The only way Marmion was going to lose Saturday night at T.F. South was if the Cadets beat themselves.
In the end it took a stuffed two-point conversion by the Marmion defense to seal a thrilling 28-27 win over T.F. South. The failed two-point conversion by South (9-2) came with just 10 seconds left in the game, and it sent Marmion (10-1) to the next round of the 6A playoff bracket at home against Lemont (11-0).
The only obstacle that prevented Marmion from breaking away from the Rebels was Marmion. That became clear after the Cadets' three first-half turnovers and a blocked punt while dominating every stat line except the score.
"We didn't tackle," said Marmion coach Dan Thorpe. "T.F. South didn't deserve to lose today, they played great. The clock just ran out on them."
The Cadets opened the game with a run-heavy scoring drive that lasted 65 yards and 13 plays. The bruising drive took 6 minutes and 19 seconds off the clock, and was capped off with a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bobby Peters to Nick Scoliere.
Marmion looked well on its way to another dominant drive the next time its offense touched the ball, but a fumble derailed everything. The Rebels capitalized by connecting on a 41-yard touchdown pass as Kevin Hallberg found Allant Nelson for the score.
"We stopped them from running, but they sure killed us with the pass," Thorpe said. Marmion started its ensuing possession from its own 33-yard line and took back the lead with another lengthy drive. Peters ended the drive by connecting with Scoliere for a 14-yard touchdown pass.
The Cadets turned the ball over on another fumble midway through the second quarter, but the Rebels' drive stalled after an interception by Marmion's Kyle Kozak.
T.F. South linebacker Robert Sterling broke through on fourth down from the Marmion 5-yard line to block the Cadets punt. Seth Wielosinski scooped up the ball and ran one yard for the touchdown to tie the game 14-14 at halftime.
Mike Carbonara had a crucial interception in the third quarter to bring Marmion the ball and a short field. T.J. Lally capitalized on the turnover by bulldozing his way in the end zone, and the Cadets led 21-14.
"We knew we had to come out in the second half and play better football, and we did," said Lally, who finished with 115 yards on 13 carries.
T.F. South opened the wild fourth quarter with a 44-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Marlon Harris to Willie Cannon. After both sides exchanged punts, the Cadets took a 28-21 lead as Lally broke free for a 50-yard touchdown burst. "Our line could not have blocked any better on that play," Lally said.
Trailing by 7, the Rebels were faced with three minutes left in regulation to answer the score. South drove all the way down to the Marmion 3-yard line. On third-and-goal with 14 seconds left, DeAndre Thurman caught the short touchdown pass.
On the two-point conversion attempt, Lally alongside a host of Cadets stonewalled T.F. South running back Kenneth Jackson a yard short of the goal line.
"We're not just lucky to get out with a win," Thorpe. "We did what we needed to do."