Marian Central downs Carmel in CCL/ESCC Purple clash
The situation facing Marian Central with just less than 2 minutes remaining against Carmel could have been considered risky.
Facing fourth-and-10 on Carmel's 41-yard line, the Hurricanes opted not to punt. If they were stopped, the Corsairs, trailing by a touchdown, would have good field position and plenty of time remaining.
But Marian was brimming with confidence. Their running game had been so effective all day that the Hurricanes were certain they would get the first down.
Quarterback Brendan Hernon did better than that. He faked to running back Owen Stanko on a Jet sweep, followed his blockers around the right side and scored to seal the Hurricanes' 34-21 victory Saturday in a CCL-ESCC Purple Division game at Baker Stadium.
"We felt confident in what we were doing and our line was playing great," said Hernon, who ran 28 times for 243 yards and 4 touchdowns. "We trusted who we had and trusted we could do it. It had worked all game."
Marian punter Marlon Pomili had a leg injury and was not available, but Hurricanes coach Darren Fortin wanted to go for it anyway.
"If it goes in the end zone, we have a 15-yard punt," Fortin said. "We were getting Owen outside on the Jet, so it was the right call. If we didn't get it, it could have been the wrong call.
"We saw a lot of their tendencies of chasing the ball (on the Jet sweep) and we figured we'd try to use it against them. They flew with Owen like they always did and luckily we had man-on-man on the back side."
Carmel coach Jason McKie was not surprised the Hurricanes (2-1, 1-1) went for the first down.
"Because we had a lot of big plays on offense and I don't think they wanted to give us the ball back," McKie said. "We had some explosive plays, it wasn't like we weren't moving the ball. Their quarterback was running for 10-plus yards every time he touched the ball. It was smart for them to go for it and rely on their defense."
Carmel (1-1, 0-1) scored in the final minute of the first half when quarterback Ashton Gondeck hit wide receiver Jon Buckley for a 40-yard touchdown, cutting Marian's lead to 14-13.
Gondeck then hit running back Gabe Lynch for a 40-yard touchdown on the first possession of the second half. The 2-point conversion pass to Luke Nalewajk made it 21-14.
Marian came back to tie when Hernon bulled in from the 3, but walked off the field with a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder.
"Once I came to the sideline, I tried to move it up and it popped back in," Hernon said. "It was fine. It was the weirdest thing. With the adrenaline I didn't really feel that much."
His teammates appreciated Hernon's toughness.
"That kid's a warrior, he's built different," center Mike Gatz said. "He's unbelievable. I couldn't ask any more of the guy. He's a great leader, great player, great teammate."
On the ensuing kickoff, Lynch was hit and fumbled and Marian recovered on Carmel's 36. Six plays later, the Hurricanes took the lead on Dante Ricciardi's 2-yard run.
Ricciardi finished with 93 yards rushing and Stanko had 90. Marian rushed for 424 on 63 carries. Gatz, Jack Hayden, Markus Pomili, George Carlson and Luke Dalton paved the way for the huge rushing game.
"We felt like we were playing a little hesitant," Gatz said. "We focused on being aggressive and finishing our blocks and from all the rushing yards, I'd say it worked out pretty well."
Trailing 28-21, Carmel moved from its 17 to the 50, but the Hurricanes defense forced a punt with 7:39 remaining and the Corsairs did not get the ball back until after Hernon's last touchdown.
"They have a lot of good players who made some big plays," McKie said. "They got a big offensive line. Offensively, they ran three plays and we just couldn't stop it. That's a good ballclub, they stuck to what they do.
"You can't make mistakes like we did, turnovers on special teams. It's tough to come back from that. There's a lot of things we need to correct, but the good thing is we're playing football right now (during the COVID-19 pandemic). I'm just glad they're getting experience and we have a lot of young kids playing."