Class 5A IHSA playoffs: Providence Catholic, QB Leo Slepski handle Hillcrest 42-12

Providence advances to host Highland next weekend

Providence Catholic's Leo Slepski

COUNTRY CLUB HILLS – Leo Slepski may be a sophomore, but since taking over as Providence Catholic’s starting quarterback in the fourth week of the season, he’s gotten better and better.

Saturday against Hillcrest, Slepski played with the polish of a senior, leading the Celtics to a 42-12 rout of the host Hawks in a Class 5A second-round game.

Providence (7-4) hosts Highland, a 41-36 winner themselves Saturday over Metamora, in next week’s quarterfinal round. Opening kickoff is tentatively set for 3 p.m.

“It’s great to get this win to boost our confidence,” Slepski said. “I feel a lot of pressure, but it’s good pressure, nothing that I can’t handle.

“I’ll be nervous all day at school or on the bus, but once I’m on the field, I’m just locked in.”

The Celtics scored on their first six possessions, with Xavier Coleman’s 3-yard plunge to cap their opening drive, an 11-play possession. Hillcrest (7-4) countered with an 11-yard rush by quarterback Gary Bradley and then a 57-yard scamper by Denim Riley to the Providence 13, but Riley was stripped of the ball by Luke Leverett. The Celtics’ Blake Garrigan recovered, and Providence was never headed from that point.

It was 21-0 after a quarter, with Slepski hitting Coleman and Mitch Voltz on 62- and 20-yard touchdown passes, respectively, the latter as the quarter ended. Voltz had to catch his touchdown pass twice — the first called back for a penalty — and Slepski hit him on the same end zone fade pattern over the right shoulder a second time.

“They were making plays everywhere,” Slepski said. “Mitch brings everything to the table. We were just clicking on offense and defense.”

For Voltz, it was a matter of execution.

“We had a great week of prep,” Voltz said. “The scout team gave us a good look. We believed in the plan the coaches put in front of us.”

Kaden Nickel (2 yards) and Voltz (20 yards) ran for touchdowns in the second quarter, while Slepski guaranteed the running clock with a 71-yard touchdown strike to Seth Chaney with 3:17 left in the half.

That, Voltz expected.

“A little bit. It’s just believing in the brothers,” Voltz said of his teammates. “We were clicking on all cylinders.”

Slepski, 7-of-8 passing for 208 yards in the first half, credited his offensive line for the time to track his targets.

“I had all the time I needed,” Slepski said. “They couldn’t have done a better job.”

The big five up front since the final week of the regular season have been center Chris Piazza, left guard Coda Miller, left tackle James Berry, right tackle Bryce Tenza and right guard Matt Hough. Before that, the deck had been shuffled several times.

“They’re getting there,” Celtics coach Tyler Plantz said. “It’s been a constantly moving position. We finally had the same line three consecutive weeks, and that’s been helpful. ...

“The biggest emphasis of the week was to finish the play. They did a good job. (Slepski), he’s done a good job of taking on the pressure of the state playoffs.”

Hillcrest’s Gary Bradley, the lynchpin of the Hawks, ran for 58 yards and threw for 108, including two second-half touchdown passes.

The Celtics finished with a 313-257 yardage advantage.