Football: Joliet Catholic takes it to Urban Prep-Englewood 69-12
BY DICK GOSS firstname.lastname@example.org November 2, 2013 10:34PM
Updated: November 2, 2013 10:51PM
Mike Gruben has improved steadily since being installed at middle linebacker early in the season.
But the Joliet Catholic junior had to step out of his comfort zone Saturday night — and how he delivered.
A blocking back stationed around the 25-yard line on the kickoff return unit, Gruben saw the opening kickoff coming his way. He fielded it at the 27-yard line.
Returning it 73 yards for a touchdown, however? Not even in his wildest dreams. But that’s what he did, and 12 seconds into a 69-12 blowout of Urban Prep-Englewood in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs at Joliet Memorial Stadium, Gruben was in the end zone.
“That was the first time I ever got the ball on a kickoff my entire life,” Gruben said. “I don’t have any moves, I just tried not to get tackled.”
That began a night of things happening for Gruben that maybe weren’t supposed to. For instance, his 15-yard sack of Englewood quarterback Martwain Holmes on a blitz, where five more yards were tacked on for grounding.
“A guy went in motion, and I wasn’t supposed to be blitzing,” Gruben said. “It was a miscommunication.”
Regardless, the sack helped force the No. 13 seed Lions (6-4) to punt from their end zone. Jackson Shanklin blocked it, scrambled to pick it up at 1-yard line and took it in for a 28-0 lead with 1:58 left in the first quarter.
By then, quarterback Nick Morrison, returning to action after a midseason ankle fracture, had thrown a 40-yard touchdown pass to Zach Rezin, and sophomore Cade Earl had hit Jordan Jones with a 4-yard TD toss, set up by an 11-yard throw to Rezin.
Continuing the not-supposed-to-happen theme, the No. 4 seed Hilltoppers (9-1) of the potent ground game were up 28-0 after one quarter and had minus-3 rushing yards.
“Our passing has been dead and we wanted to come out and show we can pass, try to get back on track,” Rezin said. “This got us there. That’s important, especially against teams that fill the whole box.”
Things got back to “normal” on the first play of the second quarter when Mike Ivlow (four rushes, 102 yards) went 39 yards for a touchdown. He later scored on a 58-yard sprint, Earl tacked on a 17-yard TD pass to Jones and Marty Krizka (five rushes, 76 yards) ran for 15- and 25-yard scores on his first two touches.
All of that happened before halftime, which ended 63-6. Bring on Kaneland, the Round 2 opponent at 7 p.m. Saturday at Joliet Memorial Stadium. Injured standout guard JB Butler is doing some running, and coach Dan Sharp said he will know by mid-week whether Butler will be available.
Earl hit all four of his passes for 30 yards and two scores, and the Hilltoppers finished with 343 rushing yards and 413 total. Englewood managed 230 total. Deshawn Crribbs scored on a 60-yard run and Holmes, who completed 18-of-25 passes for 154 yards, threw an 8-yard TD strike to Tyler Greer.
Joliet Catholic’s Michael Johnson, one of several up from the sophomore team, closed the Hilltoppers’ scoring with a 35-yard run and finished with 52 yards in five carries.
“Our starters didn’t play much,” Sharp said. “We wanted to work on the passing game early and some misdirection, and a lot of kids played.
“These are difficult games both ways. But it was good to get our second unit and guys up from the lower levels some playoff experience.”