Nov. 29th 10am @ U of I Memorial Stadium
For those of you who aren't familiar with the history of high school football in Illinois (attention freshman & sophomores), Joliet Catholic has been in more state championships than any other team in the state and will be looking to win their 11th title, which would place them #1, in sole position on the list of all time championships.
While JC has won state titles with four different coaches, they have always played the same hard nose black & blue football. After a recent game versus Morris current head coach Dan Sharp liken the game to an old NFC Central battle, "For you old timers who remember the high top shoes & dirt fields. This is a game you'd have liked to watch".
A common thing said about this Joliet team is the fact that their backups are starters on most other teams in the state. That claim may be a bit far flung, but their starting QB Brad Bourg was out for almost all of the regular season and they were down to their third string QB for their week 9 lose to Mundelein (Carmel).
Bourg was back for the start of the playoffs and sophomore Billy McKeon emerged as a offensive weapon after stepping up while injuries lead Sharp to adjust his line up. A further argument for the talent level the Hilltoppers have can be made after last weeks sweeping victory of LaSalle (L.-Peru) while three key players sat out due to team rule violations the team didn't miss a beat.
Either way the Hilltoppers are a machine on offense. Their Wing T offensive scheme that was the brain child of high school coaching legend Gordie Gillespie, was revived by Sharp and has confused opposing defenses with it's misdirections and double hand offs. Top that off with the talent executing it, Bourg, McKeon, Kurt Kleeman, Chris Clancy & Bobby Buchanan as a dangerous wide receiver that can get the ball at any moment and you can see how they can be more over whelming than pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner.
Sharp's play book doesn't stop at the Wing T on offense. He's been know to work in trick plays, punt & field goal fakes as well as letting McKeon or other pass the ball. Given that his offensive line averages 6'2 257 lbs, Sharp can feel safe that any mistakes made could still get positive yards.
Chris Jeske has been a monster on defense. And the 6'1 215 lbs junior linebacker has been playing on varsity since the playoffs his freshman year and it shows as he leads the team with 105 solo tackles 37 assist & 4 sacks. Andrew Kolodziej & Jake Trader follow Jeske with tackles. In the defensive backfield most offenses have thrown away from Buchanan who is a ball hawk who can get to a pass almost as fast as the player it was intended for.
Peterman who is a track star, is a speed machine. The numbers he's been racking up seem almost unbelievable, 1325 yards passing with 20 TDs and 1710 yards rushing with 25 TDs. Peterman leads the team with 25 TDs, but it's his 12 yard rushing average that really blows the mind, considering the loss of yards a QB takes from sacks and fumbles. What may even be more impressive is the 9 & 8 yard rushing average that Curtis Robinson (170 att 1601 yards) & John Sronce (87 att 725 yards) are also getting from behind a line that averages 6'1 212lbs.
Overall the Cyclones have put together close to 6,000 yards on offense, half of which are due to Peterman (3036).
While this years SHG defense isn't anchored around the likes of a Zack Keltlecamp, Drew Tate must have been taking notes his sophomore year, as the junior defensive lineman hasn't been kind to ball carries at the line of scrimmage. He has 188 tackles, including his 8 sacks. If the ball doesn't come to Tate's side, senior defensive end Larry Luster will be there to stop the runner if he's not in the back trying to add on to his sack total of 11.
While the Cyclones defense may not look as dominating on paper as JC, the solid passing game of the Cyclones could help open the game up and take some pressure off the defense as the Hilltoppers have had problems answering against a strong passing game. Very few teams have been able to play the old school type game JC does and win, so a solid passing game that takes place when the team isn't looking to rebound from a few scores down could take the Hilltoppers out of the game as they are not use to playing catch up.
by Vincent Johnson