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High-flying offense has No. 5 Marist thinking about a state title

Marist's Jadon Thompson catches a pass. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

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.”

video by Annie Costabile

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.

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