EDWARDSVILLE — In only his second varsity start, Edwardsville junior quarterback Dan Marinko put up the kind of numbers that would make most veteran signal callers envious.
Marinko threw for five touchdowns in the Tigers' 49-6 win over Soldan last Saturday, earning him the Belleville News-Democrat's Player of the Week honor.
"For a kid that has played only two varsity games, he's made pretty good decisions, and for the most part, he's taken care of the ball pretty well,'' Edwardsville coach Matt Martin said of Marinko, who completed 9 of 13 passes for 187 yards in the game. "That's a big part of that position. He also runs a no-huddle offense. That's added pressure. There is a lot more to handle there, and he's done a good job.''
Martin said Marinko, 16, the son Dara and Vic Marinko of Edwardsville, has proven to be a fast learner.
"He's sharp,'' Martin said. "He threw a pick the other game and, to be honest with you, it wasn't his fault. It was a bad route. When something bad happens, it's usually not on his end.
"It's usually on my end as a coach or maybe somebody didn't protect or somebody didn't run the right route. He gets it. He's a fast learner. He's a kid that you can say something to once, and he picks up on things. As a coach, that's refreshing.''
Last season, Marinko saw only spot duty behind starting quarterback Will Collins. He said the time spent as an understudy prepared him for a starting role this season.
"Will Collins was our starter, and he was a really good quarterback,'' Marinko said. "He knew what was going on, he knew the offense, and I just took that time to learn from him. I learned a lot from him.
"That's how I came into this year with the mind-set that I did. I knew the offense because I was able to watch it all year last year."
The 6-foot-2, 165-pound Marinko is a dual threat who can break down a defense with his passing arm or his legs.
"I like to take pride in that I can run it a little bit, too,'' Marinko said. "I use my speed around the edge sometimes. Sometimes you just have to make plays. When it comes down to it, sometimes you have to run it.''
Marinko's father, Vic, was a running back for Edwardsville High School.
"I haven't seen any film of him playing, but I've seen pictures of him,'' Marinko said of his father, who graduated in 1986. "He was like a power running back type of guy. He still has a broken nose from back in the high school days.''
Vic Marinko started the Little Tigers youth football program in Edwardsville in 2006.
"He pushes me to get better, but he's there for me with everything that happens,'' Marinko said of his father. "We have a really good relationship.''
Marinko has developed a chemistry with Edwardsville wide receivers Darius Crochrell and Isaiah Michl. Crochrell and Michl both had two touchdown receptions against Soldan.
"Those guys worked so hard in the weight room,'' Marinko said. "They've been busting the weights all summer, and it shows out on the field. They know their technique that the coaches teach and they use it to get open.
"Darius and I play basketball together, and we have a good vibe together. We have been friends for a long time. Isaiah and I gelled this summer. We pretty much know what is in each other's head.''
Martin said Marinko also has benefited from good blocking by the offensive line and running backs.
"If you don't have your backs and your linemen protecting well, even good quarterbacks look bad,'' Martin said. "You can just watch the pro game and see that. If you can rush Peyton Manning or you can get pressure on Tom Brady, they'll look bad at times.''
The Tigers are 2-0 heading into their Southwestern Conference opener against East St. Louis at 7 p.m. Friday at the Edwardsville Sports Complex.
The Tigers beat the Flyers 21-18 in the playoffs last year after losing to them 14-7 in the regular season.
"The Southwestern Conference -- this is what it is all about,'' Marinko said. "I feel like we've done everything all summer, we've worked so hard, we've worked for this point.
"Now that it is here, you just have to trust that everything you've done, everything you've learned carries over to this moment.''
The Tigers advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 7A playoffs last season before losing to Lincoln-Way East 40-10. They've set their sights even higher this season.
"Coach always talks about how last year's guys set the bar and got to the quarterfinals,'' Marinko said. "Now that bar is set, we want to get a little further this year. Hopefully, (we can) get to state.''
Martin said Marinko has the mental and physical makeup to be a stellar quarterback.
"When you talk about quarterback, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a tougher position to play in all of sports,'' Martin said. "The decision making, the mental part, a lot rides on what you do. And, you have to have physical courage when you're running the ball and when you have to sit in the pocket knowing that they are bringing one more than you can block and knowing that you are going to get hit and still deliver the ball on time with accuracy.
"I think he'll do nothing but improve because he has that mind-set. I think he has a work ethic, I think he has a passion to learn the game and I think he has a burning desire to be great. You put all of those things together, good things are going to happen for him.''
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.