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Standout quarterback Quinn Baker

EDITOR’S NOTE: Quinn’s accomplishments were brought to Fra Noi’s attention by his uncle, DuPage County businessman Jerry Marchese. We misidentified Jerry as Quinn’s grandfather in the magazine teaser, and we’d like to apologize for that error. Jerry informs us that his grandsons, Matteo and Danato DiMarco, are also standout athletes. We’ll be profiling them, as well as Quinn’s brother, Hayden, in future issues.

Quinn Baker (Photo by Dave May)

Quinn Baker (Photo by Dave May)

The triple-option offense isn’t the prototypical football offense where a team runs a specific play that’s decided in the huddle.

Plenty of responsibility falls on the shoulders of the quarterback, who must be able to read defenses and make the right play as the situation unfolds.

Quinn Baker, senior quarterback for the Cary-Grove Trojans’ high school team, explains his responsibilities in the triple-option offense this way:

“It’s the quarterback making the reads on who gets the ball,” he said. “The three options are handing off to the fullback, taking it (and running) yourself or pitch it out to a running back.”

Cary-Grove’s 8-3 record last year and the Trojans’ push to go undefeated this year in the regular season is testament to the fact that he’s certainly making the correct calls offensively.

High school teams in Illinois play nine regular-season games, and the Trojans Ñ ranked among the top 10 Class 7A football teams in the state by the Associated Press Ñ had already won their first seven. During that span, Baker had rushed for over 600 yards. He also had scored 14 rushing touchdowns and passed for five scores. The Trojans’ offense averaged over 40 points per game in five of their first seven contests.

“I think we’re running the offense better (this year),” Baker said. “We have some playmakers on our team that weren’t on offense last year.”

One of those playmakers, fullback Kyle Norberg, was closing in on 1,000 yards rushing after seven games. Norberg played linebacker last year and wasn’t part of the 2011 offense at all.

“He just made the switch this year and he’s been making big plays at fullback,” Baker said.

Last fall, Baker rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 18 touchdowns as the Trojans advanced to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs before bowing to Nazareth, 24-0. This time around, Baker and his teammates would like nothing more than to avenge that playoff loss and make a deeper postseason run.

“We got shut out in that game and I can’t remember the last time that happened at our school so that definitely was a hard loss,” he said. “We would like to make a good run in the playoffs, and obviously a state championship would be the peak of that goal.”

Quinn has already been part of a state title team at Cary-Grove. He was moved up to the varsity squad as a freshman in 2009 Ñ the year Cary-Grove secured the Class 6A championship with a 14-0 record. Quinn’s older brother, Hayden, now a center at Northwestern, was an all-state center for the Trojans that season.

“Seeing that team and what they were able to do makes you want to go there (to the state championship) and gives you a great example of what you need to be a state champion,” Quinn said. “It was really exciting and it just made me want to be part of that on my own.

“I’ve been to a few (Northwestern) games already (this year). They’re an exciting team to watch. It’s nice to see them up-and-coming in the Big Ten.”

Quinn and Hayden’s mother, Mary Ellen Baker, whose maiden name is Marchese Ñ Mary Ellen’s side of the family is originally from Naples and Potenza Ñ remembers that championship season well.

“To have both of them on the field, it was so exciting,” she said. “Him (Quinn) and his brother could not be closer.”

Football runs deep in the Baker and Marchese family. Mary Ellen’s brother, John Marchese, played for the University of Iowa. John’s two sons, Joey (a senior) and Jim (a sophomore) are on this year’s Stevenson High School’s football team.

“If we’re not at our games, we’re at his (John’s kids’) games,” Mary Ellen said.

Being in the bleachers during the games can at times be nerve-wracking for both she and her husband, Robert. But for the most part, it’s fun.

She recalls that when the boys were playing football as youngsters, “My poor husband used to stand at the fence (that ran parallel with the field) and run with the team as they moved down the field.

“Now he has to be a real parent and sit with the rest of us,” she said, laughing. “It’s exciting. He’s really enjoying this time with the boys.”

Both Mary Ellen and Robert take pride in Quinn’s academic prowess as well.

“I do appreciate all the time and dedication he puts into his studies and being a good role model,” Mary Ellen said.

Quinn is a straight-A student and has scored a 33 on his ACT. Last summer, he was one of only 36 male and female student-athletes from across the country selected to take part in the inaugural three-day NFL-Wharton Prep Leadership Program at Pennsylvania University.

He had to write an essay on the meaning of leadership as part of the application process for the program, which provides leadership training and development programming with instruction from NFL executives and Wharton professors.

“It gave me a lot of different kinds of leadership lessons,” Quinn said. “How to handle yourself in certain situations like conflict resolution through business examples, but also related to football and sports in general.”

About Mike Sandrolini

Mike Sandrolini has been published in the Elmhurst Independent, Voyager Media, the Daily Herald, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Bear Report. His stories and columns have been recognized for editorial excellence at regional, state and national newspaper contests over the years. He also has co-authored two books: "Bear With Me: A Family History of George Halas and the Chicago Bears" and "All the Good in Sports." His father, Raymond, is a native of Gaggio Montano, a small village around 30 miles southwest of Bologna.