Scouting Prospect at St. Rita, and Maine South at Marist football semifinals

  • Prospect's Owen Walter changes direction against Fremd's defense earlier this season. Walter and the Knights play at St. Rita Saturday in the Class 7A semifinals.

    Prospect's Owen Walter changes direction against Fremd's defense earlier this season. Walter and the Knights play at St. Rita Saturday in the Class 7A semifinals. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Maine South's Mike Sajenko, right, celebrates a touchdown with teammate Chris Petrucci during a game in April. Maine South plays at Marist Saturday in a Class 8A semifinal.

    Maine South's Mike Sajenko, right, celebrates a touchdown with teammate Chris Petrucci during a game in April. Maine South plays at Marist Saturday in a Class 8A semifinal. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/18/2021 2:34 PM

Class 7A

No. 11 Prospect (10-2) at No. 10 St. RitaWhen: Saturday, 6 p.m.

 

Last Week: Prospect beat Jacobs 35-21, St. Rita beat Hononegah 36-16

Advancement: Winner plays the winner of No. 9 Brother Rice at No. 4 Wheaton North for the 7A state championship Nov. 27 at NIU's Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

Outlook: It has been a wild week for Prospect coach Dan DeBoeuf.

First, his team qualified for the state semifinals last Saturday for the first time since 2006. Next, his wife Kelly gave birth on Monday to a healthy boy named Trey. The head coach then juggled a newborn with preparation for one of the best teams in 7A.

"It has been a fun 48 hours," DeBoeuf said. "I got a lot of film work in the last two days. We are making it work."

DeBoeuf and the Prospect coaching staff have done a masterful job of preparing their team, especially with all the injuries at the quarterback spot. Starter Frank Covey, who was injured four weeks ago, could be ready to go. If not, it will be Owen Walter, literally the team's fifth-string quarterback, who was uncanny running the Wildcat last week in the Knights' win over Jacobs. Walter had terrific help from an offensive line that is anchored by Sam Tsagalis, who just received an offer from the University of Illinois.

"We have had a blast with it," DeBoeuf said. "The kids have done a great job with it."

It really will come down to the Knights' defense which has been superb all season and has even stepped it up a notch in the playoffs. Led by Jacob Grzesiak, Ben Sahakian, Nick Grassano, Charlie Carroll, John Gavin, Peyton Burgh, Gino Paredes, Ethan Rossi, Christopher Rodriguez, Jack Olson and Richard Sepulveda, Prospect and Walter has forced 6 turnovers in the last two games.

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"We have some really special athletes and players on that side of the ball," DeBoeuf said. "Brock Collins and his staff have done a phenomenal job of getting those guys ready to play. The players have big-time ownership on how they play and how tough they play. The buy-in on the defensive side of the ball has been huge."

The Knights will need that kind of effort against Catholic League power St. Rita. The Mustangs are averaging 35 points per game in the playoffs, including an opening-round 42-7 win over Rolling Meadows.

St. Rita is led by quarterback Tommy Ulatowski, the CCL/ESCC Green Division offensive player of the year, who threw for 4 touchdowns last week and ran for another. The Mustangs also have Ohio-State commit Kaleb Brown at running back along with sophomores Ethan Middleton and DJ Stewart. The Mustangs' defense is led by 7A all-stater Djabril McNabb.

"I think it will be a great test for us," DeBoeuf said. ""I think we are playing a real physical type of football right now with our team. That will be our main focus is how physical we can be against a big, strong team."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Class 8A

No. 6 Maine South (10-1) at No. 18 Marist (9-3)When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Last Week: Maine South beat Neuqua Valley 14-13; Marist beat Glenbrook South 51-21

Advancement: Winner plays winner of No. 4 Lockport at No. 1 Loyola for the 8A state championship Nov. 27 at NIU's Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

Outlook: This will be the 100th playoff game for Maine South. The Hawks come into the game with an all-time playoff record of 71-28.

This is a rematch of the 2009 state title game which Maine South won 41-17. This is a different type of team from that Maine South squad. That Maine South team had much more flash and this Hawks team plays with more grit.

"We are just going to stay in the moment," Maine South coach Dave Inserra said. "And then play each play and then take our chances."

Offense has been the trademark for Maine South and this team is not much different. The Hawks enter the game with 407 points this season and 4,346 yards of total offense.

Mike Sajenko is the team's leading rusher. The two-time CSL South offensive player of the year has 1,189 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. He also has 33 receptions for 361 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Quarterback Rowan Keefe has completed nearly 66 percent of his passes (158-of-245). He has thrown for 2,011 yards and 20 touchdowns. Keefe spreads the wealth to Will Guzaldo, Sajenko, Chris Petrucci. Frank Bartell, Tommy Locascio and Evan Agosto.

Maine South will need to get a hat on Marist linebacker Jimmy Rolder, who is 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds with multiple Division-I offers.

"We are going to look for holes to take advantage of them and put some points on the board," Inserra said. "We try to stay the course and keep playing knowing that good things will happen."

Marist comes into the game averaging 41 points per game in the playoffs. Alonzo Manning III is the key to the Marist rushing attack, running behind 8A all-state lineman Deuce McGuire, who is 6-5 and 295 pounds.

"They are huge," Inserra said. "They take up a lot of space on that green field. They are like a shadow that overtakes the field. They can put points on the board in many different ways."

Maine South will counter with a defense that swarms to the football and isn't afraid to hit back. Cole Cichowski, Charlie Leach, Jimmy Brander, Teddy Gianaris, Emmet Wolf, Chris Petrucci, Frank Bartell, Tony Vadez, Kevin Wolf, Brady Marques and Carter Collins have allowed just over 15 points per game. They have 15 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries.

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