Goss: Joliet Catholic gets to Hart of the matter
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org August 31, 2013 11:48PM
Updated: August 31, 2013 11:57PM
The final seconds had just ticked away Saturday night at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
Joliet Catholic 42, Providence 35. Whew. And this was only the opener.
The man of the night, Hilltoppers senior wingback Mike Ivlow, wanted to get in line to congratulate all the Providence players. But first he had to hug fullback Ben Hart.
“I love you, man,” Ivlow said as he wrapped his arms around Hart and found it difficult to hold back the tears.
Ivlow had rushed for 310 yards on 17 carries and scored on four long touchdown runs on a night when his leg cramps were so frequent and painful that “I thought I was going to die.” Obviously, that milestone output does not happen without blocking, and for Ivlow’s money, Hart is No. 1.
“Ben is the best blocker and best teammates I have ever had,” Ivlow said.
If he needed a second in that assessment, it came from Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp.
“Our blocking fullback was the MVP of this game,” he said. “He threw some hellacious blocks.”
All right, so maybe MVP is not quite proper when another kid in the backfield rushes for 310. But it does show you how much the blockers in brown are appreciated.
“This was an emotional game for me,” Ivlow said. “I was supposed to be slow. There’s no Ty Isaac, no D-I back here anymore. We were supposed to lose this game 42-21. But we showed the entire state of Illinois that this team is special without a D-I back.”
No disrespect to those who came before him, but with his jukes, his ability to break tackles and finding that other gear once he gets into the secondary, Ivlow on this night appeared every bit as effective a high school back as Josh Ferguson (Illinois), Malin Jones (Northwestern) or Isaac (USC).
“Look, Ty Isaac is a heck of a player, but I think I showed (Saturday) that I can carry the load,” Ivlow said. “After we lost to Montini last year (40-37 in the Class 5A semifinals), Ty and Tyler Reitz (the other wingback in 2012) told me, ‘This is your team now.’ I really took those words to heart. They’ve stayed with me.”
So have the words of Francis Ruettiger, the local weight lifting guru, Joliet Catholic strength coach and assistant coach and longtime friend of the Ivlow family.
After some prodding, Ivlow admitted to weighing 192 pounds before the game, “probably about 185 now. I weighed 232 last year.”
Yep, the 2012 season was 40 pounds ago.
“Francis Ruettiger is the reason I dropped the weight and am here in this position now,” said Ivlow, who was at Minooka for his first two high school seasons. “Coach Sharp gave me a chance. I love him. And I love Francis Ruettiger.”
Ivlow is as modest a 310-yard rusher as you can imagine. Perhaps that comes in part from his dad, John, the Bolingbrook coach who played in the NFL.
Mike was not going to let our conversation end without complimenting the offensive line of J.B. Butler, Jalen Hansel, Justin Hunter, DeAndre Ford and 5-10, 265-pound center Nick Chavez.
“We’ve got all these big linemen,” Ivlow said. “Chavez is 5-10, people say, ‘What can he do?’ Well, I think he showed what he can do.”
Ivlow said he has some friends in the Providence uniform, including giant offensive tackle Logan Plantz. He expressed his regret that one of his best friends in green, defensive back Randy Cybulski, missed the game because of a concussion.
That’s just the type of kid he is. This Joliet Catholic team has excellent senior leadership, and Ivlow has worked his way to the top of that esteemed list.