Marist ends South Elgin's perfect season
Ron Dawczak and the Marist coaching staff wanted to see more from their players.
The Redhawks coaching staff challenged their players at halftime of their second-round Class 8A playoff game against South Elgin with a 14-7 lead, knowing that there was another level they could reach after leaving some plays on the field in the first half.
Marist players responded in the second half, with the defense posting a shutout and the offense more than doubling its points total to help take down the Storm 30-7 and move the Redhawks to the quarterfinals.
"It's a huge win for us and the program," senior Jimmy Rolder said. "Just all of our hard work coming to use and putting it on the field. There is no better feeling."
The Storm tied the game with three seconds left in the first quarter when Anthony Marshall rushed in for a 7-yard score. South Elgin took over on Marist's 21-yard line after a fumble and used four plays to score.
After that, the Storm struggled to come up with big plays. They relied heavily on sophomore quarterback Jake Sullivan to run the ball, taking some chances to throw.
Rolder said once the defense realized which direction they liked to run, he would head that way to stop the run, forcing South Elgin to throw sometimes when it wasn't used to passing.
"We just made them uncomfortable from the start of the second half and I feel like that was the difference in this game," Rolder said.
Sullivan led the way for the offense, passing for 52 yards and adding 47 on the ground. The Storm finished with 132 total yards of offense, 104 of which came in the first half.
South Elgin coach Dragan Teonic thought the lack of playoffs in the past spring season hurt his team, where the players didn't compete in a big-moment game like Marist has for much of the season playing in the CCL/ESCC Blue.
"They're really good, you have to give them a lot of credit," Teonic said. "I don't think we necessarily played badly. They're a really good football team."
After starting the game strong when Dontrell Jackson Jr. completed a 40-yard pass to Ryan Sims for a touchdown on its opening drive, the Marist offense stalled for much of the first half. Jaylon Johnson capped a seven-play drive in the second quarter when he scored on a 3-yard run to give his team a 14-7 lead with 6:25 left in the second quarter.
Marist buried a field goal in the third quarter before scoring twice in the fourth quarter -- once on a 55-yard pass from Jackson Jr. to Ak'Tavion Whitlock-Agee on the first play of the fourth quarter, and a 9-yard pass from Jackson Jr. to Whitlock-Agee with a little under two minutes left in the game.
Jackson Jr. led Marist with 218 passing yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He rushed for 14 yards while Johnson finished with 98 rushing yards. Marist had 364 total yards of offense.
South Elgin finished the season 10-1 with an Upstate Eight Conference championship.
With a strong defensive effort, Rolder was happy to see the offense reward the defense with a strong outing.
"It's a relief, any defensive player will say," Rolder said. "They did great out there."
Marist will play Glenbrook South in the Class 8A quarterfinals after the Titans beat Hinsdale Central 14-7. This will be the fourth straight quarterfinal appearance for the Redhawks, who played in the semifinals in the past two playoffs.
Dawczak told his players they should be proud of making it to the quarterfinals of such a difficult bracket, but issued them another challenge as they prepare for another week of playoff football.
"It's an accomplishment to be here, but we're not done," Dawczak said. "We have goals in front of us that we think that we can achieve, so it's a great accomplishment, but don't be satisfied with that. We have more work to do."