Every program and every sport at every high school across Illinois is dealing with the pandemic and the adjustments mandated by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the IHSA in a different way.
Some are taking abbreviated seasons very seriously, while others are taking a lighter, more fun approach to these makeshift campaigns that could end at any second.
For the Marquette Academy football program, it’s business as usual with a little fun thrown in for good measure.
Opponents of head coach Tom Jobst’s younger, faster Crusaders this season can count on facing the usual ground-and-pound winged-T attack and tough physical defense that have earned the veteran mentor a 78-30 mark with a string of eight straight playoff appearances intact during his first 10 seasons at the school.
“It’s going to be full steam ahead, all the way,” said Jobst. “We’re going to pretend it’s a regular year and when it stops, it stops. We’re aware that could be at any time. We’re just taking each day as it comes, having some fun and are doing the best we can.
“We have a good core of returners and an outstanding group of young kids coming up, so I’m excited to see how they’ll do.”
The Cru, a team without a conference facing six of the Lincoln Trail Conference’s best — including Class 1A semifinalist Wethersfield in its opener — for this season only, has lost along others from a team that last had a 7-3 campaign line stalwarts John Thompson and Caleb Boucher, fullback-linebacker Preston Aukland and quarterback-linebacker Jay Scott. Plus, seniors Luke Couch and Nick Melvin, both two-way starters in ’19, have opted not to play football.
However, MA will have plenty of firepower back, starting with 6-7, 260-pound tight end Vic Mullen, who has already committed to the University of Louisville. A powerful blocker, Mullen caught eight passes for 175 yards and four scores as a junior.
He’ll be at the end of a line that boasts both speed and quickness inside with seniors Will Fiesel at center, Jake Mitchell and “quick and feisty” Donnie Zitt at guards. At tackles will be 6-2, 237-pound junior twins Brady and Beau Ewers.
Vying to break into that line will be a Ewers cousin, junior Cody Ewers, along with juniors Ethan Price, Daniel Gutierrez, Noah Barth, Garret Geiger, Aiden Thompson, Oscar Robles and Joe Gerkitz.
Just who they’ll be blocking for is largely up for grabs, though the backs are nearly set between senior fullback Hunter O’Dell, backed up by sophomore Vinnie Battestelli, and halfbacks with senior Shane Reynolds and sophomore Logan Nelson.
The quarterback position is “far from settled,” said Jobst, though it will be manned by one of two sophomores, Tom Durdan or Alex Graham, each possessing their own positives giving the coach “a good problem to have.” Whichever one starts there, the other may see action at halfback, along with junior Scott Shearer and sophs Primo Patelli, Jurnee Reed and Gabe Almeda.
Senior Jake Thomas will start at split end, with juniors Gus Amicon and Jeffrey LaFleur and sophomores Griffin Walker and Caden Eller in competition.
Sophomore Easton Kent is slated to be the kicker.
Marquette will also have “interchangeable parts” on defense, where Mullen, the Ewers twins, Zitt, Mitchell and senior Pat McGrath will see action in the line and/or at inside linebacker next to Fiesel. The defensive backfield will likely see Durdan, Eller, Thomas and Reed sharing the corners and safety spots.
How quickly the youngsters adapt to the speed and physical nature of varsity will determine who will play where, said the coach.
“We have good team speed, a good amount of strength, decent size, and it’s just a solid team for what we do,” Jobst said. “Like any 1A school, we’re a little short on depth, so we’re always looking to develop that one extra guy. …
“The kids are doing a good job. These are good kids, they’re hard workers, and I’m just really happy that they’ll have a chance to play, especially the seniors. They’ve been good guys all the way through, so I’m glad they’re getting the opportunity. It will be fun.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle