St. Viator ran and picked its way to 28-21 win over Marian Central on Friday in Woodstock.
Christian Dolecki had 3 of the 5 interceptions by the Lions while Elijah Black ran for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns as St. Viator (4-2, 3-1) won in one of the toughest venues in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
It was also a physical battle, with both teams whistled for a combined 20 penalties for 201 yards.
"It is a great football environment," said St. Viator coach Dave Archibald. "They love their team here and we are happy to come out with a win."
Dolecki, who struggled earlier this season catching the football in practice drills, certainly had no problem on Friday. The senior snaked Marian Central three times, once inside the Lions' 10-yard line. Two of his picks led led to Viator touchdowns.
"It was a good day today," said Dolecki, who got his first interception of the season last week against Carmel. "I had trouble catching the ball earlier this year. But I just kept working at it. I had the confidence and it worked out well today."
Dolecki, along with Bobby Ochoa and Nick Peters, victimized Marian Central's AJ Golembiewski, who despite the picks, still threw for 265 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Lions also recovered a fumble.
"The turnover battle was huge if you look at the final result of the game," Archibald said. "If two of those didn't happen, we could have been sitting in overtime or down."
Viator had its own troubles with turnovers early in the game.
On their first two possessions, the Lions had the ball inside the Hurricanes' 20, but came away scoreless thanks to a fumble and interception.
Black, who had to step up and take nearly all the snaps at running back as Jack Scislowski was sidelined with a knee injury, rose to the occasion. The junior became a workhorse, carrying the ball 34 times.
"I am really tired," Black said. "I got beat up pretty good. But my linemen did a great job in front of me. It would have been a lot worse for me if I didn't have them."
One of those linemen, Anthony Maraviglia, had a homecoming of sorts.
Maraviglia grew up and played youth football with many of the Marian players, so blocking his former teammates was sweet for him,
"It was a lot of emotions for me out here today," Maraviglia said. "Getting this win and happiness with the win. We had some adversity with Jack (Scislowski) going down last week. But the offensive line has always been strong so it was nothing new for us. We put our best effort in every day, and this is what happens."
Maraviglia, along with Joe Steiner, Joe Cleary, Rocky Smeriglio and Jeremiah Pittman, enabled the Lions to rush for 255 yards on 51 plays.
With that group functioning as a solid unit, Viator was able to overcome the early turnovers and take a 14-0 lead.
Black capped a nine-play, 53-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard run and Jake Wolf also blasted over from the 1 on a short drive set up by an interception by Dolecki.
Marian Central (2-4, 0-4) came right back on its first play from scrimmage.
Golembiewski shook off a strong Viator pass rush and threw a 73-yard TD pass to make it 14-7.
The Hurricanes had a chance to tie just before the end of the half, but Dolecki snared a low throw at the 6-yard line to end that threat.
The Lions were opportunistic in the third quarter when Dolecki picked off a pass and returned it 17 yards to the Marian 7.
Black roared up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown and the Lions led 20-7.
The Lions again tuned Marian Central away inside the 10 when Ochoa intercepted a pass at the 4.
Marian Central gained just 6 yards rushing thanks to the play of Michael Wittich, Steineke, Cleary, Anthony Messi, Niko Weber, Wolf and Casey Kmet.
"We have an emphasis the whole year on stopping the run," said Wittich, who led the charge of a group that allowed 72 yards on the ground (54 on one play). "We are the base of the defense and they feed off of us. We come into the week stopping the run and then we can shut them down in the pass game."
Marian finally broke off a couple of nice runs early in the fourth quarter.
Ryan St. Clair scored for the Hurricanes to make it 20-14 with 11:09 to play.
The Lions' defense again thwarted a Marian possession when Peters intercepted a pass at midfield.
Viator moved the ball downfield and Wolf tallied from the 1-yard line.
Bryce Hellgeth then connected with Ben Whalen for the 2-point conversion to make it 28-14 with 4:21 left.
Marian responded by scoring less than two minutes later on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Golembiewski to Bryce Radcliffe to make it 28-21 with 2:33 to play.
However, Viator was able to recover the inside kick and run the clock out.
"We wanted to be a strong team on the ground," Archibald said. "I talked to the guys about what is at stake in our next three ESCC games. We spoke about our goals and the mission we have and next week we are looking to take a big step."