DeKALB -- “Screw em’.’’
That was what one of the Marist assistant football coaches told his troops after the RedHawks were soundly beaten 41-0 at the hands of Loyola in the IHSA Class 8A state championship game Saturday night.
The coach was referring to the attitude to take from any criticism that the players may receive for their poor performance in the title game after putting up such a great effort to get to that game.
I won’t sugarcoat it. The RedHawks laid something on the Huskie Stadium field that could be fried, boiled, scrambled or turned into an omelet.
This was the first time under coach Pat Dunne’s watch that the team has been shut out. The team was last blanked in the fourth week of the 2007 season, 55-0 by Joliet Catholic, and ran off 96 straight games of scoring at least seven points before this game.
The trouble is that there were thousands of people all across the state watching this game on television and they saw the worst of Marist against a team that has been making good teams look bad all year.
Ever hear of Milwaukee Marquette? That team finished 10-3 this year and made it to the state semifinals in Division 1 in Wisconsin. Not a bad team. The Ramblers beat Marquette 35-0 to open the season.
Maine South is traditionally a state power. The Ramblers gave the Hawks their worst beating of the year, 49-8 in the second game of the season.
Brother Rice was up next. The Crusaders came into the game whipping Michigan power Brother Rice of Bloomfield Hills, 56-20 and Crete Monee (which finished second in Class 6A) 49-21 in the first two games of the season. Loyola beat the Crusaders 28-0 for Brother Rice’s worst loss of the season.
Notice a trend here? This wasn’t some cream puff the RedHawks were playing.
Loyola was beating the stuffing out off almost everyone it played including a 49-21 win over Mt. Carmel and a 56-14 win over St. Rita, which admittedly had a down year but it’s still St. Rita.
It appeared maybe there would be a chink in the Rambers’ armor when they barely beat one of the strongest teams in the state, Homewood-Flossmoor, 34-28 in the quarterfinals on Nov. 14 and survived Palatine, 24-22 in the snowy semifinals on Nov. 21.
But on Saturday, the familiar Ramblers were back and Marist was on the receiving end of another Rambler pounding.
Those who only saw Marist play in this game did not see the whole picture.
The RedHawks made it to the playoffs with a 5-4 regular season mark and paid for their sins by drawing the 23rd seed out of 32 teams.
They first knocked off East Suburban Catholic Conference champ and 10th seed Niles Notre Dame for the second time this season, 17-14.
Then they beat seventh-seeded Barrington, 59-56 in the highest scoring Class 8A playoff game in history. It wasn’t a very fundamentally sound football game but few games could match it for its excitement and quarterback Brendan Skalitzky accounted for 633 rushing/passing yards and the team needed every one of them.
In the quarterfinals, it was another rollercoaster ride on the road with 15th-seeded Oswego and it took a Rob Topps III interception with 40 seconds left to preserve a 38-35 victory.
The semifinals saw another upstart team, 30th-seeded Waubonsie Valley, come to town and the RedHawks pulled off a 31-16 win and the players celebrated by jumping into snow drifts.
Those four games are unforgettable for anyone who saw them.
Those four games showed what Marist was made of this year.
And for anyone who squawks at the RedHawks for getting embarrassed to a team that humiliated the likes of Maine South, Mt. Carmel, Brother Rice, St. Rita and others…
That assistant coach had two words that said it best.