Goss: Numbers prove Joliet Catholic’s big guys have game
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org September 25, 2013 9:46PM
Joliet Catholic's Jalen Hansel (61) clears a path for teammate Nick Borgra. | Larry Kane/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 28, 2013 6:57AM
The numbers are astounding.
Joliet Catholic senior wingback Mike Ivlow has rushed for an area-leading 1,011 yards — in four games! — and is averaging 11.5 yards per carry. The Hilltoppers (4-0) are averaging 440 rushing yards and 508 total yards.
That’s an aberration, right? Nobody can maintain that sort of pace.
Or, maybe you can if your offensive line, left to right, features 6-foot-3, 275-pound sophomore tackle Tyler Witt; 6-3, 280-pound senior guard JB Butler; 5-10, 265-pound senior center Nick Chavez; 6-2, 290-pound senior guard Jalen Hansel; and 6-2, 300-pound senior tackle Justin Hunter.
Add fullback Ben Hart and good blocking tight ends to the mix, and holes appear play after play.
“The line has been playing very well,” veteran offensive line coach Dave Douglas said. “They have confidence in their schemes and what we want to do. There were some hiccups early against St. Viator (in Week 3), but then they settled down.”
“They are moving people and getting to the second level, which we want. As big as they are, they’re fast and strong.”
They will be counted on to help the Hilltoppers keep pace with high-scoring Marist (3-1) in Friday’s East Suburban Catholic showdown at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
“I know I’ve never been on a team that beat Marist,” said Butler, who like Hansel is a three-year starter while Hunter is a second-year regular.
Douglas has been around long enough to remember when “a 6-7, 280 kid couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. These kids are totally different. They are a pleasure to have. They’re as good a group as we have had.”
That covers significant territory.
Saturday’s 42-0 shutout at Nazareth was first and foremost a feather in the cap of the Joliet Catholic defense. Ivlow’s 347 rushing yards completed the picture of how good the Hilltoppers can be.
“The offensive line has been great,” Butler said. “But what’s been going on so far is a credit to Mike for all his offseason work.
“It’s a huge factor that my main running back is one of my best friends. It makes me want to block that much harder.”
“Ivlow showed what he can do last year against Notre Dame when Ty (Isaac) and (Tyler) Reitz both were out,” Hansel said. “A lot of people on the outside didn’t know it, but we knew what we had there.”
The Hilltoppers are nothing if not family, and Ivlow, in his second year in the program after two years at Minooka, is central to that.
“Ivlow is really good with the guys (linemen), and so are the other backs,” Douglas said. “They block, and our linemen take notice. They’ve walked out of film sessions and grabbed the backs and told them what a good job they are doing. You don’t usually see that.”
“We’re moving the ball as a team, working together,” said Hunter, whom coach Dan Sharp noted has been playing especially well. “We have a veteran O-line that knows what they’re doing and running backs who hit the holes hard. We know we will get 100 percent from Ivlow all the time.”
As big and good as the line has been, 6-5, 330-pound junior tackle DeAndre Ford was lost to a broken ankle suffered against Providence in Week 1. In stepped Witt.
“We knew we had the hidden gem in Witt,” Douglas said. “But we have to stay healthy now. I don’t have any more of him that I’m hiding.
“Actually, the big thing in the summer was Dan was worried about the center position. But doing anything different there went out the window when DeAndre got hurt.”
Given the full-time opportunity, Chavez has become “the unsung hero,” Douglas said. “He’s doing as much as we could have hoped for. He’s not as tall as the others, but he’s another big, strong kid.”
He fits right in.