Marist’s bid for state berth denied
Naperville became land of the loss for Marist Saturday night.
Such a result didn’t appear likely in the early stages of the RedHawks’ Class 8A semifinal matchup with their namesakes from Naperville Central. But after establishing a 21-7 lead — the same score by which it had beaten both Bolingbrook and Oswego the previous two weeks — Marist’s semi experience wasn’t so sweet.
The RedHawks stayed in front almost until the end, but an 18-play, 80-yard trek by Naperville that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run with less than a minute-and-a-half to go finally ripped the lead from Marist’s grasp. So instead of planning for a Thanksgiving weekend journey to DeKalb, the RedHawks must wait till next year to try again.
Instead, Naperville Central will meet Loyola Academy, a 15-14 semifinal winner over Stevenson last weekend, for the 8A title Saturday at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium. Meanwhile, Marist closed the books on a 9-4 campaign after making its deepest venture into the postseason since 2009, when it reached the 8A championship contest.
“It hurts every single one of us — that’s part of being a competitor,” RedHawks coach Pat Dunne said, referring to the season-ending setback. “There’s nothing you can do [to change it] and it’s extremely hard [to accept].
“But every guy better keep his head up because of the effort they all gave. When I think of the definition of a team, it’s these guys — they really played each play and put everything they had out there.”
While the 18 plays of Naperville’s game-winning drive — which included four third-down and a pair of fourth-down conversions by the hosts — are undoubtedly branded on Marist players’ minds for a long time to come, perhaps just as important to the outcome was one play that preceded the Redhawks’ last possession.
Before it got underway, Naperville Central mishandled a punt. Nic Weishar recovered the loose ball for the RedHawks in the hosts’ end zone, but confusion ensued and, after several officials conferred, the ruling was a touchback.
“It hit one of their players,” Dunne said of the kick. “Nic had reached for it and pushed it forward. Originally, it was ruled a touchdown, but the explanation given to me [later] was that it was a dead ball.
“We tell our players all the time you control what you can control, but some things you can’t control. It was an interesting play and one play that shifted momentum, but you’ve got to give credit where credit is due — [Naperville] took advantage of opportunities.”
Naperville’s lengthy march that decided the game in its favor wasn’t the only example of its ball-control capabilities. The Redhawks also narrowed the gap to 21-19 earlier in the fourth stanza by culminating a mammoth 99-yard drive with a 12-yard Jake Kolbe-to-Mike Kolzow touchdown pass.
Kolzow was already well known to Marist, as it was his 44-yard interception return on the RedHawks’ second offensive play of the evening that staked the hosts to a 7-0 lead. But Peter Andreotti brought the visitors even later in the period on the first of his three 1-yard TD plunges, and that deadlock remained in place until intermission.
Marist then tallied on each of its first two series of the second half to create its aforementioned 21-7 edge. Andreotti (24 carries, 101 yards) provided the payoffs, but Flynn Nagel (12 catches, 122 yards) was also a vital cog in the RedHawks’ offensive operation.
Jack Stanton’s fumble recovery in Naperville territory set the stage for Andreotti’s initial TD of the third quarter.
Nolan Davis’ 2-yard scoring run finally slowed the bleeding for Naperville, but the Redhawks failed to add a conversion after both that six-pointer and the later one garnered on Kolzow’s reception. Following Kolbe’s 1-yard keeper, Naperville was successful on a two-point conversion, which left Marist to chase six points in the waning stages of the contest.
And chase the RedHawks did, as quarterback Jack Donegan (18-of-27, 173 yards) steered Marist downfield with little time left. The RedHawks got all the way to Naperville’s 22 before the ubiquitous Kolzow struck again, in this instance with his second pickoff that snuffed out Marist’s comeback charge.
Watching his squad fall just short did nothing to dampen Dunne’s enthusiasm for what the RedHawks had accomplished prior to Saturday night.
“There were so many points where this team faced adversity, but this was a special group,” he said. “We had a group of seniors that really embraced the idea of leadership, and I’m so proud of every kid on this team.”
Marist 7 0 14 0 - 21
Naperville Cent. 7 0 6 14 - 27
NC — Mike Kolzow, 44-yd. interception return (Connor Assalley kick)
MA — Peter Andreotti, 1-yd. run (Cillian Hannon kick)
MA — Andreotti, 1-yd. run (Hannon kick)
MA — Andreotti, 1-yd. run (Hannon kick)
NC — Nolan Davis, 2-yd. run (kick blocked)
NC — Kolzow, 12-yd. pass from Jake Kolbe (run failed)
NC — Kolbe, 1-yd. run (Emmanuel Rugamba, pass from Kolbe)
Marist Rushing: Andreotti 24-101. Passing: Donegan 727-18-173. Receiving: Nagel 12-122.