JOLIET –The Joliet Catholic defense set the table for an offense that feasted on Marengo on Friday in a 48-0 win in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
The Hilltoppers (10-0) play host to Wheaton Academy, a 36-3 winner over Coal City, in the second round.
Joliet Catholic kept the Indians (5-5) on their side of the field in the first quarter and rolled up a 28-0 lead entering the second quarter.
Marengo’s first drive ended with a 7-yard punt that put the Hilltoppers in business at the Indians’ 31. Four plays later, running back Vinny Iannantone scored from the 1. Patrick Durkin’s extra point made it 7-0 with 7:54 to play.
Joliet Catholic took over at the Marengo 40 after stopping its next drive. On the second play of the drive, quarterback Aidan Voss threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to running back Jordan Anderson.
Hilltoppers’ defensive end Jeremy Johnson sacked Marengo quarterback Josh Holst for a 14-yard loss on third down on the Indians’ next drive. That forced another Marengo punt. Joliet Catholic took over at Marengo’s 36. Four plays later, Anderson scored on a 6-yard run.
The Hilltoppers took advantage of a fumbled snap on a Marengo punt on its next drive to start at the Indians’ 4-yard-line. Voss ran in untouched on a bootleg for the final score of the quarter.
The pace of the scoring let up in the second quarter with Iannantone running it in from five yards out to make it 35-0 with 8:27 to play.
Marengo had its best drive of the night on its next possession. The Indians started at their own 26 and moved the ball to the Joliet Catholic 18. However, Hilltoppers’ defensive back Malachi Hood forced a Holst fumble which Johnson scooped up and ran back 82 yards for a score that put the exclamation point on the first half and guaranteed a running clock in the second half. Running back Aaron Harvery finished the scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run in the second half.
“Malachi sacked the quarterback and he fumbled, and I was right there to pick it up and run it in,” Johnson said.
“Coach (Zach) Dolph called a blitz for Malachi, and you can really tell what a difference maker Malachi is because of how much ground he can cover and how much length he has. He got the ball out, and Jeremy was in the right place at the right time,” Joliet Catholic coach Jake Jaworski said.
The Hilltoppers only had 159 yards of offense in the half despite scoring 42 points, a tribute to the short fields provided by the defense.
“It’s a credit to the defense because it really helped us,” Anderson said. “The defense stopped them, and we got in and got out. It really helped us throughout the first half.”
“It was big for us. We didn’t have to travel much,” Iannantone said. “When you give our offense the ball with short yardage to get we are going to get that every single time. It was really nice. The defense held their own. They played really well.”
The defense has been without one of its key players in senior linebacker Robby Purchase who suffered a leg injury three weeks ago. Jaworski is pleased with how the adjustments have gone so far.
“It’s created a ripple effect for about three weeks now where we had to take an outside linebacker, Niko Wilhelm, and move him inside where he’s learning a new position which then thrust a junior, Bryant Weston, into a more prominent role. Those guys have been learning on the fly, but they are doing well,” Jaworski said.