Rick Armstrong’s football notebook: Marmion ‘D’ looks Catholic League ready

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So far, so good for the Marmion defense, which was one of coach Dan Thorpe’s major concerns entering the 2014 season with just one returning starter in defensive tackle Luke Juriga.

“Thank goodness our defense came to play. The defense definitely won the game for us,” Thorpe said after Friday’s 17-13 win over St. Francis in the former Suburban Christian Conference rivals’ Catholic League Green opener.

The Cadets (3-0) have allowed an average of just 9.0 points after a Sean Campbell interception in the end zone in the final minute sealed last week’s win.

“We knew St. Francis wasn’t really a vertical passing, speed team,” Thorpe said Tuesday. “They’re more of a screen team that requires you to tackle in the open field and have your linebackers get off the linemen to get free.”

Now comes the really big test in Catholic League Blue powerhouse No. 8 Providence, which features quarterback Justin Hunniford throwing to wideout Miles Boykin (6-4, 225) and tight end Nate Vejvoda (6-5, 225).

“Exactly,” Thorpe said. “First of all, St. Francis didn’t have Division I receivers and Providence’s passing game is vertical. They’re running ’em on posts, slants and just deeper pass routes. And they’re throwing to a 6-4 guy and we have a 5-8 guy defending him.”

Boykin has committed to Notre Dame, Vejvoda to Iowa.

Marmion dealt with talented receivers like Montini’s Jordan Westerkamp — now at Nebraska — in years past, but the Celtics offer even more.

“You could double cover Westerkamp but you can’t double cover one of these guys because they go to the other one,” Thorpe said. “And just like those good Montini teams with Westerkamp, Providence also has a quarterback who can run.”

Control the clock

It will be easier said than done, but it’s pretty obvious what Thorpe and the Cadets will want to do on Friday: control the ball with a strong running game and try to keep Providence’s offense on the sideline.

Junior fullback Lucas Warren, who leads Marmion with 45 carries for 321 rushing yards and seven touchdowns will be key, but senior Jordan Glasgow has been easing back into things on the offensive side of the ball after focusing on defense early in the year following July knee surgery.

Glasgow has run eight times for 70 yards and can be valuable as a receiver.

Big challenge met

Aurora Christian outscored its first two opponents 91-12, but coach David Beebe knew a bigger challenge awaited last week in Lake Forest Academy. Even though the Caxys entered 0-2, they had fallen to a pair of 7A schools in Highland Park (41-10) and Libertyville (37-7).

“They are not the Lake Forest of old that we last played in 2008,” Beebe said of the private school that is an associate member of the IHSA but does not compete in the playoffs despite playing a full Catholic League Red schedule.

He was correct, as the Eagles held on for a 35-33 victory after spotting the home team leads of 8-7 and 14-7, then withstood a furious rally. LFA features a three-star recruit on the defensive line in Wesley Annan, who is 6-5, 280 pounds.

“They’re very big, they also have two 6-7 kids and a couple 6-3. One of them has an offer from Illinois. This team was huge and could move. I was proud of our running game. We had some big plays.”

Conference opener

Aurora Christian, of course, is new to the Catholic League and opens play Friday at St. Ignatius in the White Division. St. Ignatius, at 1076 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Chicago, is playing Friday night home games for the first time on its new FieldTurf field behind the school.

Beebe said it provides a unique setting with the field virtually in the shadow of Willis (formerly Sears) Tower.

The Sack Men

Last year, Batavia defensive ends Noah Frazier (13) and Josh Leonhard (12) both eclipsed the school single-season sack record of 11. It could be falling again. Linebacker Jake Hlava, through three games, has 7.5 sacks. That’s on pace for 22.5 through the regular season.

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