High School Football: JCA five-TD blitz sinks Vikings’ ship on opening night
By Steve Metsch
An unlikely 3 minutes and 27 seconds proved to be decisive in St. Laurence’s season opener against Joliet Catholic, as the Hilltoppers during that span scored five touchdowns to pull away during a 49-0 victory on March 19.
The Hilltoppers’ defense set up the first touchdown and scored the following two in a span of 20 seconds during the second quarter to blow open a 7-0 game. JCA added two more scores — also aided by its “D” — soon afterward, giving them five touchdowns in less than three-and-half-minutes.
“Really proud of our guys. Awesome job,” said Joliet Catholic coach Jake Jaworski said. “They came out ready to play, fired up.
The Vikings, a 5A playoff qualifier last season in coach Adam Nissen’s first year with the program, lost more than the game. They also lost senior quarterback and third-year starter Darius Wilson.
Wilson injured his right knee during a run late in the first quarter. He left the game and had his knee wrapped, and he was visibly limping.
“I’ll be alright,” he said.
Nissen declined to speculate on the injury, saying Wilson will have an MRI.
“Seeing one of your senior leaders go out hurt, I think we were a little shellshocked,” Nissen said. “We’ve got to do a better job responding.”
The Vikings’ nightmare began with a fumble. On the next play, JCA quarterback Aidan Voss threw an 18-yard scoring strike to Jake Fieldman for a 14-0 lead with 3:40 left in the first half.
Fourteen seconds later, Hilltoppers senior Jabril Williams picked off Brandon McCoy, who had replaced Wilson, and raced 40 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
McCoy finished with 12 rushes for 33 yards.
Williams, whose hit sidelined Wilson, said he wasn’t planning to score after his second interception.
“I just thought of getting as many yards as I could for the offense, but my teammates tell me to never give up on a play,” Williams said. “That’s their touchdown as much as mine.”
Jaworski called Williams the most dynamic defensive player he’s seen in 20-plus years with JCA.
“His speed, his coverage, his hitting ability. He’s impressive,” he said.
On the Vikings’ ensuing possession, running back Matt Ochoa (17 carries, 52 yards) fumbled at his own 20 yard line. JCA senior defensive end Pat Strocchia recovered it and returned it for the visitors’ third touchdown in 20 seconds and a 28-0 lead.
St. Laurence committed six turnovers.
“They did a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities,” Nissen said.
“We didn’t help ourselves. We didn’t take care of the ball. They put the ball into the end zone, so hats off to them.”
On the next series, a bad snap sailed over McCoy’s head. Joliet Catholic recovered at the 18, and junior running back Vinny Iannantone shortly thereafter ran untouched for another score and a 35-0 lead with 2:16 left in the half.
“Things kind of snowballed,” Jaworski said. “We took advantage.”
Joliet Catholic outgained the Vikings, 354 yards to 122.
Another fumble by Ochoa and recovery by Strocchia set up the last score of the barrage. Anderson strolled in from the 2 for a 42-0 lead with 13 seconds to play in the half.
JCA was led by running back Jordan Anderson, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior who carried 14 times for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
Anderson credited the Hilltoppers’ stingy defense for turning the momentum in the second quarter.
“That’s what we do at ‘The Hill’,” Anderson said. “We work so hard for this moment. We came here prepared and just dominated.”
St. Laurence plays at Nazareth at noon this Saturday.
Sports editor Jason Maholy contributed to this story.