Countdown to FNL: Marist

Not many teams in the state of Illinois have the pass-catching weapons that Marist does. After taking a couple unexpected losses last season, they look to tap into that offensive firepower and hopefully parlay it into a playoff run.

Marist is one of the most consistently good Catholic League teams in Chicago. They weren't on the same level as Mount Carmel last year, but they were knocking at the door before a couple tough losses derailed them from their goal of an Illinois football state championship.

This year, they return almost all their key players, including Notre Dame-bound tight end Nic Weishar and a future division-one receiver in Flynn Nagel, who has already collected several division one offers, including a couple from the Big Ten. Marist will rely on those two heavily this year to pace the offense.

Weishar, a 6'5 235 pound tight end has the ability to line up along the offensive line as well as split out. He poses a huge mismatch to linebackers because of his size and athleticism. But most impressive about Weishar is his ability to catch the tough passes. He has excellent hands and is a big target over the middle of the field.

Nagel is more of the prototypical "Wes Welker" type receiver. He's an extremely disciplined route-runner and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Seeing him this spring proved that he is constantly getting better and should be target 1B to Weishar's 1A for quarterback Jack Donegan.

Donegan also has the ability to make plays with his feet when the play breaks down. And having Weishar in front to block isn't a luxury everyone has.

Having those two working the middle of the field will cause a lot of grief for opposing defensive coordinators and linebackers. Marist will still need to find a way to stretch the field on the outside, but if Nagel can add that aspect to his game, Marist could find themselves playing well into November.

Their schedule is always extremely competitive, and because of the conference they're in, no game is really considered "easy", but here are a few to keep an eye on:

Same Matchup, Different Outcome?: 10/18 v. Benet

We highlighted this one when we looked at Benet, too, but there's no downplaying the importance of this matchup for either team, but it probably means more to Marist. Benet, who clipped Marist last season in this late October matchup will be looking to repeat their success, but Marist will be looking to reverse fortunes this year. Winning this one would be huge for Marist heading toward the playoffs. But will a tough matchup the week prior take too much out of them?

Who Dons the Crown?: 10/11 at Niles Notre Dame

An October 11th trip to take on the Dons of Niles Notre Dame is when the gut check really starts for Marist. Highlighted by four-star tailback Chris James, the Dons can really pound the football and move it on the ground. If Marist has no answer for James, this one could be a trap game prior to the matchup with Benet.

Soldier Field Showdown: 8/31 v. St. Rita at Soldier Field

St. Rita, led by Syracuse commit Lamar Dawson should be a tough opening matchup for Marist. Just as much, this will be a tough test for Flynn Nagel, who will likely have to match up against Dawson for much of the game if not matched against Weishar. But depending on whoever is matched up against Dawson, the other should see plenty of passes come his way.

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