Weishar’s heroics catapult RedHawks over Benet
Nic Weishar was not a complete stranger to playing defense for Marist prior to Friday night.
Benet Academy no doubt wished he had been.
Weishar, the Notre Dame University recruit who is best known for his pass-catching exploits, put those hands to a different use against the Redwings. While he still did his fair share on behalf of the RedHawks’ offense, Weishar made himself quite a familiar face to Benet’s too.
He specifically did so by stealing two of Redwings quarterback Jack Beneventi’s first-period passes. One of those Weishar took down to Benet’s 1-yard line, which set up a touchdown plunge by JaWill Aldridge, while the other he ran back 15 yards into the visitors’ end zone.
The latter score gave Marist a 21-7 lead less than 10 minutes into the East Suburban Catholic Conference contest, and the home team never wavered after that. With Weishar serving as its spiritual leader, the RedHawks’ defense forced seven turnovers in all — six of them before halftime — and used those as the underpinnings to a surprisingly lopsided 49-21 triumph in Mount Greenwood.
The outcome made Marist (5-3, 4-2) playoff eligible for the sixth consecutive year and kept it in the hunt for the ESCC crown. Benet (6-2, 3-2), meanwhile, relinquished its share of the conference lead.
“That’s what we needed,” RedHawks coach Pat Dunne said. “We’ve got to keep this momentum going.
“The defense played tremendously, and so did our special teams. A lot of those [turnovers] were created [by us] and gave us unbelievable field position.”
While its record indicates Marist has certainly enjoyed a number of positive moments this fall, it had yet to register what could be construed as a signature win. Taking down the defending ESCC champs in the manner they did gave the RedHawks that sort of victory, but adding to the eye-opening nature of it was that they were coming off a loss to Notre Dame.
“Guys can go one way or the other when that happens,” Dunne said, referring to the Week 7 setback. “I’m glad we chose to go this way.
“Every team has their bumps during the course of a season, but [these guys] keep believing. Our leaders stood up, they really challenged themselves, and I’m proud of the team effort.”
One of those individuals stepping forward was Weishar, who had played only sporadically on defense since opening week. Dunne, however, “knew [Friday] he was going to have a bigger role,” and Weishar’s first pickoff was the initial indicator of the impact he would have on this occasion.
The interception occurred one series after Marist’s offense had coughed up the football after driving inside the Redwings’ 25.
“You have to have amnesia on those kinds of plays,” Weishar said, referring to the fumble. “I think [the interception] was a huge momentum play. It wasn’t all me — guys threw some great blocks for me [on the runback].
“The defense played a great game, and it had to do with the way we practiced. We had a great week of practice — the best we’ve had all season — and it was a great team win.”
Weishar’s second steal countered a 90-yard kickoff return by Ryan Parks that had given Benet a jolt. That was to be the Redwings’ lone highlight before intermission, as they fumbled the ball away on two other returns and also had two more passes intercepted.
Ryan Mishka and Flynn Nagel both made their swipes in Marist territory, which prevented Benet from mounting an early comeback bid.
“That was a comedy of errors,” Redwings coach Pat New said. “I don’t know what else to really say about it. The last time I saw something like that was when I played at Northwestern [University] in the mid-’80s.
“We can overcome a touchdown or two. Once you get down by 21 or 28 [points], it’s tough.”
Touchdown catches by Weishar (23 yards) and Nagel (77 yards) in the second stanza actually put Benet in arrears by 35 points by halftime. Nick Surges breathed a bit of life into the Redwings by going 70 yards with a third-quarter pickoff, and Benet tallied another time on Brad Sznajder’s 3-yard dash, but that was as far as the rally went.
Nagel completed the game’s scoring with a 31-yard TD catch early in the fourth period. He finished the evening with 12 receptions and 196 yards, while Weishar caught eight balls from quarterback Jack Donegan and turned them into 90 yards’ worth of gains.
Donegan completed 23-of-31 throws for 309 yards and scored once himself on a 6-yard keeper. That play followed Marty Ryan’s fumble recovery at the Redwings’ 31.
Peter Andreotti also delivered a six-pointer for the RedHawks on a 50-yard gallop, part of a 150-yard performance for the senior tailback. Marist’s complete body of work didn’t go unnoticed.
“Hat’s off to Marist — that’s a first-class organization,” Surges said. “Those guys at Marist like Weishar and Nagel and Donegan are great football players, they’re extremely well-coached, and they came out with more energy than us.”
“When we play a full four quarters [well], they can see where we can go,” Dunne said of his athletes.
Benet Academy 7 0 14 0 - 21
Marist 28 14 0 7 - 49
First downs 15 23
Yds. rushing 16 194
Yds. passing 171 309
Total yds. 187 503
Att./comp. 30-14 31-23
Fumbles/lost 3-3 2-2
Had intercepted 4 1
Penalties/yds. 4-30 10-95
Punts/avg. 2-34.0 2-49.0
MA — JaWill Aldridge, 1-yd.run (Kyle Gambla kick)
MA — Jack Donegan, 6-yd. run (Gambla kick)
BA — Ryan Parks, 90-yd. kickoff return (John Duvic kick)
MA — Nic Weishar, 15-yd. interception return (Gambla kick)
MA — Peter Andreotti, 50-yd. run (Gambla kick)
MA — Weishar, 23-yd. pass from Donegan (Gambla kick)
MA — Flynn Nagel, 77-yd. pass from Donegan (Gambla kick)
BA — Ryan Surges, 70-yd. interception return (Duvic kick)
BA — Brad Sznajder, 3-yd. run (Duvic kick)
MA — Nagel, 31yd. pass from Donegan (Gambla kick)
Marist Rushing: Andreotti 19-150, Aldridge 9-38, Donegan 5-5, Schmidt 1-3, Skalitzky 1-(-2). Passing: Donegan 31-23-309. Receiving: Nagel 12-196, Weishar 8-90, Ferguson 1-15, Andreotti 1-8, Neal 1-0.