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O’Brien: Robert Topps, Marist’s defense stifles Simeon

Incredibly talented players have a way of blowing up an opponents’ game plan. That’s pretty much what happened to Marist in Week 1. The RedHawks’ defense was expected to hold things down early in the season while the offense found its footing. Brother Rice’s Ricky Smalling destroyed that theory at Soldier Field.

“We knew we had to bounce back, it just had to be done,” Marist senior Robert Topps said. “We knew what we had to do tonight.”

Marist’s star-studded defense was fully on display on Friday. Visiting Simeon has talented underclassmen all over the field. Both sophomore quarterback Alante Brown and sophomore running back Arkalius Howard are big play threats for the Wolverines, but they were held in check as the RedHawks rolled to a 24-14 non-conference win.

“When everybody plays together and we all do our assignment no one can stop us,” Topps said. “We knew about [Simeon wide receiver Jayshon Jackson] and we knew they had speed all over the field.”

Marist (1-1) didn’t allow Jackson a reception until late in the game. But Simeon didn’t go away until midway through the fourth quarter. Topps blocked a punt deep in Wolverines’ territory and Taylor found Harrell for a 13-yard TD pass moments later to put the game out of reach at 24-6.

“[Marist coach Pat Dune] was talking about that all game long,” Topps said. “He said a blocked punt was necessary for a momentum change. I knew I had to get one.”

Simeon started the third quarter brightly, driving to the Marist 20 before sputtering out due to a pair of sacks, one from Tom O’Mara and Gavin McCabe and one by Elijah Teague.

Marist quarterback Morgan Taylor was 10-for-15 for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed seven times for 60 yards. Junior running back Delonte Harrell was the offensive workhorse for the RedHawks. He had 12 carries for 31 yards, with a three-yard rushing TD and a 13-yard TD catch.

“I played receiver last year so I’m comfortable catching the ball,” Harrell said. “I always trust my offensive line and [Taylor] to put me in good positions.”

The Wolverines began last week’s opener against Oak Park-River Forest with Jackson at quarterback. Brown took over in the second half and spearheaded a couple scoring drives, so he was back at the helm to start against Marist and Jackson is now at wide receiver.

Brown played well in his second varsity game, completing 13 of 23 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 15 times for 53 yards. Sophomore Alante Brown had 15 carries for 53 yards and Howard carried the ball 12 times for 61 yards.

Both teams are playing brutal early season schedules. The RedHawks will travel to Mundelein to face East Suburban Catholic rival Carmel. Simeon, now 0-2, will try to turn things around against Phillips at Gately in what should be one of the best Public League games of the season.

“[Beating Simeon] will shift all the momentum,” Harrell said. “We were down after Brother Rice but now we are back up. We’re gonna focus on next week and be ready to play.”