Written by By Jeff Vorva and Phil Arvia
Photo by Jeff Vorva
Agony and ecstasy – Richards quarterback Jake Moran, right, congratulates receiver Noah Petrusevski after the two combined on a touchdown against Reavis. The receiver was in pain and holding his stomach after the score.
RICHARDS 54, REAVIS 22
It’s party time.
For the first time.
After Richards easily beat Reavis, 54-22 Friday night in Burbank to clinch the South Suburban Conference Red title, Bulldogs coach Tony Sheehan announced to his troops that for the first time in school history, the players are invited to a playoff pairings party at the Oak Lawn school on Saturday night.
Richards (6-2, 6-0) hosts Tinley Park in a non-conference game Friday and hopes for a good seed and a first-round home game when the Illinois High School Association announces the 256-team field. It’s the eighth SSC Red title (seventh outright) for the Bulldogs in the 11-year history of the conference.
The Bulldogs were already a dangerous team with quarterback Jake Moran and running backs Pat Doyle and Anthony Quinn providing big yards. But just in time for the playoffs, sophomore Derek Flowers is starting to showcase his abilities. Flowers ran for 171 yards and found the end zone twice against the Rams.
The 5-foot-7, 215-pound Flowers has power and moves to chomp up a lot of yards and his cannonball-like frame has earned him a lot of nicknames from his peers and coaches including “Big Skinny,” “Little Bro,” “Doughboy” and “Big boy.”
“They can all me anything,” Flowers said. “Anything to do with big, plump, round…I don’t mind.’’
People are also comparing his running style to former NFL star Natrone Means, Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis.
“I think I play like my idol, Walter Payton,” Flowers said. “I got moves. Jerome Bettis didn’t have moves.’’
Reavis (6-2, 4-1) opened the scoring when Marc McClinton lined up at halfback and heaved a pass to BranTrell Seymore for 59 yards.
“I was very surprised and we weren’t expecting that,” Quinn said. “It shocks you and we had to get our heads back in the game.’’
It was all Richards after that with Quinn running in a pair of touchdowns and Flowers adding a third to take a 20-7 halftime lead and led by as much as 34-7. Richards has beaten the Rams 16 straight times by a combined score of 647-137.
MARIST 31, BENET 14
Sophomore quarterback Michael Markett could have started feeling sorry for himself Friday, when his first varsity start at Marist began to go a little sideways.
With the RedHawks up 17-7 in their battle for first place in the East Suburban Catholic with Benet Academy, Markett, after completing 10 of his first 13 passes, turned the ball over on three straight possessions. The last, an errant lateral pass, led to the touchdown that brought the Redwings within 17-14 not quite midway through the third quarter.
“I got down on myself,” Markett, who took over this week as Morgan Taylor comes back from a sprained ankle, conceded. “But our running back, Delonte Harrell, kept telling me, ‘You got this.’”
Besides, Markett knew that whatever he didn’t have, Marist’s defense would take care of.
“They definitely challenge you,” he said. “I’m glad I’m not the other quarterback. But (in practice) it gets you ready for the game — going up against one of the best defenses in the state.”
Marist outlasted Benet 31-14 to guarantee, at the very least, their third shared ESCC title, the previous two coming in 2011 and ’12. If the RedHawks (7-1, 6-0) beat Joliet Catholic (1-7, 1-5) Friday at Joliet Memorial Stadium, they’ll wrap up their first outright league title ever.
Benet (6-2, 5-1) could salvage a share of the crown with a Week 9 win over Carmel of Mundelein and a Marist loss.
The Redwings, however, might still be recovering from the pounding put on them by the Marist defense. The RedHawks stopped Benet quarterbacks behind the line 10 times — eight sacks and twice on designed runs — and threw in five other tackles for loss, plus linebacker Micah Awodiran’s 20-yard fumble return for the clinching score.
“We needed a score right there,” Awodiran said, seemingly unaware that expecting a defensive score is not a typical strategy for most teams.
“With the guys we’ve got,” he added, “it’s something we know we’re capable of.”
Against Benet, lineman Gavin McCabe, a 6-foot-3, 250-pounder, had 3 1/2 sacks and two tackles for loss. Luke Bullington and Awodiran had a pair of sacks each while Elijah Teague had one sack, four tackles for loss and a deflected pass. All told, Benet ended up losing 33 yards on the ground on 24 attempts and had to switch quarterbacks after starter Jack Sznajder came up woozy after a hard hit late in the first half.
“It’s fun — it’s really fun,” Teague, a 6-2, 295-pounder, said. “There’s nothing else you can really say.”
“They’re double-teaming him all day,” McCabe said of Teague, a fellow junior. “He’s opening up holes for me.”
Marist coach Pat Dunne celebrated his 36th birthday by declaring this defense “the best” he’s had in his eight years heading the program, adding, “every week, it’s getting better.”
Marist forced punts on Benet’s first four possessions, grabbing a 10-0 lead on Tom Gillen’s 30-yard field goal and a 26-yard scoring pass from Markett (13-of-20, 171 yards) to Billy Skalitzy (3 receptions, 78 yards).
Midway through the second quarter, Benet got on the board with a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by a nine-yard Sznajder-to-Alec McEachern pass. Marist got that back immediately, Harrell (18 carries, 112 yards) taking the ensuing kickoff back 83 yards for the score.
It was 17-14 when Markett opened the fourth quarter with a 48-yard bomb to Skalitzky to the Benet one-yard line, setting up a keeper for his first varsity touchdown. On the second snap after the ensuing kick, Awodiran scooped up a Benet fumble to all but ice the contest with 10:52 left.
“I saw the ball on the found and I tried to pop it up,” he said. “I bobbled it, then I saw that Sunday hop come up so I just went with it.”