When your offense features a wide receiver who was offered a full scholarship to a Big Ten school before he played a single varsity game, and yet he's just one of your quarterback's many favorite targets, your defense might get overlooked here and there.
It was tough to overlook Marist's defense on Friday at Baker Field in Mundelein. The RedHawks barely budged against host Carmel.
"Our guys on defense were probably overshadowed a bit," Marist coach Pat Dunne said. "I think people now are taking notice of our defense."
The RedHawks forced 4 Carmel turnovers, including a fumble in the redzone off a strip by lineman Shannon Smith. They also held Carmel's rushing attack to just 173 yards, and its offense in general to a total of only 187 yards in a decisive 28-7 East Suburban Catholic Conference victory.
Marist, which rolled up 210 of its 359 total yards in the passing game alone, and spread the wealth between five receivers, stays unbeaten at 6-0 and 4-0 in league play. Carmel drops to 2-4 and 2-2 and must win its remaining three games to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
"Our defense played a great game. They've been doing a great job of backing up the offense all season," said wide receiver prodigy Nic Weishar, a sturdy, speedy and sure-handed 6-foot-5 junior. "We think we have a high-powered offense just like we did last year, and now we have a great defense as well. It should be a good year for us."
Weishar, who caught 7 passes for 78 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown against Carmel, knows all about having a good year.
His season last year got off to a spectacular start when, in August, before the RedHawks even played a game, he was offered a scholarship to Northwestern. He was a sophomore whose only high school experience at the time was playing on the sophomore team the year before as a freshman.
Now, one year later, Weishar has a total of 10 major Division I offers on the table. In addition to Northwestern, they include: Illinois, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Michigan and Boston College.
"It's definitely been very humbling," Weishar said. "I'm not sure how it all happened. I know my coach has been doing a great job of getting the word out on me. And I went to some camps.
"It's just been a great experience so far. I'm very blessed."
Speaking of good fortune, Marist got off to a great start against Carmel.
The RedHawks scored on their first possession, about five minutes into the game, when quarterback Ian Woodworth (21-of-26, 210 yards) hit Bryan Polak with a 3-yard touchdown pass that capped off a 28-yard drive.
Then, the Marist defense returned to the field and flexed its muscle by denying Carmel in the red zone. The Corsairs started at their own 32-yard line and had driven all the way to the 10-yard line when Smith came up with the strip that caused a Carmel fumble and turnover.
"Their defense played a good game, but we really didn't execute like we should have," said Carmel quarterback Nick Grandolfo, who tied Josh Walinski for a team-high 65 rushing yards. "They caused problems for us. (The fumble) really changed the game because it was just 7-0 and we really needed to punch that one in. That one really cost us."
Marist then scored on two of its final three possessions of the first half to take a 21-0 cushion into the halftime break.
Fullback Peter Andreotti (131 yards on 29 carries) scored on a 5-yard run early in the second quarter and Weishar hauled in his touchdown with 23.2 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Corsairs stole away some momentum shortly after the game resumed by successfully recovering an onside kick on the opening kickoff of the second half. A Marist penalty that was tacked on moved Carmel to Marist's 27-yard line and Carmel scored four plays later on a 1-yard run by Grandolfo.
"We took a chance on that kickoff and I thought we kind of got the momentum going our way," Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. "But we just couldn't keep it going and we couldn't get stops. They (Marist) played their butts off on defense. I don't think we had a play over 12 to 15 yards.
"We came into this game needing to win three out of four games to make the playoffs and now it's three out of three. I wouldn't count us out, but it's going to be rough."