A blocked extra point and two first-quarter touchdowns were enough for Marian Catholic to hang on and defeat Benet 14-13 at Benedictine University in Lisle on Friday night.
Benet (2-1, 0-1 East Suburban Catholic Conference) had the Spartans (2-1, 1-0) pinned inside their own 15-yard line and facing a third and long with less than five minutes to play in the game. Marian Catholic quarterback John Rhode had not completed a single pass at the time, but he found Randall Wells open for an 18-yard completion.
"I hate throwing the football," said Marian coach Dave Mattio, "but sooner or later playmakers are going to make plays."
The Spartans continued to melt the clock until Benet forced a punt from the Redwings' 44 with less than 40 seconds to play. Benet took over at its own 26 with 32 seconds left to play.
Redwings quarterback Nick Mankowski's two-minute drill took the Redwings to the Marian 44 and set up one last Hail Mary attempt with two seconds remaining.
Mankowski passed for a 42-yard touchdown earlier in the game, finding Patrick Gillespie, but this time he came up empty on his last-second heave.
"It wasn't our night," said Benet coach Pat New. "You have to give credit to Marian Catholic. They stepped up and made plays when they needed to."
The Spartans' special teams came up huge all night. The unit stuffed a Benet punt in the first quarter, and senior Cal Roque returned it 23 yards for a touchdown.
"We came out flat and we had some breakdowns on special teams," New said.
Benet senior Connor Nelligan made an incredible one-handed grab, inciting a large roar from the crowd right before halftime. Nelligan's catch would have set up a first and goal, but the clock expired before he could get out of bounds.
According to New, the play summed up the entire evening of misfortune for the Redwings offense, a unit that dominated the first-down battle 13-5.
Nelligan caught 7 catches for 65 yards.
"(Nelligan) is simply one of the best players on the field and I don't know if we got him the ball enough tonight," New said.
The Spartans set up their first touchdown after Trevor Woolfolk broke loose for a 75-yard run on third and 23. Woolfolk pounded the ball into the end zone two plays later on a 2-yard blast.
Benet's first touchdown came off a 1-yard quarterback keeper from Mankowski in the second quarter.
The Redwings hit the road next Friday to take on Notre Dame in Niles.