CHICAGO — Julius Ellens considers himself to be a hybrid player and showed off how versatile he can be for Glenbard West on Saturday.
With starting running back Joey Pope out following an appendectomy, the three-year varsity wide receiver stepped in against Marist and starred at both running back and receiver to help his team defeat Marist, 33-31.
“He can be whatever he wants,” Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. “He’s a special athlete.”
Ellens and the Hitters offense couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game when they drove down the field from their own 21-yard line and scored on a 23-yard run from Ellens to take a 7-0 lead with 11:12 left in the first quarter.
Glenbard West struck quickly again when Ben Cesario intercepted Marist quarterback Dermot Smyth’s pass on the Marist 27-yard line and Ellens rushed for his second touchdown, an 18-yard run to make it 14-0 with 9:08 left in the first quarter. Marist fumbled the ball on its next possession and Hitter quarterback Korey Tai needed one play to score, dropping an 18-yard pass to Ellens to make it 21-0 with 7:34 left in the first quarter.
The Hitters added two field goals in the second quarter to make it 27-7 with 5:25 left in the second quarter and Tai hit Ellens for a 80-yard touchdown pass with 1:27 left in the second quarter.
Ellens finished with 120 rushing yards and 102 receiving yards, rushing and receiving two touchdowns each, while Kai threw for two touchdowns and 164 yards.
“It was an instinct that I needed to step up and be the next RB 1,” Ellens said. “I have a great offensive line to follow behind, it worked and we got the win.”
Marist didn’t give up when it fell into an early 21-0 hole in the first quarter. The RedHawks drove down the field after the Hitters made it 21-0 and scored when Marc Coy rushed in a 7-yard run to make it 21-7 with 4:51 left in the first quarter.
Coy rushed for a 47-yard score to make it 27-14 Hitters with 4:30 left in the second quarter and the RedHawks made it 27-21 with 1:44 left in the half when Smyth completed a 58-yard pass to Mike Donegan. Marist added a field goal from the 13-yard line to make it 33-24 at the half.
Marist drove down the field from its own 20 to start the third quarter and scored on a Coy 5-yard run to make it 33-31 with 3:28 left in the quarter.
The RedHawks drove down to the Glenbard West 5-yard line on their next drive but holding and delay of game penalties pushed Marist back to its own 28, where it missed a field goal attempt with 7:03 left in the game. Marist drove down to the Glenbard West 28 again with 15 seconds left and elected to attempt another field goal, missing again to end the game.
“When you get down there like that, you need to come away with points when you’re playing a great team like that, especially where you’re playing a great team,” Marist coach Ron Dawczak said. “We weren’t able to punch it in and that was the difference in the game.”
Smyth regrouped from his early interception and field goal and threw for 252 yards and one touchdown and also rushed for 46 yards. Coy finished the game with 140 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’m proud of the way the guys fought, but you can’t spot a team like that and expect to come out on top,” Dawczak said. “But I’m proud of the way the team fought and gave themselves a chance to win.”
Marist will travel to Oak Lawn and play Richards on Friday while Glenbard West will travel to Downers Grove South on Saturday. Pope is expected to return for the Hitters on Friday.
Hetlet stopped his team from celebrating like it won the state championship after the game, but he did realize the importance of the win and how it will impact the rest of the season.
“It’s one game, next week’s no less, it’s the same thing,” Hetlet said. “It’s a big one because it’s the first one and you’re playing a Chicago Catholic League powerhouse, that’s a big deal.”