Goss: The secret is out: Joliet Catholic’s secondary covers people
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org September 28, 2013 4:52PM
Joliet, 9/27/13--Joliet Catholic's Anthony McInerney chases after Marist quarterback Jack Donegan during Friday's game at Joliet Memorial Stadium. | Jeff Krage/For Sun-Times Media
Marist quarterback Jack Donegan completed 11 of his first 13 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns in leading the RedHawks to a 21-7 lead Friday night at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
That Donegan finished 25-of-45 for 301 yards with three interceptions, and Joliet Catholic remained unbeaten with a 49-27 victory, lets you in on the secret:
This Hilltoppers’ secondary can and will stand up to a quality passing game.
In Week 4, Joliet Catholic shut out Nazareth, another East Suburban Catholic heavyweight, 42-0. If this sort of thing continues, how dangerous will the unbeaten Hilltoppers be?
“We are covering people,” coach Dan Sharp emphasized. “Every once in a while we got some pressure up front, but their quarterback moved around a lot. For the most part, it was good coverage.”
Cornerback Brendan O’Brien made a huge interception in the first quarter that may have reversed the momentum for the night. Linebacker Brad Krisch’s forced fumble and interception, and safety Jackson Shanklin’s interception in the second half were key. Cornerback Danny Weis and safety Brandon Bolek also were plenty busy.
That’s the way it is against a high-powered offense such as Marist’s.
“It’s definitely amazing that we have come this far now defensively,” said O’Brien, whose pick was his first, although he also forced a fumble last week. “To watch it, it’s cool.”
The problem early on, O’Brien said, is “they came out firing and we weren’t used to their speed. We made certain changes, we did what we were told by our coaches and we made plays.”
O’Brien often was locked on 6-foot-6, 230-pound Notre Dame recruit Nic Weishar. Although Weishar caught seven passes for 82 yards, the two battled on even terms.
“He’s pretty big, and when he does that quick out, he’s a tough receiver,” O’Brien said.
Krisch’s forced fumble was at Weishar’s expense.
“Coach Jaws (defensive coordinator Jake Jaworski) said the goal is for us to get at least three turnovers every game,” Krisch said. “That was a key factor because they’re a very powerful offense.
“But we adjusted, got into the right places. We got a lead and they had to try to make things happen. That’s how turnovers happen. We proved our defense is the real deal this year.”
Wingback Mike Ivlow, who dropped his usual number on the RedHawks — 33 rushes for 265 yards and three touchdowns — lit up when the defense’s contribution was mentioned.
“I love ’em all, everybody on this team,” he said. “There’s a special bond. That’s why this is my favorite sports team that I have ever been on.
“Jackson Shanklin, Brandon Bolek, Brendan O’Brien, they’re going against two Division I receivers (Weishar and Flynn Nagel). Our guys are supposed to be NAIA or D-III or D-II at best, and they’re coming out on top.”
Ivlow mentioned special teams, specifically the play linebacker Mike Gruben made, leaping in the air to corral the Marist onside kick that opened the second half with the game tied at 21. If he does not get it done and the RedHawks recover, who know how the momentum swings.
“Coach (Rick) Raasch did an awesome job planning how to handle all those onside kicks,” Ivlow said of the special-teams coach.
When the three-hour marathon ended, there was one concern. The injury bug jumped up and bit the Hilltoppers as guard JB Butler, center Nick Chavez and quarterback Nick Morrison hobbled off in the second half, forming a convention of crutches.
The offensive line was not deep anyway, especially after 330-pound DeAndre Ford suffered a broken ankle in Week 1, and Morrison is the full-time quarterback. Storm clouds, to be sure.
You may not have predicted this earlier, but Joliet Catholic, already a playoff lock, may be forced to rely on its defense to maintain a grip on the East Suburban Catholic lead.
Based on what we’ve been seeing, Sharp and his staff may be somewhat comfortable with that.
Who would have thunk it?