RedHawks declaw Cougars to begin playoffs
For once, Marist’s first playoff game wasn’t also its last.
Ever since the RedHawks advanced all the way to the Class 8A title contest in 2009, the postseason has not been good to them. Three straight opening-round losses sent Marist away unfulfilled each time, and before Friday night’s matchup with Plainfield South had gone very far, a similar fate looked to be a distinct possibility.
The RedHawks committed turnovers on their first two offensive possessions, and one of them laid the groundwork for a Cougars touchdown. Josh Harris scored it on a 40-yard run.
“That was not the start that we wanted,” Marist coach Pat Dunne said. “But we’re zeroed in on this year’s team, not what happened before. We’ve been in a lot of different situations this year, so [our players] didn’t hang their heads.”
That much was evident when RedHawks senior Nic Weishar countered Marist’s second miscue by returning the favor to Plainfield South. The Notre Dame University-bound Weishar caused and recovered a fumble, then added insult to injury by latching onto an 18-yard TD pass shortly thereafter.
“They persevered, and that changed the momentum and energy of the game,” Dunne said of Weishar’s score, which started a run of 30 unanswered points for the RedHawks.
Marist went on to record a resounding 64-28 victory in Mount Greenwood. Its third win in a row earned it a Round 2 date at Bolingbrook on Friday.
The Raiders routed Bloom Township 48-12 last Saturday afternoon in their tournament opener. While the RedHawks (7-3) will likely enter their next contest as an underdog to the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue champs, Dunne isn’t going to treat it any differently than he did Marist’s initial playoff game.
“Honestly, everyone’s good,” Dunne said of the state’s 32 postseason qualifiers in Class 8A. “When playoff time comes, the margin of error gets smaller and smaller, and you have to be able to overcome adversity.”
Obviously, the RedHawks practiced what their leader preached, as they shrugged off the sluggish start against Plainfield South and seized command of the proceedings rather rapidly. Jawill Aldridge, Flynn Nagel and Peter Andreotti all joined Weishar in the scoring column, and Marist’s defense also did its share.
Weishar, who only recently began playing regularly on that side of the ball, was a pivotal figure there on this occasion. He had a hand in three Cougars errors, one of which was an interception he returned 26 yards for a second-half TD. Weishar also made seven tackles, including one for loss, and registered one sack.
“Other than that, he was pretty quiet,” Dunne joked. “I’m real proud of our defense. They created four turnovers and gave us real good field position. We scored off them and didn’t have to punt all night.
“I’m happy with the way [our guys] responded and made the plays. They really stepped up. All three areas played well and helped each other out.”
Plainfield South drew first blood in the second half, as it embarked on a long scoring drive and then notched a two-point conversion. That brought the Cougars within 15, but Marist retaliated with another offensive barrage to maintain control.
“The No. 1 thing is, if we can win each play, good things will happen,” Dunne said. “Each play is critical, and you want to avoid turnovers and penalties. We’ve had three consistent weeks of getting better and better.
“At the end of the day, though, it comes down to how well did you practice? A lot of these games are won during the week.”
Aldridge (22-yard run), Nagel (36-yard reception), Andreotti (9-yard run) and kicker Cillian Hannon (28-yard field goal) all supplied first-half points for the RedHawks following Weishar’s initial six-pointer. Marist amassed a total of 536 yards while on offense.
Both Aldridge and Andreotti topped the century mark in rushing, with the former’s 151 yards on just six carries offering a glimpse of what’s to come in 2014. That’s when Aldridge will replace the graduating Andreotti as the RedHawks’ lead tailback.
“He did a terrific job,” Dunne said of Aldridge, who also tallied on runs of 55 and 30 yards in the contest. “We talk about every guy doing his part, whatever that happens to be, and he definitely made some stuff happen.”
Besides that effective 1-2 ground-gaining punch, Marist also did damage through the air as quarterback Jack Donegan completed 15-of-28 passes for 246 yards. Weishar and Nagel combined to catch 11 of those aerials for 194 yards and three TDs. Nagel had the other scoring grab, a 41-yarder, and he later ran a kickoff back 88 yards.
A sturdy front line comprised of Jack Hynes, Mitch Schleyer, Jack Maida, Virgil Robertson and Jack McHugh made most of that possible.
Defensive standouts for the RedHawks in addition to Weishar were Marcus Pitts (nine stops, one tackle for loss), Marco Weidman (seven tackles, two pass breakups) and David Nelson (six stops, one pass breakup).
Plainfield South 7 0 15 6 - 28
Marist 13 17 14 20 - 64
First downs 19
Yds. rushing 290
Yds. passing 246
Total yds. 536
Had intercepted 2
PS — Josh Harris, 40-yd. run (kick good)
MA — Nic Weishar, 18-yd. pass from Jack Donegan (kick failed)
MA — Jawill Aldridge, 22-yd. run (Cillian Hannon kick)
MA — Flynn Nagel, 36-yd. pass from Donegan (Hannon kick)
MA — Hannon, 28-yd. field goal
MA — Peter Andreotti, 9-yd. run (Hannon kick)
PS — Kody Voda, 1-yd. run (pass good)
MA — Aldridge, 55-yd. run (Hannon kick)
MA — Weishar, 26-yd. interception return (Hannon kick)
PS — Voda, 2-yd. run (kick good)
MA — Nagel, 41-yd. pass from Donegan (Hannon kick)
MA — Aldridge, 30-yd. run (pass failed)
PS — Harris, 10-yd. run (conversion failed)
MA — Nagel, 88-yd. kickoff return (Hannon kick)
Marist Rushing: Aldridge 6-151, Andreotti 25-137, Donegan 2-2. Passing: Donegan 28-15-246. Receiving: Weishar 6-79, Nagel 5-115, Andreotti 1-23, Aldridge 1-20, Ferguson 1-15, Neal 1-(-6).