Hard-working Marmion making Thorpe proud
Marmion Academy football coach Dan Thorpe admits he was a bit nervous entering this season.
Never in his previous 14 years at the Aurora school had the Cadets missed the playoffs two years in a row.
Thus, the pressure was on following a 3-win regular season in 2018, particularly since this year's seniors finished with 3-6 records as freshmen and sophomores.
A hardworking team has allayed his apprehension. The Cadets (6-2, 1-1) have already clinched a playoff berth heading into Friday's regular-season finale against Joliet Catholic (5-3, 2-0) at Fichtel Field.
In fact, with a victory Marmion could finish in a three-way tie for first place in the four-team CCL/ESCC White Division with Joliet Catholic and Fenwick.
"This has already been one of my most rewarding seasons, mainly because of the way we've played," Thorpe said. "Our kids play really hard for four quarters and they really took to coaching. We're not as big and we're not as skilled as other people, but our guys play harder longer."
Marmion is a well-rested squad entering Week 9. The team was idle last week because Week 8 opponent St. Joseph was forced to forfeit due to injuries and illness.
A bit banged up themselves, the Cadets received good news heading into the regular-season finale. Senior offensive tackle Fernando Reyes (6-foot, 260 pounds) is expected to return to action Friday after missing three weeks.
Thorpe said his entire 4-3 defense has played well, led by senior linebacker Major Haas and junior defensive back Jack Scales. Haas, a two-way player, leads the defense with 51 tackles, 10 for loss. Scales paces the secondary with 5 interceptions.
The offense has benefitted from the emergence of wide receiver Dane Pardridge. The 6-foot, 155-pound sophomore is the son of former NIU receiver Curt Pardridge, who in 2015 was named one of the top-50 players in program history. The younger Pardridge leads Marmion in receptions (27) and receiving yards (344) and has scored 3 touchdowns.
How it shakes out: In the wake of Bartlett's 17-14 win over South Elgin, three teams are tied atop the Upstate Eight Conference standings each currently with records of 7-1 -- Bartlett, Glenbard East and South Elgin.
On paper, each of those teams would be favored to win their Week 9 games. Bartlett hosts 2-6 Streamwood, Glenbard East hosts 1-7 Larkin and South Elgin hosts 2-6 Fenton.
Upsets obviously happen, but if each of the host teams were to improve to 8-1 on Friday there are two ways to look at the final standings.
There's the straight-up way by record. The UEC champion would be a three-way split with Bartlett, Glenbard East and South Elgin all claiming a share of the title.
Then there's the Illinois High School Association model of selecting playoff teams. In the case of three-way ties, the tiebreaker comes down first to head-to-head results then to defensive points allowed.
South Elgin allowed Bartlett 17 points and beat Glenbard East 35-7. The 24-point total would make the Storm the IHSA's Upstate Eight Conference representative.
Seeding purposes possibly excepted, after that it's mainly a moot point since both Bartlett and Glenbard East have qualified for the playoffs. But Bartlett would follow in the format having allowed 38 total points to Glenbard East and South Elgin, with Glenbard East giving up 56 in its loss to South Elgin and a 24-21 victory over Bartlett.
As South Elgin coach Dragan Teonic said, despite the Storm's loss to Bartlett that removed the prospect of a 9-0 record, "everything's still in front of us."
All that's left for each of these teams is to take care of business.
"We've got a lot of motivation to make sure we bounce back," Teonic said.
Heading to 7-11: St. Edward will make its seventh playoff appearance in 11 years next weekend.
The Green Wave (5-3, 5-0) opened the season 0-2 with losses to Bremen (6-2) and Wheaton Academy (4-4) but have since won five of six games. The Elgin school clinched its second straight Metro Suburban Red title last week with a 42-0 victory at Westmont.
Unlike recent seasons when St. Edward participated in the Class 4A playoffs, the Green Wave will be in the Class 2A field this year. St. Edward coach Mike Rolando is hoping for a home game.
"We're right on the bubble with some of the projections," Rolando said. "We could be a No. 9 seed or we could be the eight-seed and get a home game. We have a lot of points (37). Either way, we have to have our running game working. You can't win football games in Illinois in November without a running game."
The Green Wave have rushed for 1,145 yards and 15 touchdowns.