Goss: O-lines provide optimism for Joliet-area state quarterfinalists

SHARE Goss: O-lines provide optimism for Joliet-area state quarterfinalists
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A winning football team begins with a good offensive line.

If your line is mediocre or worse, the talents of your excellent skill players are wasted and opposing defenses lick their chops.

The Joliet area has five quarterfinalists in the state playoffs because their offensive lines are that good. All season, we’ve noted the impressive rushing statistics of Mike Ivlow (Joliet Catholic), Javier Montalvo (Lincoln-Way West), Dominic Lagone (Providence), Jordan Wirtz and Brian Casey (Lincoln-Way East) and Bo Taylor and Tommy Lovett (Seneca).

The backs get the glory. Certainly understandable. But their postgame comments suggest they understand how vital the line is to their success.

As strong as the opponents are, it’s conceivable any or all of Joliet Catholic, Providence, Lincoln-Way East, Lincoln-Way West and Seneca will win their quarterfinals Saturday. Each team not only boasts a solid O-line, but a leader on the line who ranks among that team’s best football players.

For Joliet Catholic (10-1), which will visit Montini (11-0) for its 5A quarterfinal, senior left guard JB Butler is that guy. He returned last week from an ankle fracture suffered in Week 5 and provided renewed optimism this may be the time the Hilltoppers derail four-time defending state champion Montini.

Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp calls Butler “the best offensive lineman we have ever had. He brings leadership. His enthusiasm is contagious. It’s all of that.”

“It feels great, like I never left,” Butler said. “I felt like a coach when I wasn’t playing. I was a guy everybody came to — and it sucked.”

Ivlow has rushed for 2,360 yards, 270 from eclipsing the school-record 2,629 set by Ty Isaac in 2011, and Nick Borgra is at 951. Kudos to the boys in the trenches.

“The guys did great when I was out,” Butler said. With him, the unit that includes center Nick Chavez, right guard Jalen Hansel, left tackle Tyler Witt and right tackle Justin Hunter is as good as it gets. Butler was the East Suburban Catholic Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2012 and Hunter is this year.

“What I noticed is it got a lot noisier with Butler back in the game,” Sharp said. “He is our vocal leader. He even drowns out Ivlow.”

Providence (7-4) will entertain East St. Louis (8-3) in a Class 6A quarterfinal. Right tackle Logan Plantz is the physical and emotional leader in the Celtics’ O-line. Center Dave Hermosillo is another key piece, along with Evan Carsten, Scott Hansen and Sean McGrath.

Not only is Lagone solid, but quarterback Justin Hunniford is throwing well behind a line coach Mark Coglianese calls “the strength of our team.”

Illinois recruit Nick Allegretti is the center at Lincoln-Way East. He could play center or guard for the Illini and is one of the top offensive line recruits in the midwest. Guards Noah Petraitis and Jim Griffin and tackles Tim Vyhnanek and Keith Gavin round out the East line.

Edwardsville (11-0) will be difficult to beat in the 7A quarterfinal, especially on its home turf. However, East (9-2) put up big numbers last week and has been scoring points in bunches.

Lincoln-Way West (10-1) will travel to Sycamore (11-0) for a 5A quarterfinal. The Spartans won the season opener between the two 34-21, but the Warriors’ offense continues to improve. Montalvo has rushed for 2,053 yards, basically in nine games, with the help of senior tackle Brennan Mulroe.

Coach Dave Ernst said Mulroe, who has not allowed a sack, “is the best O-lineman I have seen all year. Iowa (line) coach Brian Ferentz called him the best guard prospect in Illinois.”

Griffin Sullivan centers the West line, which includes guards Bryan Brokop and Jake Zola and tackle Jake Heckler.

Seneca (9-2) is home for its 3A quarterfinal against Aurora Christian (8-3), with two-way standout Brad Wyss leading the unit up front.

That’s where success begins.

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