Scouting the Marmion Cadets
Marmion Academy has not missed the IHSA football playoffs in consecutive seasons since an eight-year drought ended in 2007.
Coming off a 4-win campaign in 2018, the Cadets are determined to maintain that tradition and return to the postseason party.
"The pressure is on," Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said. "We embrace that pressure."
Thorpe, who enters his 15th season at the Aurora school and 32nd as a head coach overall, has directed the program to eight playoff appearances in the last 11 years. He enters this season with an inexperienced offense that returns one starter -- center Brandon Bryan -- and a defense that returns four players.
However, a merger between the Chicago Catholic League and the East Suburban Catholic Conference could make the road to the playoffs more feasible than a year ago. The new CCL/ESCC is a 24-team league divided into six divisions of four. The divisions were devised using an equation that takes into account recent conference wins and enrollment.
Marmion has been placed in the CCL/ESCC White Division along with defending Class 5A state champion Joliet Catholic, Fenwick and St. Ignatius. The Cadets play league crossovers against De La Salle, Mt. Carmel, St. Viator and St. Joseph.
The still-difficult schedule includes nonconference tests against 2018 playoff teams Maine East and Von Steuben but is not as daunting as the 2018 slate.
"We have one less brutal opponent unlike last year playing Montini, Mt. Carmel and Brother Rice," Thorpe said. "This year, playing only two of the top-tier programs, Joliet Catholic and Mt. Carmel, makes it somewhat attainable to achieve the state playoffs, which is always our number one goal."
Defense is this team's strength, according to Thorpe. The unit is led by senior linebacker Major Haas. He created several turnovers last season but was hampered over the summer by two injuries, his coach said.
The secondary should be strong, thanks to returning cornerbacks Michael Gatze, a senior, and junior Jack Scales. Senior safety Garrett Durian is also back.
The defense suffered a key loss when Nate Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior, transferred to St. Charles North. He would have played both ways at defensive end and tight end. He was also the kicker.
Offensively, Thorpe said Haas can play all running back positions and "came on strong late last season." He will be joined in the backfield by a pair of quick running backs, Gatze and senior Gibson Marshall.
Flanking Bryan (6-1, 250) at center is senior guard Dan Seraphin (6-2, 220), who saw playing time last season. Which quarterback will they protect? It could be quarterback Padraig Fitzgerald, a 6-1, 170-pound junior, who Thorpe last week said leads the quarterback race.
The longtime coach said he intends to try many players, including sophomores, "to get an offense that can score. Look for (us) to be very basic on offense and play not to lose."