Hilltoppers survive St.Ignatius
Last updated 4/2/2021 at 2:37pm
They weren't "The Big Bad Wolves".
They certainly were "The little bad wolves".
We are talking about the Wolves of St.Ignatius from Chicago's West Side.
The St. Ignatius Wolves (0-3, 0-1) gave the Associated Press' Class 5A No. 3-ranked Joliet Catholic Hilltoppers (3-0, 2-0) everything they could handle on Thursday night before falling 21-7.
Behind the passing combination of 5-foot-10, 160 pound quarterback Leo Rugai (5-for-9, 77 yards) and his favorite receiver, 5-foot-9 160 pound EJ Talarico (4 catches 47 yards), the Wolves faced a fourth-and-five situation at the Hilltoppers' 16 yard line with 2:26 remaining in the game.
On a power sweep play, Wolves senior Cam Roberson was hit by the entire Hilltoppers defense.
Down 14-7 and trying for the tying score, Roberson attempted to stretch the ball beyond the sticks, when 6-foot-2, 280-pound Hilltopper defensive lineman Will Berry stripped the ball from Roberson and junior Malachi Hood scooped up the lose ball and raced to the Hilltopper 39.
"We are taught for all 11 of us to go for the ball carrier," Berry said. "I saw the St.Ignatius back diving for the sticks. The ball was there and I just stripped it out. It was a great adrenaline rush but I hurt my neck reaching for the ball."
Two plays later, Joliet Catholic's 6-foot-2, 230 pound junior running back Jordan Anderson was off to the races for a 60-yard touchdown run, his third touchdown of the game, to finish off the Wolves, 21-7.
For the second consecutive game, the Hilltoppers scored on their first play from scrimmage.
Against Fenwick on Sunday, junior quarterback Aidan Voss, hit senior wingback Ja' Arie Mack, for a 71-yard touchdown pass.
This week, it was Anderson galloping 67-yards for an early 7-0 Joliet Catholic lead with 9:20 to go in the first quarter. The Hilltoppers did not run another play until 6:48 in the second quarter.
The Wolves tied the game on one-yard run by 6-foot-170 pound junior Jack Molloy with 11:27 remaining in the first half. The nine-minute and 47-second, 15 play, 70-yard drive, was just what the doctor order for the Wolves.
St. Ignatius surprised the Hilltoppers, with an onside kick that they recovered and once again went to work running nine more plays, before punting to the Hilltoppers with 6:48 in the half.
24 plays from scrimmage for the Wolves. 1 play from scrimmage for the Hilltoppers, with 6:48 in the half.
The Hilltoppers responded with a 10-play 70 yard drive, culminated by Anderson's second touchdown from six yards out. After the second of his three PAT's from Joliet Catholic senior place kicker Jake Dixon, the Hilltoppers led 14-7 with 3:07 left in the half.
Anderson would finish with 226 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns.
"St.Ignatius is a very difficult team to play," Anderson said. "We had higher expectations from us in this game. Once again I have to thank my boys up front who made my accomplishments possible We felt when we came in as freshman that we would win a state championship. All we can do this year is go 6-0. That is our ultimate goal."
The little bad Wolves defense looked like a sophomore team compared to the physically superior Hilltoppers.
Although physically inferior, they used lightning-quick speed to repeatedly beat the Joliet Catholic offensive line, aka "The Hogs" off the ball. The Wolves also were well-coached in the art of tackling.
Seven of Anderson's 18 carries resulted in three-yards or less for the Hilltoppers all-state running back.
Mack chipped in with 26 yards on six carries.
Voss completed just two of his six passes for 50 yards, both to fellow junior Jake Fieldman.
Voss, on a third and 12 from the St.Ignatius 29-yard, connected with Fieldman for 23-yards down to the St. Ignatius six.
On the next play Anderson, scored his second touchdown for the 14-7 Hilltopper lead.
The Sack Master senior defensive end Pat Strocchia had 2.5 sacks.
"It wasn't pretty, but we accomplished our goal tonight and won the game," Strocchia said. "St.Ignatius really battled tonight. We are 3-0 and that is right where we want to be."
"St.Ignatius did a great job of executing their game plan," Joliet Catholic coach Jake Jaworski said. "I am so proud of our defense. They were on the field the whole game and yet only gave up seven points. We won two games in five days against two quality CCL/ESCC White teams. We only had three days, physically to recover from the Sunday night game. Again I am so proud of what we accomplished tonight."
"Jordan is Jordan and hats off to the offensive line. We are 3-0 and that's where we want to be," Jaworski concluded.
Up next for The Hill is a 80-mile bus ride to Mundelein to face the Carmel Corsairs (1-0) in a CCL/ESCC crossover game on Friday April 9.