The Marian Central Catholic High School football team lost 22-10 to Sterling High School Nov. 11 in an IHSA Class 5A quarterfinal match-up.
A strong defensive effort by the Hurricanes (7-5) kept the Sterling Golden Warriors (12-0) at bay in the first half, but the Golden Warriors capitalized on two late-game scoring opportunities to clinch the win.
“We knew … this would be a nose-to-nose, chin-to-chin type battle,” said Marian head coach Mike Maloney. “We had to go punch-for-punch, and they just made a couple more plays than we did.”
On the Hurricane defense’s opening play from Marian’s 38-yard line, junior Jorge Enriquez sacked Sterling’s quarterback for a 2-yard loss. The Golden Warriors punted after advancing just 3 yards.
Marian’s defense then stopped the Golden Warriors at fourth-and-goal before ending the next two drives with interceptions. Junior Charlie Kramer (1-7 receiving) snagged the first interception in the end zone. Marian’s ensuing drive created an opportunity for senior Matt Darbro to kick a 40-yard field goal.
Senior Sam Limbaugh (2-4 receiving) made the second interception at Marian’s 5-yard line. With 2.9 seconds left in the half, the Golden Warriors managed to score a field goal to tie the game at 3-3.
Sterling gained a 16-3 lead with two third-quarter touchdowns. Marian failed to respond, but did score on an 81-yard drive early in the fourth quarter. Senior quarterback A.J. Golembiewski (8-18-131-2) connected with sophomore Patsy Ricciardi (4-53 receiving) and junior Bryce Radcliffe (2-62 receiving) for 21- and 57-yard receptions, respectively, to fuel the drive.
Radcliffe’s reception brought the Hurricanes to the 1-yard line which allowed senior Gavin Scott (16-56 rushing) to log a touchdown and bring the score to 16-10.
A final Sterling touchdown with 1:44 left on the clock diminished Marian’s hopes of making a comeback, forcing Marian to take consolation in limiting the Golden Warriors to what was their lowest scoring game since losing 29-22 in a quarterfinal matchup against Sycamore.
“That’s a testament to our team as a whole,” said Golembiewski. “Nobody predicted us to make it this far. [That we did] is a testament to our will and brotherhood.”
“Nobody else’s opinion matters,” added Golembiewski on one of the biggest lessons the team learned this season. “They can rank us, whatever – last, first – it doesn’t matter as long as everybody in that locker room has the same end goal in mind.”
Golembiewski also logged a 37-yard reception from Gavin Scott (4-10-45). Scott led the team in rushing. Sophomore Luke Rogers had four carries for 26 yards. Ricciardi had two carries for 21 yards and senior Jake Potthoff had one reception for 7 yards.
On defense, senior Nick Tegtman led the Hurricanes with eight tackles and one assist, including one sack. Limbaugh and senior Cameron Interrante each added six tackles. Senior Ryan St. Clair and junior Patrick Kelly logged five tackles apiece. Junior Thor Paglialong and senior Steven Pinter each had three tackles.
Seniors Ben Keller, Riley Lambert, Zach Gustafson and Kevin Herbst, and sophomore Thomas Novakoski also made key defensive contributions to limit Sterling.
Maloney looks for his team’s progress in the playoffs this season to show younger players the value of hard work.
“I hope that they see what the positive outcomes can be when you go to work every day and have that yeoman-like approach – you pack your lunch and you go to work and on Friday nights, you expect to win because of that,” said Maloney. “There’s no magic spell. You go to work and get the job done. We’ve always been a blue collar-type program and that’s the tradition that needs to carry forward.”