CHICAGO — It ain’t easy being the Marist football squad, not in the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference Blue.
In a division it shares with Mount Carmel, Brother Rice and Loyola, it can be hard for the RedHawks to get attention.
With that, and its loss to Loyola from last Saturday on its mind, Marist went to work Friday night against Montini Catholic, winning 34-0 to set off homecoming weekend at Red and White Stadium.
“A game like this there are a lot of distractions, a lot of stuff going on during the week,” Marist head coach Ron Dawczak said. “We came really close to our goal, which is to try and play a full 48 minutes. We’re getting closer to doing that, we took a step in the right direction.”
It was arguable what was most explosive this evening – the post-game fireworks show put on for the Marist faithful or the highly productive connection between RedHawks senior quarterback Dontrell Jackson and junior wide receiver Ryan Sims, who reeled in seven Jackson passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns against Montini.
“The goal for the week was to get our fifth win, solidify our spot in the playoffs,” Sims said.
Overall, Jackson threw for 243 yards on 14-of-21 passing and four scores, connecting with receiver Matthew Markett on the fourth TD late in the third quarter. The Coastal Carolina-bound QB also completed three passes to Ak’Tavion Agee for 61 yards.
“They started bringing a lot of blitzes, that opened up (our run-pass option) game,” Jackson said. “We took advantage of it and executed.”
Jackson also extended several drives with his scrambling ability, making plays out the backfield to a tune of 54 yards on six carries. Powering the Marist rushing attack even more were senior back Jaylen Johnson (8 carries, 52 yards) and sophomore Alonzo Manning (6 carries, 69 yards), who finished the night’s scoring emphatically with a 45-yard run to the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Sims and Jackson may have led the highlight reel, but they had no problem acknowledging how Marist’s ground game, established early and often in the game, set up the space they used to clobber Montini’s secondary.
Montini got some early sparks as quarterback Cole Teschner connected occasionally with running back Joshua Robinson and Julian Turner, but it spent precious few downs in Marist’s red zone and a couple of its best drives ended with interceptions.
One such drive helped set the game on its course in the second quarter. Already down 14-0, the Broncos attempted to convert a third-and-3 from their own 37, but a Teschner pass got picked by Marist’s John Nestor, who with Jimmy Rolder also helped lead the RedHawks with six tackles on the night.
Nestor’s interception would be returned to Montini’s 28-yard line, and two plays later Sims’ third TD gave Marist a 21-0 lead with just over 6 minutes left in the quarter. Montini pushed the ball back to Marist’s 32 in its final first half drive but a RedHawks sack helped set up a fourth-and-13 pass attempt that fell incomplete.
“Anytime you can pitch a shutout, that’s a great game,” Dawczak said. “We always talk about ‘do what you’re coached to do,’ ‘trust the guy next to you.’ When they do that, they make plays as a unit.”
The Broncos, unlike the RedHawks, were coming into this game looking to extend a win streak, a two-game one to be exact. After wins against Leo and Providence Catholic got their record up to .500, Montini wound up being fodder for a Marist team that once again sees itself as a potential contender for state.
Some of what was seemingly lost for the RedHawks against Loyola was likely regained back at their friendly confines, and with fireworks both during and after the game Friday night this is a team that once again sees the sky as not-so-limiting.
“We fought to the end (against Loyola), gave them a tough game,” Jackson said. “We learned a lot about our team last week, we learned a lot about our heart. We still feel like we got a great shot at winning state.”