Features | Friday Night Drive

Marian Central would like to throw, play fast under first-year coach Liam Kirwan

QB Cale McThenia, WR Christian Bentancur have built strong connection on the field

Marian Central's Christian Bentancur during a 7 on 7 football practice held on Thursday, July 21, 2022 at Crystal Lake Central High School. Ryan Rayburn for Shaw Local

Marian Central first-year coach Liam Kirwan doesn’t anticipate a lot of down time when the Hurricanes’ offense is on the field this fall.

“Play fast, get the ball out, get it to your playmakers,” Kirwan said. “It will feel like a two-minute drill a lot of the time.”

Marian liked to throw the ball last year under coach Darren Fortin, and Kirwan doesn’t see that changing. If anything, the Hurricanes might throw more.

“We’re going to like to throw the ball a bit this year,” Kirwan said. “I think our strength is in our skill positions, so that’s a big part of it. We want to take what the defense gives us, get the ball out quick and play fast. We want to play with high tempo.”

Junior quarterback Cale McThenia will be in charge of running the offense after last season’s starter, Brendan Hernon, graduated. Hernon passed for 1,758 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Among Northwest Herald area quarterbacks, only three had more passing yards.

Kirwan, a 2013 Marian graduate who played on the same teams with quarterback Chris Streveler, a two-time Northwest Herald Football Player of the Year and current backup on the New York Jets, said McThenia (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) has all of the tools necessary to be successful.

The quarterback got in some extra work this summer with camps at Northwestern, Illinois and Central Michigan.

“He’s got a real great quick release,” Kirwan said. “He’s young, he’s still learning, but he’s grown every day as a leader. He’s grown every day with his football IQ. Playing quarterback isn’t easy, especially at Marian Central Catholic. It’s not one read and throw it to one guy. It’s read here, here and here.

“When you look at the type of ball he throws, the quick release he has, it’s impressive. I really think the sky’s the limit for him.”

Marian Central quarterback Cale McThenia during a 7 on 7 football practice held on Thursday, July 21, 2022 at Crystal Lake Central High School. Ryan Rayburn for Shaw Local

McThenia is grateful that Kirwan and the rest of the team have put their faith in him.

“When everyone puts their trust in you and the coach puts his trust in you, it really does mean a lot,” said McThenia, who backed up Hernon and played receiver as a sophomore. “You don’t want to let anyone down, but there’s a lot of trust in everybody on this team. We have a lot of heart. The coaches are pushing us hard.”

McThenia will have one of the best receivers on any field in the state to throw to in junior Christian Bentancur (6-5, 235), who now has more than 30 NCAA Division I offers.

Bentancur led the Northwest Herald area in receiving yards (1,020) and touchdowns (11) last season. He missed one game, but still ranked fourth in the area with 49 catches, while his 20.8-yard-per catch average was among the best. Kirwan also expects Christian Stavroplos and Rylan Dolter to be big factors in the passing game.

McThenia and Bentancur have a strong connection going back to middle school.

“We’ve been playing together and throwing it since eighth grade, so we’ve had that connection and that chemistry for awhile now” Bentancur said. “We have a pretty good idea of what each other wants to do. Hopefully he explodes this year recruiting wise and we get a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns.”

Kirwan has been impressed by the maturity of Bentancur, who likely will play tight end in college. He is ranked 14th in the country at the position, according to 247Sports.com.

“He’s a fantastic kid. He’s got size, speed, hands, and he’s a smart kid,” Kirwan said. “Honestly, he’s one of the most kind kids I’ve been around. He’s really humble. He comes to work every day, busts his butt and brings all of the guys with him.

“He’s all bought into this program, so that makes my life a lot of fun and a lot more easy.”

The Hurricanes open the season Aug. 26 on the road against Wheaton Academy, one of five playoff teams from last season on their schedule.

Bentancur can’t wait for Week 1.

“Hopefully, the stands are packed with fans and we put up a lot of points,” Bentancur said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter about our stats. I just want to win games.”