Goss: Plenty of guts leads to glory for Joliet Catholic
October 6, 2012 1:39AM
Joliet Catholic's Ty Isaac runs by Carmel's Grant Stredler (53) and R.C. Cox (5). | John Patsch~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 8, 2012 11:50AM
Joliet Catholic senior wingback Ty Isaac appeared barely able to walk. Yet, he was the man.
Senior wingback Tyler Reitz was out with an injury and a couple of other teammates were hobbled. If Friday night’s 31-24 overtime victory over East Suburban Catholic rival Carmel at ATI Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium was supposed to be a gut check, it delivered on its promise.
Isaac battled his way into the end zone on a 2-point conversion with 3:34 left to give the Hilltoppers a 24-17 lead. Carmel mounted a long touchdown march, tied the game with 30 seconds remaining, recovered an onside kick and missed a 41-yard field goal that would have won it.
On second down on the Hilltoppers’ overtime possession, Isaac used his superior speed and drive to skirt the right side and score from 5 yards out. That left it up to the defense to seal the deal, which it did on Zack Jackovich’s interception on fourth down.
Of course, the block in the back on first down that negated Carmel’s possible tying or winning touchdown didn’t hurt, either.
“The holding penalty, that was great to get at the end,” Hilltoppers coach Dan Sharp smiled. “We were working ’em (officials) for that.”
The call certainly helped Joliet Catholic’s cause. But the Hilltoppers have won their last two home games in overtime, the previous one 34-33 against Nazareth, and you kind of feel they would have found a way regardless.
What the USC-bound Isaac showed Friday, rushing for 229 yards in 31 carries with the seasonlong shoulder injury not healed and now a sore groin, is an example of the character this team is building.
“Ty is one of the most courageous kids, one of the toughest young guys, anywhere,” Sharp said. “To do what he does when he isn’t 100 percent, with all the expectations on him and when some people want to see him fail, is remarkable.”
Sharp noted that USC was represented at the game and loved the show.
“The USC running back coach (Kennedy Polamalu) was here and saw Ty,” Sharp said. “He knew about his talent, but he got a chance to see how tough he is. I know he wishes he could take him right now.”
Asked how badly he was hurting afterward, Isaac hesitated, then said, “I feel good. We won. Guys playing hurt, that’s one of those things that shows what this team is made of.”
Senior quarterback Craig Slowik has the right ingredients, all right. With Carmel loading the box to stifle Isaac, Slowik finished 7-of-11 passing for 146 yards and, though not to be confused with Usain Bolt, ran 25 yards on a bootleg for a touchdown with 3:34 left.
“I’m a secret weapon, I guess,” Slowik said of the touchdown run.
“Craig is not our sprinter,” Isaac said with a laugh. “But what he did there is part of being a senior.”
Chris Tschida, who caught four passes for 44 yards, and Zach Rezin, who grabbed a 58-yarder just before halftime to set up Brian Bravo’s 27-yard field goal, made excellent grabs, but for the most part, Slowik was on the money.
“We knew they would be tight on Ty, that we would have to loosen them up and try to keep them off balance with the passing,” Slowik said. “I threw the ball behind him (Rezin) on that long pass. He made a great catch. At least we got some points out of that.”
The Hilltoppers began with a rash of fumbles, losing three in the first seven minutes, which helped dig a 10-0 hole.
“I fumbled the first one (at the end of a 23-yard run to the Carmel 8-yard line) when I tried to get more out of it,” Isaac said. “On the other guys’ fumbles, I couldn’t tell you what happened. I think we left four touchdowns on the field, minimum. Thank God we got past that and were able to win.”
However, that would not have been the result without kids playing through hurts and without the defense stepping up when it mattered most.
“We knew we had to stop that pitch play,” junior cornerback Danny Weis said of the straw that nearly broke the Hilltoppers’ back. “We came up big down the stretch.
“This was a lot of fun to play in. I know my heart’s pumping. I’m just happy we came out on top.”
Weis and linebacker Kevin Jensen made key tackles at crunch time, and Jackovich’s pick, his fifth of the season, began the celebration.
“It was a great team win,” Jackovich said.
But two in a row at home in overtime?
“I think it probably would be good for my confidence if we didn’t have to go to overtime to win here next time,” Jackovich said.