The Marist Redhawks showed why they're a top-ranked team in the state of Illinois on Friday night, as they took care of business at Brother Rice with a 49-35 win. Even the Marist fans felt the pulse of redemption, storming Gary Little Stadium and reversing the scene of a year ago.
As expected, fans from both schools packed the stadium, as the all-male, orange-painted Crusader Crazies in the upper-left home bleachers battled the co-ed Redhawk Rowdies stationed on the opposite side. Police security manned the field entrances to assure that things would not get too out-of-hand. The intensity from both squads was sky-high at the opening kickoff as Rice received.
At the game's start, emotions seemed to have an effect on both teams. Each team's first two possessions ended quickly with punts, as players from both sides settled in to the wild atmosphere around them.
Rice finally grabbed the momentum as QB Matt Page connected with receiver Chris Rozell, who booked it 84 yards to the endzone, sending the Crazies into a frenzy. Unfortunately for Rice, that would be their only lead of the game, and their last score until 11.2 seconds remained in the third quarter.
Minutes later, Marist tied it up with a defensive score, blocking a Crusader punt attempt which was recovered and scored by Jimmy Smith. That was the start of a 42-0 scoring run by Marist, including a 28-7 halftime advantage.
Marist QB Ian Woodworth was aided by his solid receiving core, consisting mainly of Nick Weisher, Jordan Burger, and Flynn Nagal. Running back Peter Andreotti also had an outstanding performance for the Redhawks. Weisher, Burger, and Nagal each scored a touchdown, while Andreotti added two rushing TDs.
Offensively, the Crusaders never really found a rhythm, as evidenced by their nine punt attempts. The Redhawk defensive line played a major role in this, sacking Page six times, and pressuring him into quick throws on many other occasions. Mike Layer of Marist even picked up the Redhawks' second defensive touchdown in the first half, recovering a fumble in the endzone following a sack.
Though the game had already been decided, Rice's offense did come on late, reaching the endzone on each of their final four possessions. Rozell lead the team with two touchdown receptions, while receivers Malik Moody, Luke Mueller, and running back Marcus Jones added one TD each to conclude the Crusaders' scoring.
Though the game, perhaps, carried with it the significance of the state championship, the players and the coaches from both sides recognize that this was only the second game of a long and grinding regular season. Next week, Marist looks to remain undefeated at Nazareth Academy, while the Crusaders look to bounce back at Bishop McNamara. Though neither game will have anything close to the atmosphere on Friday, every game counts in the race for spots in the state playoffs.