Photo by Jeff Vorva
Marist coach Pat Dunne has brought an exciting offense to the school foe more than seven years.
It's a good thing that Friday’s homecoming treat of shooting off fireworks after every touchdown is not a regular occurrence.
Otherwise tuition at the school to pay for all of that could reach six figures a year, the way the RedHawks offense operates.
Since Pat Dunne returned to his alma mater to coach football, his teams have gone 58-26 -- including Friday night’s 45-21 victory over St. Patrick in an East Suburban Catholic Conference showdown -- in 7 1/2 seasons. Prior to that, Marist was 31-43 in the previous eight years.
And while winning is fun, the coach brought in a spread offense to make things even more enjoyable for the team’s followers.
Call it Fun N’ Dunne.
In his tenure, the team has scored 2,711 points in 84 games for a 32-point-per-game average. The previous eight years, the RedHawks scored 1,436 points in 74 games for a 19-point average.
In October, 2011, the RedHawks scored 64 points against Carmel and 56 against Joliet Catholic Academy in back-to-back games for 120 points. In 2006, the team scored 118 points total for a nine-game season.
Dunne, a Palos Heights native who graduated from Marist in 1998 and was a kicker on the team his senior year after injuries robbed him of a chance to play receiver, said offenses are different than when he played.
“Back then, the spread offense wasn’t as big in high school,” he said. “It was just coming about in college. We had close games but not by any means with we have 45 or plus-50 games. As the game has evolved, there are more opportunities. Athletes have gotten better with time, too.’’
In Friday’s triumph, Marist racked up more than 500 yards and quarterback Brendan Skalitzky threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns while running back Darshon McCullough had two rushing touchdowns and a reception for another score.
Skalitzky is the latest in a series of Fun N’ Dunne quarterbacks who has the luxury of throwing or handing off to a ton of talented skill players.
“For four years, it’s been a great experience,” the quarterback said. “We come in as freshmen and it’s a little tough to learn. Now that we’re all seniors, we are experienced and it’s fun to use it to the full potential.’’
On the other end of the coin…
Dunne’s clubs have also experienced some defensive breakdowns over the years, causing some wild scores.
Those back-to-back games in 2011 with Carmel and JCA? The RedHawks won the Carmel game 64-63 in double overtime in Mundelein and came home the next week to beat the Hilltoppers 56-51.
“Some of those games, I aged a little quicker than I hoped to,” Dunne said. “But at the end of the day, they were great games and they created great memories for the kids that they won’t forget.’’
This year, the tradition continues. The team beat St. Viator 45-28 on Sept. 11 and Niles Notre Dame 49-42 the following week.
All is well when the team wins, but the defensive players are not fond of giving up an average of a touchdown or more per quarter.
“I personally think we should play four quarters and not two,” linebacker Dennis Dickman said. “As a defense, we get bummed out but we’re a family so we can enjoy winning. It’s not just about us.
“They [offensive players] always have our backs,” he said. “They have been backing us up and we need to get a little better and back them up.’’
Skalitzky has fun with some of the shootout games.
“As long as we win the game, I’m fine with it,” he said. “The defense had our back against Notre Dame when we struggled in the first half. We had their back the second half. I get drained after a game like that but during the game, it gets more exciting as the game goes on, especially when you are scoring points.”
Dunne said it’s all a part of teaching.
“Honestly, I view it as winning and still learning,” Dunne said. “Obviously, you love the offense but there is still a lot to work on and teach. My no means are these perfect games but it’s great when you can win them. The exciting thing is that we know the potential is there and we can keep increasing it by eliminating those mistakes.’’