WOODSTOCK – Marian Central senior Gavin Scott was asked to describe the football season that has been such a struggle for the Hurricanes.
“It’s been tough,” Scott said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries on both sides of the ball. We’re scratching and clawing. Every win is huge for us. We grind it out every day and see what we can do.”
After another grind last week, a 14-7 victory over Niles Notre Dame, the Hurricanes have good reason to be more optimistic for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game at George Harding Field against St. Patrick. One more win and Marian, with 38 playoff points in the IHSA system, will reach the playoffs.
“We were out there competing,” senior A.J. Golembiewski said. “It’s brought a new energy to this team.”
Marian (4-4 overall, 2-4 East Suburban Catholic Conference) needed wins in its last three games to make the playoffs. The Hurricanes beat Carmel, 16-15, then beat Notre Dame, which was 6-1 going into that game. A win against St. Patrick (2-6, 2-4) and the Hurricanes will get into the northern bracket of the Class 5A playoffs.
Hurricanes coach Mike Maloney said he never has dealt with more injuries of significance in his career.
“To put ourselves in a position to still be a potent and winning football team is a testament to the character, resolve and gutsiness of the impact players on our team,” Maloney said.
The struggle started in a Week 3 loss at Benet Academy, as Scott, running back Brian Niemaszek, wide receive Patsy Riccardi and lineman Jayden Thiergood all left with injuries. Scott’s knee kept him out for three games, Niemaszek (also suffereing from a knee injury) tried to come back but has played sparingly. Ricciardi missed two games before returning.
Since then, the Hurricanes also lost linebacker Pat Brunken with a knee injury.
With Scott and Ricciardi (the backup quarterback) both out, Maloney turned to Golembiewski at quarterback. When Scott returned, Maloney and offensive coordinator Ron Ricciardi hatched a plan to use Golembiewski and Scott at quarterback. Both go to the huddle, but the defense does not know which one will be quarterback on that play.
“It’s a result of trying to be resourceful,” Maloney said. “Who are the best 11 guys we can put on the field that give us a chance to win? And where can we put them? We’re taking advantage of potentially providing matchup issues for our opponents.”
Scott has been the workhorse running back for the past two games. Golembiewski does more of the passing and was the one who hit wide receiver Charlie Kramer in the final minute of each of the past two games for a game-winning touchdown.
Against Carmel, Golembiewski went for 73 yards to Kramer with 53 seconds remaining. Against Notre Dame, it was Golembiewski to Kramer for 50 yards with 21 seconds remaining to avoid overtime.
Golembiewski admits the season has been personally chaotic, as he figured he would be catching balls and not throwing them.
“I’m just out there playing,” he said. “The coaches are putting us in the scenarios they can.”
Scott, always a proficient running quarterback, embraces his new role.
“It’s great. I move around from running back to quarterback,” Scott said. “I love the physical aspect of the game. It allows me to be more physical. I just get the ball and run.”
Marian, with many returning starters from a quarterfinal playoff team, had designs on getting to the playoffs and making a deep run this season. That was almost ended by the injuries and by competing in the rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference.
But their playoff hopes are alive and thriving after the past two weeks.
“We have the responsibility to ourselves to make sure we are locked in and focused all week, and we have been,” Maloney said. “As far as a letdown (now), we don’t let that creep into our mind to be honest.”
Marian won its final two games last season – at Notre Dame and at St. Patrick – to reach the playoffs. The Hurricanes also drew confidence from that this season, although they will have to win their last three instead of two.
“We just have to play our brand of football,” Golembiewski said. “We haven’t been playing the way we can (on offense). Just don’t wait until the last 30 seconds.”