Marist finally stops Thorne, Naperville Central
This wasn't your typical fourth-down stop.
When Marist forced an incompletion with 1 minute, 29 seconds left, it felt like the weight of the world removed from a defense that had seen just about enough of Naperville Central quarterback Payton Thorne.
The huge hold sealed visiting Marist's wild 38-35 victory over Naperville Central in Saturday's second-round Class 8A playoff football game. Western Michigan-bound Thorne closed an incredible two-year varsity run with the Redhawks by completing 18 of 24 passes for 229 yards and 5 touchdowns.
"We felt good coming into it," Thorne said. "We knew we had a good offense and they had a good offense. We believed in our defense, and they played their hearts out. We just didn't play well enough to get it done."
Saturday's shootout was not unexpected considering the offensive skill.
The lead changed hands on eight straight scoring plays spanning the second to the fourth quarter. Fifth-seeded Marist (10-1) closed the scoreboard bashing with 2:51 left when Billy Skalitzky scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 10-play drive.
Twenty-first seeded Naperville Central (7-4) responded with a quick first down to its own 42-yard line, but then on fourth-and-4 Thorne's final pass went just out of the reach of his receiver.
"It went back and forth, and two pretty even teams, I think," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "At the end of the day, they made one more play than we did."
Marist quarterback Mike Markett matched Thorne drive for drive. He ran for 191 yards and threw for 100, including a 36-yard touchdown to Jadon Thompson. Markett was the perfect backfield pairing with Skalitzky, who ran for 154 yards.
"I didn't know what to expect, but I knew if we executed on the offensive side we could have a big day," Markett said. "Obviously, they have a lot of athletes on their side as well and they did a lot of good things too."
Stops were a struggle for both sides in a game where the largest margin was 7-0 by Marist. The teams combined for 38 second-quarter points as Naperville Central took a 28-24 lead to halftime.
Marist advances to the Class 8A quarterfinals to face Homewood-Flossmoor, a 30-7 winner over Barrington.
"Naperville Central, you've got to tip your cap, they've got a really good offense," Skalitzky said. "Our defense struggled in the first half, but they made their adjustments at halftime and we just had to keep running the ball."
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