Joliet Catholic has won 14 state football titles, the most in Illinois. There are eight schools with more overall victories, but six of those have played almost 20 more seasons.
So it would not be a stretch for the Hilltoppers to proclaim themselves the kings of Illinois high school football. But you would never think that while hanging around Joliet Catholic coach Jake Jaworski and his team on a typical afternoon.
The No. 7 Hilltoppers practice on a grass stretch in the middle of a rundown track far behind the school. It’s a strikingly different setting from Mount Carmel or Loyola.
But the expectations are not different. Joliet Catholic’s Class of 2022 has been highly-touted since it began high school and all the pieces are in place for the school to add another state championship trophy in November.
“We watched our teammates win state when we were freshmen,” Hilltoppers running back Jordan Anderson said. “We want to accomplish that as well. We are coming hard. We have one of the best teams in the state.”
Joliet Catholic has eight starters back on defense and five on offense. It’s a group of kids that grew up playing together.
Anderson, an Illinois recruit, is a physical force. The 6-3, 230-pound senior is just stronger and quicker than most high school football players.
“I can’t say enough about his work ethic,” Jaworski said. “He’s a leader by example. That work ethic is what separates him from everyone and puts him at another level.”
Senior quarterback Aidan Voss returns along with running backs Vinny Iannantone and Ryan Louthan and three starters on the offensive line.
“I’m super confident,” Voss said. “We’re going to go out there and do our thing and hopefully we can get that trophy.”
The Hilltoppers’ defense will have new starters in the secondary but Illinois recruit Malachi Hood will lead an established group at linebacker.
“We have a really hard-nosed group on defense,” Hood said. “The secondary will surprise people with how well they play together and how reliable they are.”
Joliet Catholic, which will likely be a Class 5A school in the playoffs, has a rugged schedule full of larger schools. The Hilltoppers open against Simeon and then travel to St. Louis to play Cardinal Ritter in Week 2. They will also face Providence, Crete-Monee, Brother Rice, and Montini.
Class 5A will be one of the best classes in the state, at least at the top. Joliet Catholic could be joined by St. Rita, Sacred Heart-Griffin, and Rochester as favorites for the state title.
Jaworski has won two state titles with the Hilltoppers, one as a player and one as a coach.
“[Winning the state title] doesn’t really get brought up much,” Jaworski said. “It’s not like we start our season and workouts saying state championship or bust. I was taught that it is the work ethic and preparation. If you do those things on a daily basis this is what could happen. So we don’t talk about it much.”
JOLIET CATHOLIC SCHEDULE
Aug. 27 vs. Simeon
Sep. 4 at St. Louis Cardinal Ritter
Sep. 10 vs. De La Salle
Sep. 17 vs. Providence
Sep. 24 vs. Crete-Monee
Oct. 1 vs. St. Laurence
Oct. 8 at Brother Rice
Oct. 15 at Benet
Oct. 22 at Montini