JOLIET – St. Ignatius tried to execute an elaborate game of keep-away when it traveled to play Joliet Catholic on Thursday night.
And although the Wolfpack’s tactics were effective, they didn’t ultimately work in Joliet Catholic’s 21-7 victory.
St. Ignatius seemed more than satisfied to simply grind out small chunks of yardage, keep the chains moving and, most importantly, keep the ball out of the hands of a Joliet Catholic offense that had posted 40-plus points and gobs of yardage in its first two games of the season.
Joliet Catholic stopped the shenanigans on St. Ignatius’ first possession, forcing a three-and-out, and then went immediately on the assault, as Jordan Anderson broke away on the Hilltoppers’ first play from scrimmage, scoring from 66 yards out.
“Our whole O-line, which we call The Hogs, because they all eat – we practice power, and that’s our main play,” Anderson said. “They blocked it down, and it really looked like poetry going through there.”
Undaunted, St. Ignatius (0-3) went right back to its initial plan, piecing together a clock-eating drive that encompassed the entire remainder of the first quarter and brought the Wolfpack inside the JCA 20-yard line. A pop pass on the first play of the second quarter brought the ball to the JCA 1-yard line, where Cameron Roberson crashed in for the score to tie the score at 7.
St. Ignatius attempted and recovered an onside kick to immediately get the ball back after its score, and it ran off another six plays before surrendering the ball back to the Hilltoppers. At that point, St. Ignatius had run 24 plays from scrimmage before Joliet Catholic was able to attempt its second.
With the ball finally back in their hands, the Hilltoppers were able to piece together a drive of their own, with Anderson powering in from 6 yards out for his second score of the game to cap a 10-play drive.
That sent Joliet Catholic into the halftime break with a hard-earned 14-7 lead and the belief that it might finally be able to shake free of the pesky Wolfpack. But the Hilltoppers couldn’t quite do it. Neither team gained much traction in the second half, with both piecing together substantial drives that didn’t net any points but did manage to knock off huge chunks of the game clock.
St. Ignatius did threaten in the fourth quarter. The Wolfpack forced a short Hilltoppers punt that allowed them to set up shop inside Joliet Catholic’s 50-yard line. Its deliberate attack went back to work, making positive gains that allowed St. Ignatius to inch to the 17-yard line with less than two minutes to play in the game for a critical fourth-down play. But the Wolfpack’s magic ran out, as an outside toss play was stuffed and the ball was fumbled away in the process.
Three plays later, Anderson sealed the outcome with a 60-yard touchdown run. He finished with 228 yards on 16 carries.
Anderson quickly realized he needed to make the most of whatever opportunities the game revealed.
“That’s hasn’t happened to us the first two games. We’ve just been able to get out in the first half, and that’s been it,” Anderson said. “It was definitely different, only getting the ball like three times in the first half. "
Joliet Catholic coach Jake Jaworski was just pleased his team was able to survive the demands of a short window of preparation and recovery after its Week 2 game against Fenwick that was played Sunday night.
“With their style of play, we knew they would play ball control, and credit to them, they did a great job with it,” Jaworski said. “I’m just super proud of our guys. We battled. We played on Sunday night, and we had three days of practice going into [facing] the option [offense], which is always tough. And it took us really until yesterday to get our legs underneath us. It was a short week, and our guys battled some fatigue and battled some aches, and I love the way they competed.”