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Jordan Anderson dominates as Joliet Catholic beats Sacred Heart-Griffin to win Class 4A

Illinois recruit Jordan Anderson set a Class 4A record with 306 rushing yards, and his team increased its record of state titles to 15. 

Joliet Catholic’s Jordan Anderson (23) carries the ball.
Joliet Catholic’s Jordan Anderson (23) carries the ball.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

DeKALB — Joliet Catholic’s massive offensive linemen make the initial push. They are so effective that running back Jordan Anderson often bursts through the line of scrimmage untouched.

Then Anderson’s uncommon combination of size and speed takes over as he sheds linebackers and defensive backs. The Illinois recruit was unstoppable in the Hilltoppers’ 56-27 victory against Sacred Heart-Griffin in the Class 4A state championship at Huskie Stadium on Friday.

Anderson set a Class 4A record with 306 rushing yards, and the Hilltoppers increased their record of state titles to 15.

“I just gave it everything I had,” Anderson said. “I have to thank the hogs up front. I couldn’t do it without them or without [running back Vinny Iannantone].”

Anderson had 30 carries and four rushing touchdowns. He also had two receptions for 69 yards and a TD.

“He’s special,” Cyclones coach Ken Leonard said. “He’s just so strong. We’ve seen guys that fast, but he’s 230 pounds. There are guys in the NFL that aren’t that big.’’

Joliet Catholic (14-0) led 35-13 at halftime but actually trailed 6-0 after Cyclones junior Deandre Stewart returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.

Quarterback Aidan Voss, whose dad quarterbacked the 1987 Joliet Catholic state championship team, was 4-for-9 passing for 95 yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s just a whole team effort,” Anderson said. “We came in last spring and grinded it out. We did it for everybody. We executed.”

Anderson wasn’t Joliet Catholic’s only effective rusher. Iannantone had 23 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’m just incredibly proud of this group,” Hilltoppers coach Jake Jaworski said. “This senior class is special. They are awesome. You can see the emotion on their faces. They had a target on their back from Day 1, and they came through.”

The Hilltoppers’ offensive line (Josh Jones, Paul Ragusa, Niko Paolino, Anthony Birsa, Lucas Sarotori) measures in at an average of 6-3, 280 pounds. Sacred Heart-Griffin’s defensive line is only 5-11, 195. So the mismatch was obvious even on paper. Anderson himself is uncommonly big for a high school running back at 6-3, 230 pounds.

“They call me and Jordan one of the deadliest duos in the state,” Iannantone said. “We solidified that tonight. Those guys up front push; they drive those guys.”

Sacred Heart-Griffin quarterback Ty Lott, a junior, found his footing in the second half and helped keep the game from turning into a total blowout. He finished 14-for-23 for 210 yards with three touchdown passes and one interception.

Joliet Catholic’s players celebrate after receiving the Class 4A state championship trophy.
Joliet Catholic’s players celebrate after receiving the Class 4A state championship trophy.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

“They have some real special players,” Leonard said. “They were men tonight. They were good.”

Joliet Catholic had 30 first downs and 468 rushing yards. The Hilltoppers held Sacred Heart-Griffin to 11 rushing yards.

“We have a pretty strong community, and anytime you get here, you don’t take this for granted,” Jaworski said. “It’s not easy. That’s one thing people don’t understand. I give a lot of credit to our coaches and players and school community.”

According to Jaworski, 18 of Joliet Catholic’s 21 coaches are alums or played in college at the University of St. Francis in Joliet.

“The tradition runs deep,” Jaworski said. “We are very proud of that.”

The Hilltoppers were 6-0 in the shortened spring season, which didn’t have any playoffs.

“We should have won the state title last year, so this one is for them, too,” Joliet Catholic linebacker Michael Rouse said.