Shortly before any current Joliet Catholic football player was born, Wendy’s introduced the infamous “Where’s the Beef?” commercial.
What could Wendy’s have known?
When the Hilltoppers open their season Friday night against Providence at Joliet Memorial Stadium, the five behemoths on the offensive line will average 6-foot-3, 295 pounds or just under 6-2 and 282. It depends whether 6-5, 330-pound junior tackle DeAndre Ford, who has resumed practice after an injury, is ready.
Guards J.B. Butler (6-3, 280) and Jalen Hansel (6-2, 290) are third-year starters. Sophomore Tyler Witt (6-3, 275) is a tackle. Returning starter Justin Hunter (6-2, 300), also in his third varsity season, will be at tackle or center, depending on Ford’s status. Center Nick Chavez (5-10, 265) also is in the mix.
There’s the beef, and it’s athletic.
“This is an old-style Joliet Catholic team, with the big offensive line and hard-running backs,” linebacker/tight end Zach Rezin said.
The Hilltoppers were 8-5 in 2012, the injury-plagued season ending in a 40-37 loss to Montini the Class 5A semifinals. Gone is All-American running back Ty Isaac, now at Southern California. Taking up the slack are Michael Ivlow at left halfback, a combination of junior Nick Borgra and senior Nick Pastore at right halfback, Ben Hart at fullback and Nick Morrison at quarterback.
Yes, Morrison included. He is a dual threat. Last year’s quarterback, Craig Slowik, was a passer — and no slouch. He is playing Division I ball at Buffalo.
Morrison can get the ball to big-time receiver Jordan Jones and to Rezin, but he is different.
“I think coach (Dan) Sharp is in his comfort zone with a running quarterback,” Butler said. “This offense is different, a better fit.”
Sharp is pleased with what he’s seen.
“We couldn’t have a better group,” he said. “The guys have a good work ethic, a cohesive chemistry. It reminds you of Gordie’s (Gillespie’s) teams of the 1970s and our teams in the early 2000s. We may not have D-Is in the skill positions, but we have good-size and athletic lines.
“We just have to stay healthy.”
Up front on defense, size again is noteworthy. Ken Aguirre and Xavier Hernandez are at ends, with Nick Bolek, Butler and Chase Krumviede in the rotation inside and Anthony McInerney able to play end or tackle.
“I’m excited about us playing old-school football and me not coming off the field much,” Butler said.
Middle linebacker Kevin Jensen, the leading tackler last season, is flanked by Rezin and Brad Krisch, with Brendan O’Brien and Danny Weis at cornerback and Jackson Shanklin and Brandon Bolek at safety.
Jake Jaworski is in his first season as defensive coordinator.
“We’ve been good stopping the run,” Rezin said. “We’ve struggled stopping the pass, which everyone knows.
“ ‘Jaws’ was a strong safety here and MVP of the state championship game. He understands the speed of the game. Obviously, he will help us there.”
Junior kicker Brian Bravo is better than ever. “He has been booming the ball in practice,” Sharp said.