Joliet Catholic’s Anthony Birsa wins Friday Night Drive Team of the Week MVP

Offensive lineman part of unit that racked up 600-plus rushing yards for Hilltoppers

Anthony Birsa didn’t really embrace playing offensive line when it originally was suggested to him.

Now he can’t imagine doing anything else.

Birsa, along with linemates Josh Jones, Lucas Sartori, Niko Paolino and Paul Ragusa, played a big part in dominating the line of scrimmage during Joliet Catholic’s 56-49 victory over Brother Rice on Friday.

It was an effort that invoked memories of the many success stories of the men up front that the Hilltoppers program has had over the years.

“That’s been the way here for the last 40 years or so, and that starts with our offensive line coach Dave Douglas and his assistant Jake Ziesmer,” Joliet Catholic coach Jake Jaworski said of his offensive line setting the tone. “It’s kind of a veteran group. We’ve got four seniors that were starters in the spring. Anytime you are running the ball 40 to 60 times a game, you are leaning on that offensive line pretty heavily, and they’ve delivered for us all year.”

Birsa was presented his MVP belt, sponsored by Schweickert, Ganassin, Krzak, Rundio, LLP, at Tuesday’s practice in front of his teammates and coaches. Birsa then answered a few questions from Herald-News sports editor Steve Soucie.

What do you like about playing on the offensive line?

Birsa: I enjoy being able to do what I want to other people, against their will. I enjoy blocking people, going through the whistle and finishing my blocks.

Have you always felt that way about playing the position?

Birsa: I definitely resisted at first. My dad also played offensive line, so I always saw offensive line as something maybe I didn’t want to do. I wanted to be a linebacker or something else. But now, ever since I’ve been playing there since my freshman year, I can’t imagine playing anything else.

What is the general vibe on the Joliet Catholic offensive line?

Birsa: The offensive line is awesome. All of us have a really close bond, always hanging out and being together. And we feel like anyone we play, we can dominant the line of scrimmage.

What was the environment like in the 56-49 win over Brother Rice last week?

Birsa: It was crazy. The energy to start the game was awesome. And even when we got down a couple of scores, you could feel that people were getting nervous, but nobody dropped their heads. Everyone kept their heads up and we went out and got the win.

Favorite college or pro team?

Birsa: I like all the Big Ten schools, especially Iowa – my mom went there. I’m also a Bears fan.

Do you have plans to continue playing football after high school?

Birsa: I definitely want to play in college. I’ve been talking with some colleges. Hopefully I will stay in contact with them and get an opportunity soon.

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie has been the Sports Editor at the Joliet Herald News since August of 2018. Prior to that, Soucie worked at the Kankakee Daily Journal and for Pro Football Weekly.