Football: Joliet Catholic rolls into state finalsSH Griffin's Chris Harris (28) attempts to tackle Joliet Catholic Academy's Malin Jones (33) at Saturday's 6A Semifinal game between Joliet Catholic Academy and SH Griffin. | Paul James Bergstrom~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 23, 2011 9:32PM
Only one football team was able to conquer the cyclone that blew through ATI Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
That team was not the one called the Cyclones.
Ty Isaac and Malin Jones, the best wingback tandem in Joliet Catholic’s storied history, combined for 424 rushing yards and six touchdowns as the Hilltoppers shredded Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin 49-7 in the semifinals of the Class 5A state playoffs.
Joliet Catholic (11-2) will bid for its record 14th state championship at 10 a.m. next Saturday at the University of Illinois in Champaign, where they will take on Montini.
Whoever the foe, the issue will be finding a way to stifle the Hilltoppers’ dynamic duo. As a Springfield reporter said — in a most complimentary tone — after witnessing the havoc Jones and Isaac wreaked on the top-ranked and top-seeded Cyclones.
Joliet Catholic kicked off with the gale at its back, and before Sacred Heart-Griffin could get to the second quarter and operate with the wind, the Cyclones (12-1) already trailed 14-0.
But the thing is, Joliet Catholic’s double-wing offense is barely affected by wind. Isaac scored on runs of 8, 22, 49 and 53 yards, bringing his school-record season total to 45 touchdowns. Jones scored on runs of 24 and 34 yards.
Isaac finished with 214 yards in 18 carries, Jones with 210 in 18 carries. The Hilltoppers, who led 28-7 at half and scored three times in the first four minutes of the third quarter to switch on the running clock, rushed for 485 yards in all.
“Our line was great, Coach Douglas (Dave, the offensive line coach) had a great scheme, and I love Malin Jones,” Isaac said. “We’d have a third-and-5, and I knew he was going to make the plays. I can’t say enough about him.”
For good measure, quarterback Craig Slowik completed a 53-yard touchdown bomb to tight end Isaac Grashoff to make it 14-0 in the first quarter, and Slowik also hit tight end Zach Rezin with a 31-yard strike.
In all, that amounted to 569 yards of offense on a day when the elements and Joliet Catholic’s defense shackled what had been a potent Sacred Heart-Griffin spread attack. The Cyclones, who are accustomed to inflicting this sort of drubbing on their central Illinois opponents, finished with a modest seven first downs and 169 total yards.
“The biggest play of the day might have been the coin flip,” Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp said of getting the wind in the first quarter. “The wind was hard to pass into. But even when we got it to start, we weren’t sure because they ran the ball so well last week (in a 25-10 win over Chatham Glenwood).”
Not to worry, however. The JCA defense stuffed the running game, and the pressure and coverage against the pass was the best it has been all season. Sacred Heart-Griffin quarterback Pat Smith, who enjoyed an all-state caliber year, completed only 10 of 29 for 99 yards.
“We did what we had to do,” said Hilltoppers nose tackle Nick Collofello, whose day included a sack, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery, “We got after the quarterback using some new tactics we practiced this week. We got pressure and had great coverage. This was as well as we have played defensively.”
Adam Collins and Josh Falk chipped in with sacks, and Matt Mammosser had a tackle for loss. Collins’ sack on a safety blitz forced a fumble that Collofello recovered.
“We did more blitzing than ever, about every three plays,” Collins said. “That was fun.”
So, too, was emphatically taking the wind out of the Cyclones.