Super 25 football countdown: No. 13 Marist

There isn’t much doubt Marist’s football program is heading in the right direction.

When fifth-year coach Pat Dunne took over, the RedHawks had been under .500 in eight of the previous nine seasons. Since then, he’s guided them to four consecutive IHSA playoff berths, including a trip to the Class 8A title game in 2009.

And from last year’s 7-3 club, Marist returns one of the state’s most productive pass-and-catch duos: senior quarterback Ian Woodworth (2,825 yards, 30 touchdowns) and junior receiver Nic Weishar (75 catches, 1,149 yards, 13 scores).

But if there is a question about the RedHawks – No. 13 in the Sun-Times’ preseason Super 25 – it’s on the other side of the ball. Marist gave up 319 points last year in 10 games, a total that includes a shutout of St. Viator. In their final three games, the RedHawks beat Carmel 64-63 in double overtime, edged Joliet Catholic 56-51 and lost 48-28 to Homewood-Flossmoor.

Dunne knows those numbers have to improve, and he’s optimistic they will.

“The guys have been working real hard on that side,” Dunne said. “We’ve seen improvements in camp.”

The scary thing for opponents is the RedHawks may be better on offense, too.

“Me and Ian have great chemistry with [the experience of] last year,” said Weishar, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior who already has been offered scholarships by Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Northwestern among others.

“The whole passing game, the running game … everything, we just continue to work on it,” he added. “You’re never perfect.”

“Our thing is trying to improve each and every single day,” Dunne said. “The experience from last year has helped them.”

Weishar’s size makes him a difficult matchup, to say the least. Dunne also expects senior Bryan Polak to be a viable target for Woodworth, and junior running back Peter Andreotti (675 yards, 13 touchdowns) keeps the RedHawks’ attack from being one-dimensional.

“With the spread offense and stretching the field and being able to run the ball, that’s what we’tr trying to do,” Dunne said. “Stretching it vertically and horizontally, that’s a goal.”

More good news for the offense: Marist returns five starters on the line in Andy Bischoff, Rob Hall, Josh Hickey, Brian Lang and Ryan Fell.

The defense will build around several returners: linemen Shannon Smith and Steve McGugan, linebackers Danny Sullivan and Mike Layer, and backs Cody Bohanek and Jack Barry.

Though postseason trips have become the norm for Marist, Dunne isn’t focusing on that.

“The expectation of getting better every day is there,” he said. “Not looking down the road – that’s something we can control each and every day.”

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