It was a day of many events for the Marist football team. They celebrated their first ever “Pride Game”. Oh, and it was the last home game, so they celebrated senior day! But it wasn’t a happy day on the field for those seniors however, as they were dismantled by the Valparaiso Beacons 45-24.
Early on, it was a game of missed opportunities for the Red Fox offense. In their first two offensive possessions, Marist took it down to Valparaiso’s redzone both times (including to Valpo’s one-yard-line in the second possession) but couldn’t take advantage on both occasions. Luke Paladino missed two gimme field goals just wide right, showing the effect that the wind had on the game.
“We had a chance to really gain momentum on our side,” said head coach Jim Parady. “It was a different wind than what we normally get here, it was coming up from McCann to Donnelly and it was sliding across our sideline. But we needed to get the ball to the endzone down there.”
Valparaiso capitalized on Marist’s follies, taking a drive all the way down the field after Paladino’s second miss, and eventually scored on a one-yard rushing touchdown off of a direct snap to fifth year senior running back Aaron Dawson. He would eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in this game, giving Valpo a 1,000-yard rusher for the second straight season (Robert Washington in 2021).
The rushing game in general made the biggest difference between Valpo’s success and Marist’s failure. Valpo out rushed Marist 280-36, with Dawson rushing for 199 yards in total with three touchdowns (two rushing and one receiving).
“[Dawson’s] a great back,” said Parady. “We knew that we had to get hats to him but he broke some tackles on us and I think as I look back on it, we may have missed some gaps as we went which allowed him to get out get going.”
Marist was clearly trying to expose Valpo’s secondary, so they focused on a passing-heavy attack. Bagozzi would throw it 55 times in total, while Marist only ran 15 called running plays the whole game, showing why there was a stark difference in rushing totals.
Marist finally gained some overall momentum at the end of the first quarter, after redshirt junior Dominic Donohue boomed a punt that was mishandled by Valpo. It hit a Beacon in the back, and before you knew it, the entire Red Fox special teams unit went after the loose football. Marist would recover the football in their own redzone, but the offense went ahead and had yet another missed opportunity.
They would go three-and-out, but Paladino was able to knock in the field goal to make it 7-3 Valparaiso.
Even though it was a low-scoring first half, Valparaiso still found ways to torch the Marist defense with the deep ball. Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Appel Jr. threw accurate dimes to receivers Solomon Davis and Braden Contreras, each of the 40+ yard variety.
“They won on some one-on-one’s,” said Parady. “You’re gonna get some one-on-one situations, it’s gonna happen and the ability for them to run the football you need to be able to commit a little bit more to the box and that’s going to leave one-on-one coverage out there.”
With 1:36 left in the first half, Marist had a little drive brewing at Valpo’s 40-yard-line. It was then that true sophomore quarterback Brock Bagozzi committed his first turnover of the contest, throwing it to true sophomore cornerback Max Franco who somehow caught it with a full cast on his right arm. He then returned it 34 yards to Marist’s 35-yard-line.
This would eventually lead to a Valpo touchdown scored by Appel, who scrambled and ran it in. This gave the Beacons a 24-3 lead entering the halftime break.
Marist finally got a touchdown on the board with about four minutes left in the third quarter when Bagozzi made a Houdini scrambling act of his own, eventually taking it to the endzone to bring it closer, but Marist was still in a hole.
The Red Foxes just could not keep up with Valpo’s fast-paced attack, and each time Marist showed a little bit of momentum, Valpo would counter with a blow of their own.
This showed true once again, as the Beacons would score another touchdown after Marist scored, bringing the lead up to 31-10.
“We kept fighting in the second half,” said Parady. “We got it to a two-score game, but we couldn’t get the stop after that which didn’t allow us to get momentum all the way back.”
At this point, it seemed like the game was out of reach, but if there were any questions, Bagozzi threw another interception on fourth-and-five in the redzone, but this one was returned to the house by fifth year senior Kohlton Sherman to make it 38-10 with about 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Even though Bagozzi wasn’t the cleanest today and threw two key interceptions, he still threw for 397 yards, his highest passing yard mark of the season.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Will Downes was honored during the senior day ceremony, and boy did he have a game as well. Downes hauled in seven catches for 159 yards, the highest receiving mark for a Marist receiver this season.
“It was the last game at home so obviously I wanted to do as well as I could,” said Downes. “It wasn’t like I was trying to have a big game, I treated it like a regular game.”
Before the game, the first 200 fans received a special “Pride Game” shirt in an event coordinated by Alyssa Gates of the Student-Athlete Enhancement program at Marist to support the LGBT community.
“This was a cause that we have been supporting throughout the years,” said Parady. “We wanted to get it out there in a game situation and not just within the organization, we wanted to get it out a little more in the public eye. Not just us, but all student-athletes in the department rallied behind that.”
The Red Foxes’ PFL slate has ended with this loss, ending Marist’s conference season with an even 4-4 record and 4-6 overall.
They still have one game left, but it’s definitely a weird one. Next week they will play the Bucknell Bison in what is honestly a meaningless game in terms of record, but definitely will have some meaning for the Red Foxes who will play the final game in their collegiate careers. That game will kickoff at 1 p.m. eastern.
Edited by Christian De Block
Photo from Marist Athletics