JCA’s “Drive for 15” concludes in DeKalb after Hilltoppers rally past Richmond-Burton in Class 4A Semifinal

Drake Skleba for Joliet Catholic Academy

On a glorious fall afternoon, up along the Illinois-Wisconsin border, in Richmond, Illinois, Joliet Catholic Academy’s “Drive for 15” made a stop.

Opposing the Hilltoppers, was the defending Class 4A State Champion Rockets from Richmond-Burton.

The Rockets entered the game with a perfect 12-0 record, including a 32-game winning streak, for the colossal 4A Semifinal matchup with the undefeated Hilltoppers. The Hilltoppers were two wins away from the school’s unprecedented 15th IHSA Football State Championship. 

The Hilltoppers entered the game with an 18-game winning streak. 

The old cliche’ “something has to give” was very relevant on Saturday afternoon. 

The host Rockets (12-1) had just pulled to within 21-18 of the Hilltoppers with 8 minutes remaining in the game.

Richmond-Burton’s Steven Siegel’s (8 carries, 69 yards, 2 TD) sixteen-yard touchdown run, had pulled the Rockets within 21-16. Rocket fullback, Brock Wood (23 carries, 98 yards), blasted in from three-yards, successfully converting the two-point conversion, pulling the Rockets within 21-18. 

Ryan Louthan and Ian Williams convert on the game-saving play

With the huge Rocket crowd roaring, the Rockets almost executed a successful  on-side-kick. 

With the kick bouncing 6-feet in the air, Louthan re-directed the ball, by getting a hand on it, deflecting into the hands of a very elated senior defensive back, Ian Williams.

“It was a huge rush for me to make the huge recovery on the onside-kick,” Williams said. “Ryan (Louthan) batted the ball in the air and I grabbed it. It was great to get the interception in the second quarter, especially after dropping two last week against Genoa-Kingston.” Williams concluded. 

Jordan Anderson finishes off the Rockets

90 seconds later, Anderson (13 carries,141 yards, 2TD), capped-off a Hilltopper 52-yard scoring drive, when he raced 21-yards for a touchdown. After JCA sophomore place-kicker, Pat “Mr. Automatic” Durkin’s fourth of his five point-after- touchdowns, “The Hill” led 28-18.

Hilltopper junior defensive end Jeremy Johnson introduces himself to Rocket  quarterback Miller

Johnson would crush Richmond Burton quarterback Joe Miller, with a 17-yard loss quarterback sack, to put an end to the Rocket drive. 

In one of the most amazing touchdown runs, witnessed by this reporter, Anderson finished off the Rockets with a 20-yard rumble into the end zone. 

Count ’em! 

The 6-foot-3, 230 pound Anderson, broke several tackles, dragging the Rocket defense 12-yards into the end zone with him for a 20-yard touchdown run, extending the Hilltopper lead to 35-18 with 3:52 remaining in the game.

“This has been our dream  season,” Anderson said, “It feels great to be heading to DeKalb. 

“We are brothers on this team. Some of us have played together since 6th grade. As always, “Our Hogs’ led the way for us today. We want to run behind our “Hogs. Pound the rock and “do what we do” to achieve our goal. The 15th IHSA State Football Championship for JCA.” Anderson concluded. 

The host Rockets dominated time of possession over the Hilltoppers in the first half, running 34 plays to JCA’s 10.

After a scoreless first quarter, with 8:31 remaining in the half, Rocket halfback Steven Siegel  waltzed into the end zone from five yards out. After Rocket place-kicker Jeff Lehn’s point-after-touchdown, the Rockets led 7-0. 

The Hilltoppers tied the game at 7-7 on a 15-yard run from Class 4A All-State quarterback Aidan Voss (five carries, 41 yards, two TDs; 2-for-4, 63 yards). 

Lehn gave his Rockets the lead at 10-7 on a 26-yard field goal with 2:22 remaining in the first half. 

Richmond-Burton 10 JCA 7 Halftime. 

The Hilltoppers opened the third quarter behind the other half of The Deadly Duo”, Class 4A All-State halfback, Vinny Iannatone (12 carries, 128 yards, TD).

On the second play of the Hilltoppers opening second-half drive, Iannantone raced 65-yards to the end zone to regain the lead for JCA for good, 14-10. 

“Words cannot express how happy I am to be going to state ” Iannantone said. “It feels great to be heading to DeKalb. After my fumble to close out the first half, it felt so good to redeem myself,with the 65-yard touchdown run. Jordan is amazing and he showed that on his final touchdown in the fourth quarter. “The Hogs” blocked great today. Some of the holes they opened up, we could drive a truck through.” 

“We will celebrate tonight and then get back to work on Monday. We just have to “do what we do,” Iannantone concluded. 

“Feels great to be going to state. “The Hogs” blocked well tonight,” Hilltopper offensive tackle, Josh Jones said. “We will have a another great week of practice and we will go to DeKalb Friday!” 

Voss waltzed into the end zone from three-yards out for a 21-10 Hilltopper lead with 1:41 remaining in the third quarter.

“It is just an awesome feeling to be going to state,” Voss said. “All the hard work we have had, to be where we want to be next week. Josh (Jones) made an amazing block, which allowed me to score the second touchdown from three yards out. 

“I was rolling out to pass and was able to race into the end zone from 15 yards, on the second quarter touchdown. We celebrate tonight and then go back to work and “do what we do” on Monday.” 

Williams had a huge interception in the first half and Charlie O’Neil added a huge quarterback sack for the Hilltopper “D”. Senior corner Tajhaun McClellan also added a big interception in the endzone in the third quarter. 

Hilltopper senior wide receiver. Jake Fieldman had one pass reception for 51-yards, 

“It’s awesome to be heading to state,” Hilltopper head coach Jake Jaworski (JCA ’02) said. “I am proud of the way our kids played and how hard they worked for this. Richmond-Burton is a quality program and to win 32-consecutive games is a great accomplishment. I knew we were going to have our hands full today. After R-B did some good things in stopping our running game, we turned Jordan loose.” 

“Another quality program (Springfield Sacred-Heart Griffin), another Hall of Fame Head Coach (SHG’s Ken Leonard), next week, They have a high-powered offense, that gives our defense a different offensive look from what we faced today, 

“We will celebrate tonight and then get back to work tomorrow,” Jaworski concluded.

“The Drive for 15” concludes on Friday night. 

The Hilltoppers (13-0) will take on the Cyclones of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (12-1) at Northern Illinois University for the 2021 IHSA Class 4A State Championship on “Black Friday”, November 26th at 7 p.m. 

Way back in 1975, under the tutelage of the legendary Joliet Catholic head coach Gordie Gillespie, the Hilltoppers won their first IHSA State Football Championship.

The Hilltoppers defeated the then, all-male Cyclones of Springfield Griffin High School, 34-14.

Let’s hope for more of the same on Friday night to finish off “The Drive for 15”:

Hill Zone! Lets pack the JCA side of Huskie Stadium on Friday night!


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