One play can swing an entire football game, and for Joliet Catholic at Carmel, that play occurred as the first half was expiring.
With 1.5 seconds left in the half, Hilltoppers quarterback Cade Earl found sophomore running back Michael Johnson for a 44-yard touchdown, turning a four-point game into an 11-point game.
JCA then turned in a 12-play, 80-yard drive to start the third quarter, helping lead the Hilltoppers to a 34-14 win on Friday in the East Suburban Catholic opener for both teams.
“It is a play that elevates us, especially since we’re going to get the ball after the half,” JCA coach Dan Sharp said. “It really takes the wind out of their sails. It was a four-point game, anybody’s game. I’m sure it stung going into the half.
I know how I would have felt. I’ve seen some of those with (former Montini star Jordan Westerkamp), so I know exactly how that feels. That was a great play by our kid, who just made a tremendous play to get into the end zone.”
It was the first of three straight scores for Johnson as the Hilltoppers (2-1) pulled away. His one-yard run at the start of the third capped that long drive. He added a 30-yard touchdown run with 3:13 left in the third in which he went untouched to pay dirt and opened a 31-6 lead.
Johnson rushed for 176 yards on 18 carries and caught two passes for 54 yards to lead JCA. Senior running back Nick Borgra added 103 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and fullback Drew Voss added 61 yards on the ground. Joliet Catholic ran for 296 yards.
“A lot of people key on Borgra with his experience from last year, being a senior,” Sharp said. “Now the junior Johnson opened us up. That’s going to make us balanced. I think Voss in the middle, too, gives us a nice three-man punch. I think we’re getting back to our old double wing days when we had the three-back attack.”
Sophomore Rondel Jamison had a big game for the Corsairs (1-2), rushing for 150 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown. But Carmel was limited offensively aside from a handful of big plays by Joliet Catholic’s tough defense.
Carmel passed for only 13 yards.
“Joliet’s momentum was like a train,” Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. “We had to three-and-out them (to start the third) to get back into the game. That didn’t happen. They got an 80-yard drive and chewed up half the quarter and now we were down three scores. That’s rough against a great team.
They’re like us, ball control and clock control, so when you’re three scores down to them, you’re really asking for it.”