Senior QB Lainez Ends Hun Football Career in Style, Starring as Raiders Top Wyoming Seminary to Finish 9-0
MAKING HIS MARK: Hun School quarterback Marco Lainez III fires a pass in a 2021 game. Last Saturday, senior star and Iowa-bound Lainez connected on 10-of-16 passes for 222 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 96 yards as the Raiders rolled over Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 54-20 to finish 9-0 for the second consecutive season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
Marco Lainez III fulfilled a promise when he helped the Hun School football team complete another unbeaten season.
Senior quarterback Lainez was 10-for-16 for 222 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 96 yards as well to help the Raiders rout Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 54-20 last Saturday to finish 9-0 for the second consecutive season. It sent Lainez and 15 classmates on the Hun roster out as winners in their last 19 straight games.
“Before the game, I knew I had one more thing to do,” said Lainez, a Montgomery resident. “I said, ‘no matter what, if you throw nine interceptions or 10 touchdowns, just keep swinging, you have to finish the job.’ When we finished the job, I just thought, I’m going to miss these guys so much. We’ve sacrificed so much for this. It was awesome.”
Lainez and the Raiders last lost a game on Halloween 2020, in the COVID-19 pandemic shortened season. Hun fell to Malvern (Pa.) 10-8 that day, and Lainez never forgot it.
“I threw four interceptions,” said Lainez. “I was probably the sole reason we lost that game. I walked off that field and said, I never want to feel like this again. So I devoted as much time as I could to winning. I just wanted to win every game.”
Mission accomplished in memorable fashion. The Raiders were absolutely dominant in their second straight unbeaten year. They outscored teams, 413-75, this fall. They broke out to a 21-0 lead against Wyoming before the visitors returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Hun added two more scores by halftime to shut down any hopes of a comeback.
“It was a physical game,” said Hun head coach Todd Smith. “I think even though some of our scores were lopsided, it doesn’t mean they weren’t physical. Wyoming Sem, and Cheshire and Brunswick and Salisbury, those were all super physical games for our kids. It was good football.”
Kamar Archie, JT Goodman, Dom DeLuzio, and Owen Wafle all scored rushing touchdowns, Logan Blake caught a pair of touchdown passes and Liam Thorpe and Bryce Kania each caught a touchdown toss in the balanced attack Saturday. DeLuzio ran for 129 yards and Archie ran for 116. Blake led receivers with 82 yards in the air on four catches.
“We have such a great group of kids, they’re great kids on top of being great football players,” said Smith. “And they’re all super unselfish. It’s team-first. They understand they all contribute. If you look at our team season statistics, we’ll have four guys that have rushed over 500 yards. Everybody touches the ball and they produce. I think we’ve had 22 guys catch a ball this year. It’s just great to see how they’ve adopted this mentality that each team has had, and they’ve passed it on to the next one that comes after them.”
The defense again made it impossible for Wyoming to bounce back from the early deficit. Wafle and Kole Briehler had two sacks apiece and Dante Barone added another from the front four that also includes Logan Howland. Dillon Bucchere intercepted a pass.
“This year, our defense was brought up to a completely different level, and it started with the defensive line,” said Smith. “The four kids we had up front this year were just absolutely dominating. They wreaked havoc on any team we played, it didn’t matter what style of play they had. They just completely changed the game and altered offensive game plans week in and week out.”
The defense created opportunities that enabled Lainez and the offense to capitalize on over and over. Lainez was able to display his growth throughout his third season with the Raiders. He can see a clear difference in the way he played in his final scholastic season from when he debuted for Hun.
“My sophomore year I was pretty much a gunslinger,” said Lainez. “I would run around and try to make plays as much as I can. I would just throw the ball up, scramble around. I didn’t use my legs as much and I didn’t know how to read defenses. Through coach Smith and coach Raz (Anthony Racioppi), I sat around them and learned the game and I learned what to do, how to take care of the ball, where to go with the ball in certain situations. Situational awareness was a really big thing that I think I’ve improved, and you can see the leap from my stats from my sophomore year until now my junior and senior year.”
Lainez finished this season with career highs of 2,182 yards passing and 23 touchdowns. He also rushed for 573 yards and five more scores. The Wyoming game was the third this season in which he passed for four touchdowns. He was one of the seniors that set the tone for the team from the offseason workouts to weeklong practice prep to game day attitude and composure.
“As a leader, he’s stepped up and taken over that role,” said Smith. “I think the kids look up to him. He commands the huddle and they respect him and love him, and that’s great. From an Xs and Os standpoint, he’s taken his game to another level.”
Smith credits Lainez’s growth to his dedication to film study and being able to apply his new knowledge on the field. Since that 2020 Malvern game, the 6’3, 225-pound quarterback has thrown just five interceptions in two seasons total, including only two as a junior.
“I took care of the ball more,” said Lainez. “Then this year they wanted me to push the ball to our playmakers more instead of last year, when it was take what they give me. This year, it was let’s see if we can push it down the field more to these guys because we have a lot of weapons. I was taking calculated risks where as my sophomore year it was just naive risks and I’d just throw it. I definitely think the growth mentally and emotionally helped the physical side.”
Lainez’s development put the four-star quarterback in demand. Last December, he made a verbal commitment to attend Iowa. He is preparing to make the jump to the next level. His gut feeling was that Iowa was the right place for him when he visited the Big Ten school and it will present new opportunities to grow.
“It was a really magical place when I went out there,” said Lainez. “The people in the building were very friendly, but they also demand a lot from you and they want you to succeed. They also want to develop you into the best man you can be off the field and the best player you can be on the field. That’s very valuable to anything — you want to find out how good you can become. This is a great spot for me to see how good I can become. The coaches, I love them. (Offensive coordinator) coach Brian Ferentz, just being around those guys and picking their brains about the football world, (offensive analyst) Jon Budmayr, I just can’t wait to learn as much as I can from him and soak everything up.”
Smith says that the adjustments that Lainez will have to make at the next level are the same as any of his players — getting used to the speed of the game and the overall size of players. At the quarterback spot, that’s even tougher.
“Things are going to come flying at him and they’re going to be even faster and kids are going to be bigger,” said Smith. “He might not be able to take off and run as much as he does. We always encourage him to go out of bounds and he refuses to do that. He might want to step out of bounds when he gets into the Big Ten season next year and save himself for another play. But he’s a real physical kid, a real instinctual kid. If he wasn’t playing offense, he’d be an All-American linebacker for sure. That’s the mentality he takes when he carries the ball.”
Even though Lainez played quarterback, he didn’t want any of his teammates to think of him as softer or special, and his running style reflected that. That mindset Lainez says comes from his dad, who starred at linebacker for Union College, setting the career tackles record for the program and getting inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2007. Lainez has one defensive tackle in his high school career — on the prevent defense when he played for Montgomery High before coming to Hun. Lainez acknowledges that he may have to be a little smarter when he scrambles at Iowa, where he hopes to make his mark.
“I just want to do whatever it takes to see how good I can become mentally, physically and emotionally,” said Lainez. “I also can’t wait to learn around those guys who are already there. Those guys are really talented. It’s a blessing to just being in the room with them, going in there and learning and being teammates with the guys and also seeing how good I can become. It’s just a great opportunity.”
Hun will look to continue its winning ways without the likes of Lainez and a senior class that Smith termed “special.” They stepped into new roles this year to sustain the success of the unbeaten season before, and they maintained a standard for Hun football.
“It’s not about replacing them,” said Smith. “We’re not trying to replicate any of these kids. We’re just trying to find somebody new and adjust what we do to them. We have a lot of great kids on the team coming back. Year in and year out, it’s what we do. This senior class has been exemplary in all the attributes we want in all of our players. They’ve just done a great job of that.”
Lainez is one of the longest tenured players at Hun. A three-year starter, he leaves some of the biggest shoes to fill at a key spot. He leaves a legacy of winning with a like-minded group that brought out the best in him as a competitor and enabled him to develop significantly over his career.
“There are so many guys in that locker room that I just love to death and they push me in certain ways that you can’t find anywhere else,” said Lainez. “I’m going to miss being around the guys and competing with them in practice and then going to war with them. That’s the best part — when you step in the huddle and there are 10 sets of eyes on you and you’re all sharing one goal.”