Marist is prepared for ESCC showdown

Various sources

Is it possible to praise first year coach Pat Dunne enough for the turn around at Marist?

True, many have said that this class was an exceptional recruiting class by Marist on the South side of Chicago, along with several classes after but the transformation of this program has been nothing short of amazing.

Marist turns to alum in Dunne
After qualifying for the playoffs just once in the last 11 years, Marist has turned to alum Pat Dunne to hopefully turn things around. And with success on the lower levels the past couple of years, Marist may be ready to take that step forward.

Bob Bullington (6-3, 265 pounds) will lead the offensive line and look to open holes for running back Bill Seiler (5-9, 180) and Owen Skalitzky (5-9, 185).

Nabal Jefferson (6-1, 270) and Tony LaPorta (6-3, 210) key the defensive line, while linebackers Tim Kingsbury (6-2, 225) and Colin Monnier (6-3, 220) should also be strengths.

Preseason prediction
Coach: Pat Dunne, first year.
Last year's record: 4-5.
Returning starters: Bob Bullington, T, 6-3, 265; Justin Schilling, T, 6-3, 250; Bill Seiler, RB, 5-9, 180; Colin Monnier, TE, 6-3, 220; P.J. Serratore, P, 5-11, 190; Tim Schmidt, K, 6-1, 165; Nabal Jefferson, NG, 6-1, 270; Anthony Laporta, DE, 6-3, 210; Tim Kingsbury, LB, 6-1, 220; Tim Keffer, LB, 5-10, 195; Joe Larocco, SS, 5-9, 170; Adam Lawler, WR, 5-10, 165; Dan Piko, WR, 6-2, 170.
Keep an eye on: Dan Scholl, CB, 6-1, 170; Kevin Pikunis, FS, 6-2, 190; Mike Perrish, QB, 6-3, 180; Steve Mazurski, QB, 5-9, 165; Owen Skalitzky, RB, 5-9, 185.
Key game: Sept. 5 at Sandburg.

Coach's quote: "Being a Marist alum, I'm very proud and grateful for this opportunity. I'm passionate about our football program and what our school is all about. I tell our players that nothing comes easy in life. We're going to have to work harder than the other guy and bring a positive attitude every day. We showed last year that we can move the football. We have to also pass the football and do a better job on defense."

Outlook: With Seiler gaining more than 900 yards on the ground in 2007, the RedHawks have one of the area's best returning tailbacks. Tough nonconference games, against Chicago Vocational and Sandburg, will be followed by battles against powerful Carmel (Sept. 12) and Joliet Catholic (Oct. 3).

Prediction: 4-5. (Boy was this wrong by the experts)

Marist downs (now 4-1) 8A Sandburg in week two

Marist coach Pat Dunne insisted he would be able to turn around the RedHawks' struggling football program.

But he preached patience from success-starved fans.

Don't look now, but the Dunne era is off to a perfect start after Marist made it two wins in a row, dumping Sandburg 25-15 in a nonconference tilt Friday night in Orland Park. Marist opened up its season with a pasting of Chicago Vocational.

"We still have work to do," said Dunne, a Marist graduate. "But the kids are working hard every day, every play. I see improvement."

The one-two punch of Marist's Billy Seiler and quarterback Mike Perish proved too potent for Sandburg (1-1) on this night. Seiler, a senior, rushed for 151 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. Perish completed 9 of 18 passes for 92 yards and a rushing score. Owen Skalitzky added a 4-yard TD run that stretched the RedHawk lead to 19-3 with 8:05 remaining in the game.

As impressive as Seiler and Perish performed, the RedHawks' offensive line was the key. Bob Bullington, Matt Battaglia, Justin Schilling, Steve Zajack and Tom Mitchell provided plenty of space for the rushing game to flourish and time for the passing game to excel when asked.

"Seiler had a great game," Dunne said. "Perish did a nice job passing the ball. But I'm really proud of the way the offensive line played. They really came together."

The only blemish for Marist was a whopping 125 yards in penalties.

For Sandburg, it never could get its offense in high gear. Quarterback Brian Hansen finished 11 of 27 for 129 yards. Brent Kondziolka was the leading rusher for the Eagles, picking up 49 yards on 13 carries.

The Eagles trailed 6-3 when John Gruchot fumbled a punt deep in Sandburg's territory and the RedHawks recovered. Perish busted in from there and the Eagles found themselves in a hole they would never dig out of.

"That play was huge," Dunne said.

Sandburg led 3-0 on a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Salerno with 6:31 to go in the first quarter.

The Eagles other scores came on a 1-yard run by Hansen and a 3-yard pass from Hansen to Gruchot that cut the deficit to 25-15 with just 57 seconds remaining.

Marist's defense, led by Tony LaPorta, Vince Maida and Nabal Jefferson, applied considerable pressure on Hansen and stymied the Eagles running game most of the night.

Git 'er Dunne: New coach fixing program at Marist
September 18, 2008 BY TAYLOR BELL

Terry Brennan was 21 years old when he was hired as head football coach at Mount Carmel in 1950. In three years, with no previous coaching experience, he won 36 of 42 games. At 25, he was hired as an assistant at Notre Dame. One year later, he succeeded Frank Leahy as head coach.

''I'll always be remembered as the coach of the team that posted the greatest upset in college football history,'' Brennan said of Notre Dame's 7-0 victory over Oklahoma in 1957 that snapped the Sooners' record 47-game winning streak. ''I'm 79 and I still get several requests each month to sign autographs. I have three separate highlight films of the game.''

Pat Dunne, 27, can only hope that his career will be as meteoric. As Marist's first-year coach, he is retooling a program at a school that hasn't known much success in the last 20 years.

Going into Saturday's East Suburban Catholic game at Nazareth, Marist is 3-0 and off to perhaps its best start since Tony Pietrzak's 1986 team finished second in the state playoffs. Marist has qualified for the playoffs once since 1996, and had one winning season since 1998.

''Our philosophy is all about hard work,'' Dunne said. ''I wish there was an easy path, but our kids have worked hard from Day 1. Our focus every day is to get better. We do what we can control, not what others are doing. The biggest thing was to change attitudes, that through hard work good things will happen."

Dunne, a 1998 Marist graduate, was a kicker-punter at Lake Forest College. He had a cup of coffee at the Bears and Colts training camps and also had a short stint in NFL Europe.

He served as Marist's head sophomore coach for two years, took one year off to run a sports performance training program, then answered his alma mater's call.

''I wondered if they would hire someone so young," he said. ''I was surprised but I wanted to get back and help the program. I'm fortunate that I coached this group of seniors as sophomores, when they were 7-1-1 and won the conference. I felt they were winners."

Dunne brought in college teammates Mike Fitzgerald and Marty Quinn to run the offense and defense, respectively. And he introduced a new training program designed to enhance speed and agility.

Marist features a spread offense triggered by senior quarterback Mike Perish, running back Billy Seiler, tackles Bob Bullington (6-3, 265 pounds) and Justin Schilling (6-3, 245) and receiver Nick Valla.

The defense is anchored by 6-1, 270-pound nose guard Nabal Jefferson, who recently committed to Northern Illinois.

Diagnosis: ambitious
Ryan O'Neill Marist student hopes to study pre-med and play football in college - possibly at Harvard

Marist High School senior Ryan O'Neill isn't ready to give up his favorite sport: football.

"I want to keep playing college," the 6-foot-4, 230-pound offensive lineman and Orland Park resident said.

O'Neill's college destination might be in the Ivy League.

"I may end up at Harvard or in the Midwest at Butler, Illinois or Indiana," he explained. "I visited Harvard during the summer, and it was really something. You can feel the history of the campus. It would be an honor to play football and go to an Ivy League school like Harvard. I was reading about the Yale-Harvard football rivalry, and it's incredible. Harvard beat Yale this year.

"I know I can play football and major in biology or pre-medicine. I'm good with time management and getting things done. My mom's a lawyer, my dad's an engineer, and I'd like to be a doctor."

While football is probably in his future, playing defense for the Marist hockey team is on his current agenda.

"I love hockey," said O'Neill, who attended St. Michael's school in Orland Park before enrolling at Marist. "I like playing defense and delivering good checks. We're about a .500 team right now. It's so much fun just being out on the ice."

As a student at Marist, O'Neill rates in the top 10 percent of his class with a 5.4 grade-point average, and he had an impressive 32 ACT score.

"I'm proud of what I've accomplished in the classroom," said O'Neill, who earned Marist's Athlete/Scholar Award. "Getting good grades has always been important."

Outside of Marist, O'Neill, for the past three years, has been part of the "Passion Play" in the spring at St. Michael's Church.

"St. Michael's has left a deep impression on me," he said.

So did his work as a backstage maintenance worker at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre last summer.

"It was so cool seeing the famous performers up close," said O'Neill, who got to see acts like Kenny Chesney, Gwen Stefani, Poison, Akon, Brad Paisley and Def Leppard. "It was fun to see their entourages.

"That Chesney concert was unreal. That was the biggest crowd."

O'Neill says he will miss the teachers and classmates he's met at Marist.

And he will miss the annual football game against archrival Brother Rice.

"The Rice-Marist game is really special," he said. "We lost to them the last two years, but just being on the field with fans everywhere you looked was great. There's no rivalry like Rice-Marist."

O'Neill might change that statement if he ever gets to be part of Harvard-Yale.

Sounds like the Hilltoppers will have their hands full.


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