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Benet quarterback Jack Beneventi (with ball) takes off on a scramble as Redwing linemen Jarrid Lloyd (76) and Tommy Burke (78) move in to block Marist defenders Brian Holland (83) and Tim Finucane. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
All the talk this season was Benet had not played anybody.
Well, on Friday the Redwings welcomed unbeaten No. 7 Marist to Benedictine University in Lisle.
The visiting RedHawks left with a loss thanks another stellar effort by the Redwings.
Benet’s defense led the way while the offense made enough big plays to lift the Redwings to a 34-24 victory.
Benet, which was 1-8 last season, can clinch a share of the East Suburban Catholic Conference championship with a win at Joliet Catholic next weekend. It would be Benet’s first ESCC football title since it began competing in the league in 1990.
“We are all very excited about this win,” said Benet quarterback Jack Beneventi, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 137 yards and one score. “It was a great atmosphere with everyone coming down on the field after the win. What makes it that much more special is that Marist is a great team and great program.”
Benet (7-1, 4-1) took control right from the start. The Redwings deferred their option to the second half and their defense took the field first and quickly forced a three-and-out. All eight of Marist’s first-half possessions began inside the RedHawks’ 30. The Redwings won the turnover battle 4-0.
Marist cut Benet’s lead to 10-7 when RedHawks coach Pat Dunne called for an onside kick. The Redwings were ready and recovered at its 48. Benet coach Pat New called a trick play of his own on the very next play as Beneventi flipped a lateral to senior quarterback JT Crosby who threw downfield to an open Jack Toner for a 52-yard score.
The Redwings maintained a 17-10 lead at halftime.
“We knew coming in that field position would be something and they have a tremendous defense and it played a factor in the game,” Dunne said.The game changed early in the second half when Benet fumbled the second-half kickoff. Marist recovered at the Benet 31. Two plays later, Benet senior Ryan Parks intercepted Marist quarterback Ian Woodworth’s pass and returned it to the Marist 32. On the next play, Beneventi found receiver senior Jack Euritt for a touchdown to put Benet up 24-10.
“Our defense is always ready to respond,” Toner said.
Beneventi connected with Toner for a 9-yard strike to put the Redwings up 34-10 with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter. Benet’s Porter Ontko had 14 rushes for 80 yards to go along with five catches for 46 yards.
There was a moment of silence before the game as Marist junior receiver Nic Weishar and the RedHawks played with a heavy heart because Weishar’s oldest brother, Andrew, died Thursday after a two-year battle with colorectal cancer. Andrew Weishar, also a stand-out athlete, played football at Brother Rice and Illinois Wesleyan prior to his diagnosis.
“Nic and Andrew’s family are in our thoughts and prayers,” said Dunne, while fighting back tears. “They are the strongest people I have ever known. The way Nic played tonight speaks to his character and the character of the family.”
Weishar had 13 catches for 128 yards.
Marist quarterback Ian Woodworth did his best to keep the RedHawks (7-1, 5-1) close as he completed 30 of 51 passes for 294 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Woodworth connected with Flynn Nagle to cut the deficit to 34-24 with 35 seconds left, but Woodworth’s two-point conversion pass to Wieshar was incomplete.