So who are these Marist RedHawks, anyway? And just who do they think they are, challenging big, bad Loyola for the 8A crown? The Ramblers are in the midst of an historic, undefeated season; shouldn't Marist just stay home on Saturday night and watch the Notre Dame - Stanford game?
First of all, even though Marist, at 5-4, appears to have gotten into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, the RedHawks (and that's how they spell it) were actually the third best at-large qualifier, with 48 Opponents' Wins and 19 Defeated Opponents' Wins. What does all that jargon mean? They played a tough schedule.
What's more, head coach Pat Dunne is no stranger to the postseason, having brought the RedHawks all the way to the 8A finals as recently as 2009.
But before we go any further, let's have a little context, shall we? (I love context; but this is the part I'm sure my brothers will skip right over.)
According to my
Despite being located on the Southwest Side of the city, Marist -- just a five minute drive down Pulaski from archrival Brother Rice -- was founded in 1963 and therefore too late to be included in the prestigious Chicago Catholic League. (A mixed marriage, in that part of the world, is when a kid from Marist weds a girl whose father went to Brother Rice.) Instead, Marist plays in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, which was founded in 1960. While the ESCC tends to get less respect than its older brother (funny how that works), the Trib had a nice article on it just yesterday. Other members of the conference include Joliet Catholic, Notre Dame, Nazareth, Benet and Marian Central. Those are all good programs!
Marist's band, by the way, "is somewhat unique in that it is not only an activity, but also an Honors academic class. The band functions as a marching band generally in the autumn (performing pregame, halftime, and postgame shows at home football games), and as a concert band for the remainder of the year (highlighted by Christmas and Spring Concerts). The general exceptions are their annual performances in the Chicago Columbus Day Parade, the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parades."
Even though I didn't get to see the football team this year, I did have the privilege of hearing the band as they marched right past my house on Columbus Day in Little Italy (above).
Okay, back to football. (Are you guys still reading?) Here's Marist's 2015 regular season schedule (with home team in CAPS):
MOUNT CARMEL 21, Marist 14 (Soldier Field)
MARIST 56, DuSable 0
MARIST 45, St. Viator 28
Marist 49, NOTRE DAME 42
BENET 29, Marist 25
MARIST 45, St. Patrick 21
MARIST 41, Marian Catholic 7
NAZARETH 62, Marist 45
JOLIET CATHOLIC 35, Marist 28
As you can see, they were nothing if not inconsistent. Quickly, Marist split their first two games to a couple of playoff-qualifiers, then beat a 1-8 team before being the only team to defeat Notre Dame in the regular season. They then fell to Benet, another playoff-caliber squad, before besting two losing teams at home, St. Patrick and Marian Catholic* (not to be confused with Marian Central). The RedHawks then limped (?) into the playoffs with two losses on the road, to Nazareth (who is in the 5A final) and Joliet Catholic.
Even shorter synopsis: Marist beat only two winning teams but lost to four really, really good ones.
Okay, now for their, yes, Cinderella run in the postseason. (I also love that Cinderella cliche.) A No. 23-seed, the RedHawks played higher seeds in their first three games and won all three by a grand total of nine points before outclassing No. 30 (out of only 32 schools) Waubonsie Valley (another Cinderella team) by two touchdowns.
Marist 17, NOTRE DAME 14 (again!)
MARIST 59, Barrington 56
Marist 38, OSWEGO 35
MARIST 31, Waubonsie Valley 16
Now, finally, no self-respecting BOWG profile would be complete without some meta-historical perspective, i. e., how Marist has fared against Loyola over the years. (My buddy Kevin thinks I'm nuts -- "Who cares what happened seven years ago when these guys were all in grade school?" -- but I think any good technical analyst would want to know.) And guess what? The two programs haven't faced each other on the gridiron in the last ten years, if ever. In all that time, as far as I can tell, Loyola has only played one team from the ESCC, in the second round of the playoffs two years ago.
2013: Loyola 24, NOTRE DAME 0
Do I detect a little Catholic League snobbery going on here? I wonder if Marist will have a chip on its shoulder Saturday night? Ya think?
In any event, I'll be live-tweeting my comments @BoringOldWhtGuy (beginning with the Phillips - Althoff contest on Friday night). Enjoy the games!
* Trivia: Loyola coach John Holecek is a 1990 graduate of the Chicago Heights school.