A high school football coach with a potential All-America running back in his arsenal naturally is careful to give due credit to the rest of the cast.
But when Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp says, “We are not just a one-man show,” he is not blowing smoke by any means.
The Hilltoppers naturally feature wingback Ty Isaac, who committed in the spring to USC. Anyone who questioned Isaac’s ability was converted after his 515-yard, six-touchdown effort in the 70-45 loss to Montini in the 2011 Class 5A state championship game.
However, senior wingback Tyler Reitz, the fullback last season, is no slouch himself. Sharp called him “as good a runner as there is.”
Junior Mike Ivlow, a transfer from Minooka, will provide quickness to the fullback spot, with senior Nate Dollinger available in that all-important position as well. If Ivlow wins the regular fullback job, Dollinger, whom Sharp termed “a power guy,” can be used in various other roles.
Then there’s the passing game. Senior Craig Slowik returns after an excellent junior year, and he can target Isaac along with three tall, athletic ends in junior Zach Rezin, Oswego transfer Jordan Jones and baseball standout Chris Tschida, who did not play football last season.
“They’re all excellent receivers,” Sharp said.
For a change of pace, the Hilltoppers also can spell Slowik with the athleticism of junior Nick Morrison.
“Nick has improved tremendously this year,” Sharp said. “He gives us a fourth running back when he gets in there.”
Joliet Catholic broke multiple school offensive records last season and may again thanks in no small part to the large, quality offensive line being constructed under the direction of veteran line coach Dave Douglas.
Junior J.B. Butler, a starter last season, can play left tackle or guard. Junior Jalen Hansel is set at right guard. Senior Lino Bibian will be the center. Junior Justin Hunter is the right tackle but could play center. Junior guard Brody Fay and 305-pound sophomore Deandre Ford will battle for time.
“We’re not just a one-man show (Isaac),” Sharp said. “But if we were, we’d be pretty good there, too.”
The Hilltoppers will not face many more productive offenses than their own. The key as they pursue state championship No. 14, which would be their first since 2007, is defense.
The candidates in the defensive line include Xavier Hernandez, a transfer from Joliet Township, seniors Cody Beck and Max Terlep and juniors Anthony McInerney and Anthony Vaccariello. Junior linebackers Ben Hart, a transfer from Morris, and Nick Bolek could slide into the line, and Butler and Hansel will help there on occasion.
Returning starter Matt Madrigal and Clayton Smith are the inside linebackers, with Rezin and junior Kevin Jensen outside. Senior Ira Hughes will provide depth.
Doug Difusco, a transfer from Neuqua Valley, and senior Grant Harrison man the corners, with senior Keith Craig and junior Zack Jackovich the primary safety candidates.
Reitz and sophomore Brian Bravo can kick and also punt.