IN THE SPOTLIGHT
He didn’t do anything spectacular or rave-worthy — not like he’s done in other games this season.
But, what Marty Geary did in Loyola Academy’s 30-10 victory over host Marist in a Class 8A state quarterfinal football game on Nov. 11 can’t be marginalized. He played a vitally important role in this vitally important contest.
The 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive tackle, who fought double teams all night long, entered the game singularly focused.
Just be Marty Geary.
Just be a disruptive force on defense.
But his evening changed dramatically with 3:36 left in the first quarter, when LA left offensive tackle Charlie Gross — a force of nature in his own right — was forced out of the game with an injury.
Hello, double duty.
With the 6-5, 280-pound Gross — the team’s top lineman, a Fordham University recruit — sidelined for the remainder of the game, Geary had to gear up and become a two-way player.
“Marty Geary is a valuable, valuable player,” said Loyola head coach John Holecek, who picked up career win No. 134 to become the winningest football coach in school history. “Going both ways at tackle … he’s an absolute stud.”
“You have to do whatever you can to help the team,” said Geary, who also took extensive offensive snaps at tackle against Phillips, Bishop (California) Amat and Providence Catholic earlier this fall. “I’ll play the whole game, if [the coaches] need me to. It’s their call.”
Geary is a huge presence out there. With the way he’s built and with his long, shaggy hair, he’s kind of a modern-day Steve McMichael.
And, similar to the ex-Chicago Bears defensive lineman (6-2, 270), Geary brings a relentless approach to each game.
He’s one of the kingpins on LA’s stellar defensive unit. He’s polished and systematic, when it comes to plugging the interior of the line and getting after ball carriers.
Geary, who made only three tackles against Marist, went into the game with team-highs in quarterback sacks (6) and tackles for loss (9). Last year, as an underrated and overlooked junior, Geary recorded five sacks and nine other TFLs.
He’s a guy who has built a huge reputation — which is why Marist consistently double-teamed him. Prior to the state playoffs, he was named Defensive Player of the Year in the Chicago Catholic League Blue Division.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great defensive linemen here,” said LA defensive line coach Beau Desherow. “And Marty is right up there with guys like Ben LeRoy [currently at Northern Illinois]. He’s right up there with the best of ’em.”
Receiving the award humbled Geary.
“It’s unreal — especially when you think about others who have won the award,” said Geary, who is being recruited by Lafayette University, North Dakota, Dayton and Butler. “But it’s not a solo thing. I got a lot of help from my teammates.”
Which brings us to one of the most critical junctures — 4:10 left in the opening quarter — of the state quarterfinal game.
Following a 38-yard punt by sophomore Thomas Schafer, which was downed inside the Marist one-yard line by a hustling John Lynch, LA’s defense put up a wall and recorded a safety.
So, who made the two-point decisive tackle on Marist running back Delonte Harrell?
Hard to say. The goal line was cluttered with bodies. A 22-player pile-up.
A true mystery.
And it’s a mystery, according to Geary, which doesn’t even need to be solved.
“I don’t think you can call out just one guy on a play like that,” Geary said. “There were a ton of guys involved. It was a team push. Every player did his job. Every player played his key.”
And yet, the first Rambler to threw up his arms and celebrate the safety was an excitable Geary.
“Of course, I celebrated,” said Geary, pushing out a smile. “I always celebrate.”
Meanwhile, having Geary as an “emergency tackle” proved to be an indispensable luxury for the Ramblers. He was inserted at right tackle, while senior Joshua Green was flipped to the left side (Gross’ spot).
“He did a phenomenal job [on the O-line], especially since he hadn’t practiced there for three or four weeks,” said Desherow, who was more than willing to share one of his defensive stalwarts with the offense.
Credit senior Christopher Betz, as well. When Geary needed a breather, it was No. 66 toiling in the trenches with Green, senior center Ryan Hagedorn and sophomore guards Peter Gianaris and Christo Kelly.
LA’s blocking crew went home feeling good. The Ramblers used a balanced attack to rack up 23 first downs and 455 total yards.
Kid Inspiration — Trevor Cabanban — picked up a big chunk of those yards. His evening was enticingly good, rushing for 185 yards on 28 carries with touchdown runs of two and four yards.
“He’s electric,” said Holecek. “He’s good at making something out of nothing. And he never seems to take a hard hit.
“He puts defenses on their heels,” the coach added.
The sixth-seeded Ramblers (11-1), who have won 11 straight, are collectively clicking their heels following this 20-point road win over a previously undefeated squad. They will try to keep it going on Nov. 18 (2 p.m.), when they head south and play 26th-seeded Edwardsville (9-3) in a state semifinal game. The winner will face either Lincoln-Way East (12-0) or Maine South (11-1) in the state title game at Northern Illinois University on Nov. 25 (7 p.m.).
LA’s other offensive stars were the usual suspects: quarterback Quinn Boyle and wideouts Rory Boos, James Joyce and Noah Jones.
Boyle rushed the ball 17 times for 75 yards, while he completed 13 of 23 passes for 200 yards with two TD passes.
Boos was on the back end of two major passing plays. The LA junior wideout caught a 38-yard TD pass in the first half, and then he capped his night (6 catches, 129 yards) by hauling in a 32-yard pass on a go-route down the right sideline late in the fourth quarter.
The ever-dependable Joyce made five catches for 56 yards, while Jones had two receptions for 15 yards.
Meanwhile, junior Jake Gonzalez was one of the stars on defense. He intercepted a deflected pass deep in the red zone just before halftime. He added a second INT late in the game.
The other defensive leaders include Lynch (3 tackles, 1 fumble recovery), Christopher Scott (7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass breakup), Anthony Rodriguez (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble), Charlie Largay (4 tackles, 2 pass breakups), Armoni Dixon (4 tackles, sack) and Patrick Daniels (4 tackles, 1 TFL).