- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois coach Ron Zook tracked down Marmion coach Dan Thorpe on Memorial Stadium’s field following the Class 6A state championship game on Saturday.
Thorpe’s Cadets had just lost 48-19 to Rockford Boylan, and Zook wanted to pass on a message.
“He said how he had been to Marmion and seen everyone dressed in their uniforms and knew how they were good students and young men,” Thorpe said. “But he was impressed how well they also played football.”
Three years ago, Thorpe believes Zook wouldn’t have been able to say the same. After Marmion had fluctuated around .500 for Thorpe’s first four seasons at Marmion, the Cadets began pumping more money into the program and their facilities, the community became more involved and the players dedicated themselves more than ever.
What Marmion has done the past two seasons -- a 21-4 record and Saturday’s second-place finish -- was the result of the Cadets change in philosophies.
“It’s been tremendous,” Thorpe said. “They had tremendous heart. They did all the little things. That’s what makes it so hard to have the season to end. They really are a special group. That’s why they’re here. They did all the little things other high school kids and other high school teams aren’t willing to do.”
What made Saturday’s loss even harder for Marmion’s players was they felt they didn’t leave their best on the field.
The final result was dictated by the Cadets’ turnovers, and Boylan’s ability to capitalize on those mistakes. Marmion (12-2) turned the ball over six times -- four fumbles and two interceptions.
“It’s tough when you play in the state championship, and we felt like this was our worst game of the season,” Marmion senior T.J. Lally said.
Personally, Lally had his share of ups and down against Boylan (14-0). An ESPNChicago.com All-Area selection, Lally showed off his defensive talent at linebacker as he set Class 6A state records with 13 solo tackles and 18 total tackles. On the other hand, he fumbled twice.
Marmion held a 13-7 lead in the second quarter before the game began tipping in Boylan’s favor. The Titans scored less than two minutes after Marmion’s last touchdown and went ahead 14-13. Marmion coughed up the ball on the following play, and Boylan used three plays to score again. Marmion fumbled on its next possession, and Boylan drove down the field and scored once more.
In less than three minutes, Marion went from leading by six points to trailing 27-13.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Marmion quarterback Bobby Peters said. “We beat ourselves and in the second half they put us away. I give all the credit to Boylan, but we made a lot of mistakes, too.”
Boylan threw for 202 yards and rushed for 241 yards. Tyreis Thomas led the Titans with 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Lally had 145 rushing yard and one touchdown. Nick Scoliere also rushed for a touchdown and caught another.