High School Football Class 8A Playoffs: Marist stops Storm, advances to quarterfinals
By Steve Millar
Marist Senior defensive end Jayson Harris-Woodard and the rest of the RedHawks defense were excited for a new kind of challenge against South Elgin.
Coming into Saturday’s Class 8A second-round game, the undefeated Storm was averaging 45 points a game with its triple-option attack.
“We don’t usually get to see a triple-option team like that,” Harris-Woodard said. “That was a 10-0 team, but we’ve been battle-tested the whole season. We wanted to see if we could put those guys under adversity.
“We focus on bend, don’t break. That’s a big-play team and you take away the big plays, they can’t really do nothing.”
The RedHawks made sure South Elgin would not do much offensively. Marist’s offense got going late and the 18th-seeded RedHawks pulled away for a 30-7 win.
“I’m really proud of the way our defense played,” Marist coach Ron Dawczak said. “That offense is something you don’t see very often. It takes some time to get used to. I think our guys did a great job playing assignment football. You’ve got to do your job and trust the other guys to do theirs.”
The RedHawks (8-3) will visit Glenbrook South (9-2), a 14-7 winner over Hinsdale Central, in the quarterfinals.
Marist held South Elgin (10-1) to 136 total yards of offense, with 86 of those coming on the Storm’s first two drives.
South Elgin drove 66 yards on its opening possession but missed a field goal. The Storm took advantage of a Marist fumble that set it up at the Marist 20-yard line on its second possession. Anthony Marshall’s 7-yard touchdown run tied it 7-7 with three seconds left in the quarter.
Marist’s defense took over the rest of the way. Harris-Woodard led the way with a sack, a fumble recovery and several tackles.
“I told the guys that we have to play football,” Harris-Woodard said. “It’s classic 8A football. That’s all it is. I guess my switch hit and that’s what happened. I played for my guys.”
Marist led 17-7 after three quarters. On the first play of the fourth, Dontrell Jackson Jr. threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Ak’Tavion Agee.
“Our passing game is at a very great place,” Agee said. “It just depends on the game. Sometimes, we don’t need to do it. This game, we wanted to get the ball to our playmakers in space fast.”
Agee, who committed to Dayton earlier in the week, finished with five catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns, adding a 9-yard touchdown catch with 1 minute, 48 seconds left in the game.
Jackson completed 11 of 18 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns, including a 40-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Sims less than two minutes into the game.
Jaylen Johnson ran 19 times for 95 yards and a touchdown for the RedHawks.
After Agee’s first touchdown catch made it 23-7 Marist, South Elgin drove down to the RedHawks’ 28-yard line before turning it over on downs.
Harris-Woodard had a sack and batted down a pass on back-to-back plays to help thwart the Storm drive.
“That was the icing on the cake,” Harris-Woodard said. “You have to keep going the whole 48 minutes.”
After extending its season another week, Marist wants more.
“We can be excited, but we’re not satisfied,” Dawczak said. “We have some big goals that are out there for us and we’re going to keep working hard.”
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