AURORA – Marmion senior Jake Gallaher entered the season having not played football since his sophomore year, when he was an offensive guard.
Go figure, the St. Charles resident has developed into a stalwart of the Cadets’ secondary at free safety.
Gallaher’s emergence has been arguably the most pleasant surprise this season for the Cadets (8-2), who are preparing for Saturday’s IHSA Class 6A second-round playoff game at Prairie Ridge.
“Every year on a team there’s going to be someone you’re counting on, and they just don’t have the year that you thought they were going to have,” Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said. “And every year in my 33 years of coaching, we’ve had somebody come out of the woodwork and just have a heck of a season. That definitely is Jake Gallaher.
“We were one [defensive back] short coming in, and he’s stepped in and just has played tremendous.”
Gallaher, who began his high school career at St. Charles North before transferring to Marmion before his sophomore year, suffered a torn deltoid the summer before junior year while playing a game at a church camp. It cost the multisport athlete his junior year of football.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Gallaher said. “I’ve had a couple injuries right before sports seasons. One was freshman year during basketball, I broke my hand right before tryouts, that wasn’t too good, and then with the deltoid, it was just frustrating to know that I got injured again.”
As an underclassman, Gallaher was one of the larger guys in his class, but some of his peers passed him in size and brawn the past couple years. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Gallaher knew he had to redefine himself to see the field as a senior, and he spent much of the summer catching balls from close friend and Cadets quarterback Brock Krueger.
But Gallaher said he was intrigued by moving to defense, and eventually, the Cadets’ coaches gave him a shot at free safety.
“Even during the summer because of work commitments, he was there most of the time but not every time, so he would show flashes, and then he wasn’t at a 7-on-7 or something,” Thorpe said. “So it wasn’t really, to be honest, until August during two-a-days [that he solidified a spot], which is really a credit to Jake, I guess.”
Gallaher is tied for the team lead with four interceptions, two coming in the regular-season finale against Walther Lutheran, when Gallaher returned one of his picks 70 yards for a touchdown.
Fellow Marmion senior Seth Sevenich – a cornerback/receiver – battles Gallaher during practice drills offensively when the two are not anchoring the defensive backfield together.
“He’s really strong,” Sevenich said of Gallaher. “It’s hard to break a route on him because you know whenever you’re trying to break, he’s going to be there to hit you.”
Gallaher is especially proud of his play defending teams’ passing games this season but he knows Saturday’s game against Prairie Ridge will predominantly call for run support and keeping assignments straight against the Wolves’ slippery, triple option offense.
The Cadets have done their best to prepare for Prairie Ridge in practice but recognize that game day is a different animal.
“The coaches were saying it’s going to be 10 times as fast during the game,” Gallaher said. “I believe that. It’s going to be not too much of an adjustment, but an adjustment we’re going to have to make the first couple plays of the game.”
Gallaher re-aggravated a rib injury from the regular season during last week’s Round 1 shutout against Fenton, but he intends to fight through any discomfort Saturday.
Gallaher is making the most of his one year of varsity football, and has no intentions of abandoning his new post.
“I want to go all out,” Gallaher said. “No regrets.”