Ellens' 94-yard kickoff return leads Glenbard West to 7-6 win over Marist
Mason Ellens' trust in his teammates helped him make a game-changing play for Glenbard West when it mattered the most on Saturday afternoon.
With his team trailing midway though the fourth quarter, Ellens returned a kickoff and trusted his teammates to make the blocks he needed. Ellens' trust resulted in a touchdown that helped the Hitters beat Marist 7-6.
"Being able to come out here, knowing that I'm the reason we won," Ellens said. "It's just a big deal to me."
Neither Glenbard West (1-0) nor Marist could score in the first three quarters, with the Hitters missing four-year starting running back Julius Ellens, who left the game in the second quarter with a lower-body injury and did not return. But both teams found ways to score on consecutive plays in the fourth.
The RedHawks took a 6-0 lead when quarterback Owen Winters kept the ball and rushed it for 62 yards for a touchdown with 7:36 left in the game. Marist missed the extra-point attempt.
Ellens and the Hitters stayed focused, knowing that they could still make a play to win the game. The ball dropped in front of Ellens for a couple seconds before he picked it up. His patience allowed his blockers to get in the right position and he returned the kickoff 94 yards to give his team a 7-6 lead with 7:25 left in the game.
"Those guys just stayed in the fight," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. "Mason made a play."
The Hitters needed more stops to hold off the RedHawks. Marist drove to the Glenbard West 26 but couldn't pick up a first down. The RedHawks recovered a fumble on the Glenbard West 41 with 1:19 left in the game, but missed a 33-yard field goal attempt to win the game.
"I'm really proud of the way our defense stepped up," Hetlet said. "Our offense is going to be fine, it's just they ran into a hard defense to start the year off."
Charlie Cline started at quarterback for Glenbard West and completed six of his 13 attempts for 50 yards, rushing for 16 more yards. Teyoin Oriental came into the game for the injured Julius Ellens and rushed for 167 yards on 16 carries.
Although the Hilltoppers failed to score on deep drives and turned the ball over a couple times, Hetlet was proud of how hard he fought a tough Marist team for a second straight season.
"Nobody thinks we're any good this year," Hetlet said. "Hopefully people start respecting our senior class a little bit more."
The RedHawks (0-1) offense also struggled to make the final plays to score. Winters completed seven of his 21 attempts for 58 yards and rushed for 134 yards. Running back Marc Coy finished with 62 yards on 20 carries. Henry Sikorski had an interception for Marist in the third quarter.
Marist coach Ron Dawczak didn't regret his decision to go for the field goal on fourth down with one yard to go on the Glenbard West 16. He thought Saturday was a good lesson that every play matters in all three phases of the game.
"The guys didn't put their heads down," Dawczak said. "They continued to fight, forced a turnover at the end that gave us a chance to win. I'm proud of the way the guys continued to fight until the very end."
Marist will have little time to dwell on Saturday's loss as it prepares to host Brother Rice on Friday in the Battle on Pulaski. Glenbard West will travel to East St. Louis to play St. Louis' DeSmet Jesuit. Hetlet wasn't sure of the severity of Julius Ellens' injury at the end of the game.
The Hilltopper have a motto of having "something to prove" this season. So what did Mason Ellens and Glenbard West prove against Marist on Saturday?
"I believe that we proved that we belong in this conference," Mason Ellens said.