Here’s a closer look at the two teams squaring off in the Class 4A title game.
Joliet Catholic (13-0)
Head coach: Jake Jaworski (40-14, 5 years)
Last State Title Game Appearance: 2018, won against Montini 35-27 (Class 5A)
The Path to State
• defeated Marengo 48-0
• defeated Wheaton Academy 48-14
• defeated Genoa-Kingston 42-7
• defeated Richmond-Burton 35-18
Vinny Iannantone, RB: Nagging injuries have kept backfield mate Jordan Anderson from shouldering a full load at times this season, but Iannantone has been a bull for the Hilltoppers all year long. When both are healthy and going, which they are now, they make for an impressive running back duo that almost no one can match up with.
Malachi Hood, LB: The University of Illinois bound Hood doesn’t have eye popping stats this season, but two factors probably contribute to that. Lopsided scores in favor of the Hilltoppers mean Hood rarely sees the field for full games and opponents are more than aware that running into Hood’s area doesn’t end well.
Jake Fieldman, WR: Joliet Catholic rarely finds itself in situation where it has to throw the football, but if it does find the need it has an excellent option in Fieldman. The rapport with quarterback Aidan Voss is apparent and Fieldman has a knack for finding opening space and utilizing great hands to make big plays.
• Joliet Catholic’s rushing attack has piled up over 4,400 yards this season and frequently has multiple runners that amass over 100 yards in a game. In one game this season against Wheaton Academy, JCA had four runners crack the century mark.
• A win in the state title game would give Joliet Catholic 15 state titles. The Hilltoppers already have the most state titles in the state, but another one would distance them further from the schools closest to them: Mt. Carmel (13 titles) and Providence (10).
• Joliet Catholic currently owns the state’s longest winning streak at 19 games. The Hilltoppers snapped the previous longest winning streak in the state owned by Richmond-Burton at 32 games with their win in the semifinals.
Joliet Catholic’s season has been very successful but the Hilltoppers might readily admit they still haven’t put their best foot forward for all four quarters in any game this season. Part of that is that they haven’t real had to. One wonders how the Hilltoppers will respond if an opponent throws a really big challenge at them or if anyone can.
Sacred Heart-Griffin (12-1)
Head coach: Ken Leonard (405-78, 42 years)
Last State Title Game Appearance: 2016, lost against Prairie Ridge 48-17 (Class 6A)
The Path to State
• defeated Columbia 49-13
• defeated Civic Memorial 42-7
• defeated Breese Central 55-14
• defeated Rochester 49-42
Ty Lott, QB: Lott fires the ball over of the field and with three more than capable pass catchers it is super difficult to figure out where Lott will be putting the ball on the field. He’s just short of 3,000 yards passing with 42 scores and has tossed just two interceptions while completing 75 percent of his passes.
Cory West, LB: The Cyclones have an active defensive front with three players that have piled up over 100 tackles on the season. West leads the way with 121 tackles and is also part of a unit that has a knack for forcing turnovers.
Madixx Morris, WR: While the Cyclones have two other receivers with more receptions, Morris tends to make the most of his catches and makes a number of electric grabs and turns small gains into large ones.
• Sacred Heart-Griffin spreads its scoring around, so much so, that the team’s leading scorer is placekicker Mason Grove, who has kicked 83 extra points this season to go along with a trio of field goals.
• The Cyclones have scored at least 40 points in every game this season and have surpassed the 50-point barrier seven times.
• Sacred Heart-Griffin has notched 411 first half points this season.
Sacred Heart-Griffin is as good as anyone in trading points with opponents and usually things come out in its favor. That might be a challenge this week against a high octane opponent in their own right, but there’s little rationale in the Cyclones slowing things down as they are at their best when they play fast.