Marist knocks out Stevenson
Stevenson saw red in the RedZone, thanks to the RedHawks.
Moving the ball wasn't a problem for Stevenson on Saturday night on the far southwest side of Chicago. The Patriots had plenty of chances at the end zone in their Class 8A playoff game at Marist.
Problem was, an already tough Marist defense seemed to get even tougher when the Stevenson offense was knocking on the door.
Marist denied Stevenson five times in the red zone and cracked only once. But by then, it was the final minute of the game, and Marist was already happily celebrating a 28-6 first round victory.
The No. 5 RedHawks (9-1) will advance to face No. 21 Naperville Central (7-3) next week in the second round.
No. 28 Stevenson, which finished 1-for-6 in the red zone, closes its season at 6-4.
"We keep the energy up and we trust each other on the field," Marist senior linebacker Ryan Rappold said of the key to the success of the defense, which allowed 11.6 points per game during the regular season, fewest in the brutal East Suburban Catholic Conference. "(In the RedZone) we just always have that fire in us. After the first (denial of Stevenson in the RedZone), we were super pumped about it. Then the second one came and it just kept going and going over and over again. We just kept pulling it out.
"(Stevenson) was very frustrated when they couldn't score and I think that helped us a lot."
Stevenson missed 2 field goals in the first half that could have made the halftime score 7-6 instead of 7-0. Then Marist, which got the only score of the first half on a 1-yard touchdown run by Billy Skalitzky, came out strong in the third quarter to take control of the game.
About halfway into the third quarter, quarterback Michael Markett scored on a 20-yard run after the Marist defense forced a punt on Stevenson's first possession of the half. That put the RedHawks up 14-0.
Then on Stevenson's very next possession, a fumble was recovered deep in Stevenson territory by Marist and just seconds later, Markett threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Declan Ryan in the corner of the end zone.
Markett's 20-yard touchdown run and his touchdown pass to Ryan came just 23 seconds apart, and just like that, Marist had a 21-0 lead with 5:35 left in the third.
"Our defense just picks us up every drive. They played lights out tonight and when they get big stops like they did tonight, everyone on offense is excited to come back out and piggyback off of that," Markett said. "When we get those changes in momentum, that's when we know that we can take our shots on offense."
On Stevenson's next possession, the Patriots had another shot of their own.
They again marched, this time 56 yards, all the way down to the Marist 14-yard line. But a lost fumbled ended yet another RedZone opportunity.
"I missed two throws (in the RedZone) and it cost us the game," said Stevenson quarterback Cole Okmin, trying to take responsibility for the loss, in spite of the fact that he was 20-for-48 for 219 passing yards, had 84 rushing yards on 13 carries, and also scored the Patriots' only touchdown. "I mean, it's true. Coach put us in a perfect play (in the RedZone), and I missed by an inch on both. That was frustrating. And that's when we couldn't recover. We didn't capitalize but we kept our heads up and kept moving."
After another Stevenson miss in the RedZone early in the fourth quarter, Marist scored its final touchdown on a 5-yard run by Billy Skalitzky (56 rushing yards) that was set up by a big 22-yard passing play from Markett (123 passing yards and 82 rushing yards) to Ryan (52 receiving yards).
That made the score 28-0 with 5:13 left.
Marist held again in the RedZone on Stevenson's next drive, but the Patriots kept pushing and scratching and clawing.
As Marist tried to run the clock out with about two minutes left, a lost fumble gave Stevenson the ball back deep in Marist territory.
Two plays later, Okmin ran in the Patriots' only score from 8 yards out.
"I'm proud of how everyone fought," Okmin said. "I'm so proud of this team, I'm so proud of my brothers. Everyone fought the entire time. We gave it our best to fight and scratch to keep this thing alive. We did everything we could. But things just didn't turn out our way, and all good things come to an end I guess."