Marist’s high-flying offense was a terror for opponents last season. The RedHawks averaged 40 points a game against a challenging schedule.
Coach Ron Dawczak has some holes to replace at running back and on the line, but six starters from that offense return and are a year more experienced. Quarterback Mike Markett and talented receivers Jadon Thompson and Billy Skalitzky lead the charge.
“It’s fun,” Skalitzky said. “I’m running around and catching deep balls and scoring touchdowns. What more could you as for as a football player?”
Thompson, a 6-2 junior, is one of the area’s top recruits. He has offers from a dozen schools including Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue.
“He is a special player,” Dawczak said. “He’s continuing to grow and the thing that really jumps out is the strength he gained in the offseason. He’s a really dangerous weapon.”
Skalitzky has been very impressed with Markett’s improvements over the summer.
“He was really good last year, but his confidence level is through the roof,” Skalitzky said.
Marist has been churning out college football players lately. Nine of last season’s seniors are currently playing college ball.
“That’s a lot of high-level seniors [to lose],” Dawczak said. “But we are excited about the young guys stepping up. We will probably be faster than last year but we won’t have as much size. We have a lot of tough kids that are really looking forward to getting on the field.”
Seven starters return on defense, most of the key losses were on the line.
“We’re just trying to work harder and make sure everyone is on board, including the second string,” Caleb Burrell, a senior defensive lineman, said.
Marist won its first 11 games last season. The RedHawks dominated several good teams before losing to Loyola in the Class 8A state quarterfinals.
“I left with a bad taste in my mouth,” Burrell said. “We were expected to win that game. This year we are definitely coming out strong and prepared to go on a run like last year and then finish strong.”
Dawczak is expecting big things from Jovan Marsh and senior wide receiver Declan Ryan.
“Marsh is a sophomore running back, he has a lot of ability,” Dawczak said. “Ryan played last year but will be in an expanded role this year.”
The running game will start the season by committee. Their first test is a big one. Marist opens the season with a massive rivalry game against nearby Brother Rice.
“You can’t ask for anything better,” Dawczak said. “Every year it always seems to be a close game. Just a great way to kick off the season and get the excitement level high right from the start.”
The RedHawks have become one of the area’s consistently good programs, but it hasn’t won a state title yet. That’s the goal for this season.
“That’s something we’ve talked about since we were freshmen,” Markett said. “It drives every one of us when we are running in the morning. It is always in the back of everyone’s head.”
“We have the idea of competing for a state championship, that is definitely our goal,” Dawczak said. “But we don’t want to lose sight of the little things along the way.”
Aug. 24 at Brother Rice
Aug. 31 vs. Mishawaka, Ind.
Sept. 7 at Notre Dame
Sept. 14 vs. St. Viator
Sept. 21 vs. Joliet Catholic
Sept. 28 at Marian Catholic
Oct. 5 at Nazareth
Oct. 12 vs. Marian Central
Oct. 19 at Benet
This is the sixth story in the Sun-Times 2018 Football Countdown series. The No. 4 ranked team will be revealed Friday.
More football stories:
- No. 6 Batavia is loose, loaded and ready to defend 7A title
- No. 10 Lake Zurich moves on from title game heartbreak, reloads
- Explosive Tyquan Cox ready to carry the load for No. 9 Glenbard West
- No. 7 Nazareth isn’t too young anymore, just talented and experienced
- No. 8 Homewood-Flossmoor raises its defensive standards
Want the latest info and analysis on high school football? Our preps team of Michael O’Brien, Beth Long and Annie Costabile will share all the latest news, insights and Super 25 football rankings in a new livestream show called “Sun-Times Game Week.” Our next preview show is Aug 20 at 4:30 p.m., then the regular season livestream show will be every Monday at 6:30 p.m. starting August 27. Like and follow our high school sports Facebook page to watch the show on FACEBOOK LIVE. You can also ask questions using the hashtag #SunTimesGameWeek.Tags: 2018 football preview, Marist