Powerful ground game leads Marist past Naperville Central

Marist's Billy Skalitzky (9) cuts back a run. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.
Marist's Billy Skalitzky (9) cuts back a run. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

Marist’s offense isn’t about finesse or deception. The RedHawks are going to run the ball down straight down your throat.

That’s exactly what happened on the game-winning drive on Saturday in Naperville. Quarterback Mike Markett and receiver/running back Billy Skalitzky took turns picking up crucial third and fourth downs.

Skalitzky capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run with 2:51 to play. Then the Marist defense stepped up and stopped Naperville Central and Payton Thorne, the area’s most talented quarterback.

Marist takes down Naperville Central 38-35 in the second round of the Class 8A state playoffs.

“We basically just said ‘let’s go at them,’” Marist coach Ron Dawczak said. “We wanted to establish that run and eat up the clock. The offensive line was ready. They knew the game was on them and they fired off the ball and they did everything they had to.”

That was the case throughout the game. The numbers are pretty staggering. Markett had 22 carries for 189 yards and one touchdown. Skalitzky had 22 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

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“We have a great offensive line,” Skalitzky said. “Running behind those guys is really easy. They make big holes and you just have to run through them.”

The RedHawks offensive line is Sean Quarterman, George Fanelli, Ryan Meehan, Frank Sheehan and Pat Coogan.

“The offensive line was incredible,” Marist receiver Jadon Thompson said. “Billy and Mike ran their butts off, hats off to them.”

Markett had a 63-yard touchdown run in the first half, which basically consisted of both teams taking turns scoring. He was 10-for-19 passing for 103 yards and one touchdown.

Thompson caught four passes for 64 yards and one touchdown.

“[Markett] is a phenomenal football player,” Dawczak said. “I don’t know what more he can prove. He’s an excellent quarterback and I know he is going to do great things at the next level. Someone is going to give him a shot and he’s going to make some coach very happy.”

Both defenses buckled down in the fourth quarter, Skalitzky’s game-winning touchdown run was the only score.

“I’m just speechless right now,” Thompson said. “The feeling is incredible, it can’t get better than this. Especially at their home place. Our defense held their own in the second half and the offense kept pushing.”

Thorne, a Western Michigan recruit, was 18 of 23 for 230 yards and five touchdowns. He was also effective on the ground with nine carries for 82 yards.

Cade McDonald had nine catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Danny Hughes had 15 carries for 71 yards and caught two touchdown passes.

But Marist’s defense stepped up and stopped Naperville Central (7-4) on the final drive.

“Our defense has made plays all season long,” Dawczak said. “They’ve risen to the occasion. The first half they struggled obviously. When the game is on the line I trust those guys. Those are playmakers out there.”

The RedHawks (10-1) will be on the road at Homewood-Flossmoor, a winner against Barrington, in the quarterfinals next weekend.

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