Edwardsville's Marinko turned first year as varsity QB into something special

News-DemocratDecember 14, 2013 

Think back to the many magical moments involving Edwardsville High School quarterback Dan Marinko this season.

Maybe your favorite was his 15-yard touchdown run with 1:51 remaining against East St. Louis, followed by his game-winning 2-point conversion pass to D'Anthony Knight in a 29-28 victory.

"I just remember that play perfectly," Marinko said of the conversion pass, designed around a play-action fake to the running back. "I tried to scramble around a little bit and bought a little bit of time and I was able to find D'Anthony in the back of the end zone."

Maybe you watched him complete all 12 passes for 305 yards and four TDs in a 49-6 win over Alton, or light up Belleville West for 308 yards and four TDs on a 22-of-31 passing night in a 45-14 victory.

As the Tigers moved to the playoffs, Marinko was at it again, this time beating Lincoln-Way East 21-14 in the Class 7A quarterfinals on a 22-yard TD run with 54 seconds remaining.

In his first year as the Tigers' varsity starting quarterback, Marinko did some extraordinary things.

He completed 192-of-324 passes for a single-season school-record 2,940 yards and 29 touchdowns -- with the 29 TD passes also breaking the school's single-season and career records.

In 324 passing attempts he was intercepted only seven times.

Marinko (6-foot-2, 173 pounds) also led the Tigers in rushing with 793 yards on 93 carries, scoring 17 touchdowns.

Perhaps those kinds of numbers are why metro-east coaches made Marinko a unanimous choice as the 2013 Belleville News-Democrat Large-School Football Player of the Year.

"To be honest, I didn't really know what to expect coming into this year," Marinko said. "I knew we had a great team and a bunch of great players, so I knew we could make something special out of it. As the year went on, we all came together and it all made sense at the end."

The magic ended after 12 straight wins as the Tigers dropped a 34-7 game to eventual 7A state champ Chicago Mount Carmel in the semifinals.

"I've got mixed feelings about that," Marinko said. "They're a great team and all the props in the world go out to them. It's a little bit better that they did win because if somebody was going to take us down, it might as well have been the state champs."

Born into a football family, Marinko is the son of former Edwardsville running back and linebacker Vic Marinko. Dan's grandfather was Bob Marinko, who played quarterback at Highland and Murray State.

"I've always loved football growing up. My dad's a football guy and we're a football family," Marinko said, noting his father helped start the Edwardsville Little Tigers youth football organization. "He's a big influence in my life. If it wasn't for him I definitely wouldn't be doing the things I'm doing now."

Edwardsville coach Matt Martin says choosing Marinko as his quarterback wasn't that difficult.

"He actually played some receiver on the lower levels and played some quarterback," Martin said. "Practiced a lot on our scout team. You could tell he had leadership qualities. You could see it as a freshman. Danny was the type of kid that could have started as a sophomore."

Those qualities are what help make Marinko such a solid fit at quarterback. The players respond to him and he spreads the ball around to his teammates, many time on split-second decisions on whether to run, throw or which receiver to throw to.

"They knew if they just ran their routes hard and got open that I'd be able to find them," Marinko explained.

"He has a lot of those intangibles -- the leadership, the toughness, the mind for the game, the understanding," Martin said. "He's a quick learner. You don't have to tell him twice."

Marinko has already drawn college recruiting interest from Murray State, Illinois State, Ball State, Central Michigan, Illinois and Virginia.

"He's good enough to play at the next level, there's no doubt in my mind," Martin said. "He's got the right mindset, he's got the right maturity."

Marinko grew up playing a variety of sports and still plays basketball, but says football is his favorite.

"After this year it really opened my eyes that I could have a future in football," he said. "The coaches did a great job, they definitely took advantage of all the pieces that we had. We had an amazing group of receivers this year and they made a lot of things easy on me."

There wasn't anything easy about the semifinal loss to Mount Carmel, played on a brutally cold and windy November Saturday in Edwardsville.

"The loss was pretty hard, it took me about a week and a half to get over that," Marinko said. "But sitting back now it's like wow, we did something that hasn't been done here in a while. It makes me proud of everyone on the team, the fans and the community. It's a great feeling."

At one point this season, Marinko was completing more than 70 percent of his passes and he finished with a 59.26 percent completion rate.

After throwing for nearly 3,000 yards ad 29 TDs for a 7A semifinal team as a junior, Marinko has given himself a tough act to follow.

"It's a challenge that I'm willing to accept," he said. "I want to do better next year than I did this year. That's something I an work towards and as a team we can work towards."

Martin knows Marinko and his teammates will work even harder next season toward similar success.

"The challenge for this group will be to raise the bar," Martin said. "It's going to take a lot of good luck. Danny is the type of kid that wants improvement and he'll put the work in. I don't know if you can improve on those numbers, but he's the kind of kid that will try."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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