CHAMPAIGN—Joliet Catholic’s running game was a known quantity heading into the season. The Hilltoppers’ running back tandem of Kenyetta Williams and Keenan Hailey earned several preseason accolades.
Williams suffered a season-ending injury Week 1. Hailey had a fantastic season behind Joliet Catholic’s talented, experienced offensive line. That line stepped up in a big way in the Class 5A state title game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Hailey suffered an injury in the first half, but it didn’t matter. Senior Nick Iannantone rushed for 318 yards and three touchdowns to help give the Hilltoppers a 35-27 win.
“When [Hailey] went down I just kept my composure,” Iannantone said. “I was getting pretty tired but I just kept giving it my all. Props to the guys up front, they blocked a great game.”
Seniors Colin Cox, Dave Monnot, Ryan Laule and Ty O’Janovac are all three-year starters on the offensive line for Joliet Catholic (10-4). Conor Kovas is a 6-1, 275-pound junior.
Our guys up front took over the game in the second half when we needed to,” Hilltoppers coach Jake Jaworski said. “The defense made the big stop when it had to.”
Montini (12-2) had a chance to tie the game in the final minutes but Joliet Catholic stopped the Broncos on the seven-yard line, holding strong on a fourth and goal with four seconds to play.
“We just didn’t want to let them in the end zone,” Hilltoppers senior Mundo Meyer said. “So we were giving them everything underneath and the cards fell where they did.”
Meyer, a team captain, was a water boy for Joliet Catholic in 2012.
This is what Hilltopper Football is all about: Family. Current Sr. captain Mundo Meyer as a water boy back in 2012, looking up to running backs Ty Isaac and Tyler Reitz. Mundo will help lead the Hilltoppers in this Saturday’s State Championship game vs. Montini pic.twitter.com/mczw9uiCJC— JCA Football (@HilltoppersFB) November 20, 2018
Hailey had 18 carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Hilltoppers quarterback Jordan Alvarez was 1 for 3 passing for 15 yards.
““We’ve been a very athletic defense but we are smaller up front,” Montini coach Mike Bukovsky said. “We knew this was going to be a difficult matchup.”
Illinois recruit Nick Fedanzo had 17 carries for 189 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Robert Brazziel was 10 for 22 for 163 yards. Deontay Bell, the Broncos’ running quarterback, had seven carries for 108 yards a touchdown.
The Hilltoppers have won a state record 14 football championships. Five different coaches have won the titles. This is Jaworski’s first. Gordie Gillespie won five, Jim Boyter and Bob Stone each won one and Dan Sharp won six.