By Steve Metsch
Revenge and respect were two words mentioned often after Marist’s game at Nazareth.
Marist head coach Ron Dawczak had reminded his charges during the week leading up to the game that the Roadrunners sought revenge after a 42-0 drubbing by the RedHawks last season.
But respect was on Marist’s mind.
“A lot of people said we were the underdog. Nazareth has a great team, but we didn’t get the respect we thought we deserved,” Dawczak said.
“We told the guys, ‘Go out and earn it.’ Offense, defense, special teams, everyone took that to heart and they played hard for 48 minutes.”
That they did. Marist controlled the line of scrimmage, and that along with the play of quarterback Mike Markett rolled past previously undefeated Nazareth, 34-13, Friday in La Grange Park.
Markett was a dual threat, completing 15 of 24 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns and running 28 times for 94 yards, including an untouched 15-yard ramble for the game’s final score.
“Mike is a great quarterback,” Dawczak said. “He drives our offense. He makes great decisions. He puts pressure on defenses with his legs and with his arm.”
Markett said the plan was to be aggressive early.
“We were pounding it all game, and I just trust my guys. Eventually, we busted one,” Markett said. “Coach kept calling my number.”
Marist (5-0, 6-1) has won six straight games and is comfortably in the driver’s seat for the East Suburban Catholic Conference championship.
The RedHawks ran for 259 yards, and outgained Nazareth (6-1, 4-1) in total offense, 451 yards to 145. But Marist had to rally from two deficits.
After marching 77 yards to Nazareth’s 3-yard line, Marist running back Jovan Marsh fumbled. Alex Carrillo scooped up the ball and ran 97 yards to give Nazareth a 7-0 lead with 4:05 left in the first quarter.
“I thought that was the spark we needed, that it would catapult us to another level of confidence,” Nazareth head coach Tim Racki said. “Credit Marist. They snuffed out everything we tried to do.”
Marist harassed Roadrunners sophomore quarterback JJ McCarthy into his worst game of the season. McCarthy, who began receiving Division I scholarship offers while still in eighth grade, was held to 4 of 12 passing for 73 yards,
After Ayden Domico’s 41-yard field goal cut Nazareth’s lead to 7-3, the Roadrunners’ ensuing drive ended when cornerback Nile Hill intercepted a pass, giving Marist first down at the Nazareth 22.
Four plays later, Billy Skalitzky (8 carries for 39 yards) bulled in from 12 yards out for a 10-7 lead with 9:44 left in the second quarter.
Nazareth gave the large home crowd hope with a 29-yard touchdown pass from McCarthy to Michael Love. The Roadrunners led 13-10 with 4:43 left in the first half after the point attempt hit the crossbar.
Marist got the ball at its own 39 with 4:37 to play and marched down to Nazareth’s 8-yard line.
On first-and-goal at the 8, star receiver Jadon Thompson drifted to the right corner of the end zone. Markett lofted a pass where only Thompson could catch it, and Marist led 17-13.
Nazareth took over with 1:35 left in the first half, but penalties snuffed that drive. Marist got the ball back with 59 seconds left at Nazareth’s 48. Two plays later, Markett and Thompson (6 catches, 94 yards) teamed up for a 44-yard pass play.
Markett would close the drive with a 6-yard scoring strike to Denny Hogan, providing the RedHawks a 24-13 halftime lead.
Domico added another 41-yard field goal in the third.
“I didn’t have my kids mentally prepared. They weren’t pumped up enough. That’s on me,” Racki said.
Losing a game may actually help the Roadrunners, Racki said.
“With all the rankings and the press, we’ve had a whole lot of love from the media,” Racki said. ”Now that it’s gone, humility is a good thing.”
Nazareth senior lineman Louie Stec said he and his teammates came in prepared.
“It’s a tough loss. They were better than we thought they were going to be.”
Marist hosts Marian Central Catholic on Friday. Nazareth hosts Joliet Catholic.