relinquished it, courtesy of Flynn Nagel’s 90-yard kickoff return.
With the edge once more belonging to them, the RedHawks refused to let it go a second time. Instead, they increased it to 42-30 before Nazareth made one final lunge at them.
The Roadrunners did indeed reach Marist’s end zone yet again, but Kyle Gambla’s 29-yard field goal sealed the deal for the RedHawks, who locked up a wild 45-37 triumph in their East Suburban Catholic Conference opener in Mount Greenwood.
“Every year, we have great battles with them,” Dunne said of Nazareth. “We felt like we had opportunities [to blow it open], but we never could.”
Admittedly not helping Marist (2-1, 1-0) was that this game was its first since it doled out a resounding defeat to neighborhood rival Brother Rice. Seeing as how the Crusaders and St. Rita were the first two clubs to get a crack at the RedHawks in 2013, it’d be understandable if Marist players were hard-pressed to equal their previous levels of intensity.
Dunne knew prepping his guys might be a little tougher in Week 3, but he didn’t want their success against Rice to be an overriding factor.
“I think it’s easier said than done [to prevent that], but it’s something we [coaches] constantly put out there,” Dunne said. “Obviously, it was a big game, but every game should be [considered] like that. The emotion should be there every week.”
In truth, any relaxing the RedHawks might have been guilty of on Friday didn’t occur until after they had constructed that aforementioned 28-9 cushion. Twenty-one of those points came in a bunch, as Marist tallied on each of its first three possessions.
Highlighting its output was Nagel’s 72-yard TD catch on the second series. That was sandwiched between Ahmad Neal’s 13-yard scoring reception and Peter Andreotti’s 5-yard touchdown run.
One week after completing 85 percent of his throws versus Rice, RedHawks quarterback Jack Donegan proved that display of accuracy was no fluke. While he couldn’t quite equal the same gaudy stats, Donegan did go 20-of-29 for 242 yards to fuel another impressive offensive exhibition by Marist.
A Nazareth field goal temporarily slowed the RedHawks’ first-half surge, but the latter’s special teams quickly lit a fresh fuse. After a Roadrunners return man mishandled Ryan Tucker’s booming punt, Nic Weishar pounced on the loose ball for Marist at the visitors’ 7-yard line.
From there, it was easy pickings for Andreotti, who chewed up those 7 yards on one run to balloon his squad’s lead to 19 points.
“Special teams played a big part in this game,” Dunne said. “A lot was affected by them.”
Jawill Aldridge’s 60-yard return was yet another weapon Marist unleashed on Nazareth, and that runback set the table for Andreotti’s third touchdown. His 12-yard dash handed the RedHawks a 42-30 lead.
Although defense seemed a lost art on this evening, Dunne had no complaints about his team’s performance on that side of the ball. Aldridge was a standout with 13 tackles and three pass breakups, but several others were persons of influence as well.
Among the contributors were Marco Weidman (nine stops, interception), Ryan Mishka (seven tackles, two pass breakups, interception, fumble recovery), David Nelson (six stops), Isaiah Bickhem (five tackles) and Victor Ogbebor (forced fumble).
“They were on the field a lot, but our guys played great,” Dunne said. “Our defense is improving every week. Their effort is great.”
Marist continues its ESCC journey on Saturday, when it meets up with St. Patrick at Hanson Stadium in Chicago.
Nazareth Acad. 6 10 14 7 - 37
Marist 14 14 7 10 - 45
First downs 17
Yds. rushing 180
Yds. passing 242
Total yds. 422
Had intercepted 2
MA — Ahmad Neal, 13-yd. pass from Jack Donegan (kick failed)
MA — Flynn Nagel, 72-yd. pass from Donegan (Mark Ferguson, pass from Donegan)
MA — Peter Andreotti, 5-yd. run (Cillian Hannon kick)
MA — Andreotti, 7-yd. run (Hannon kick)
MA — Nagel, 90-yd. kickoff return (Kyle Gambla kick)
MA — Andreotti, 12-yd. run (Gambla kick)
MA — Gambla, 29-yd. field goal
Marist Rushing: Andreotti 31-159, Aldridge 2-9, Donegan 3-7, Nagel 1-5. Passing: Donegan 29-20-242. Receiving: Nagel 8-127, Weishar 6-70, Neal 2-26, Holland 2-11, Ferguson 2-8.