The stage was set for a competitive matchup. The bleachers were packed on both sides as St. Viator hosted Joliet Catholic in a Friday night battle of state-ranked East Suburban Catholic Conference teams at Forest View in Arlington Heights.
In impressive fashion, the Hilltoppers (5-1, 2-1), the top-ranked Class 5A team, routed the Lions 48-19.
St. Viator (4-2, 2-2), ranked 10th in 6A, began the battle with an opening onside kick and the ball was recovered by Louie Capozzoli.
However, on the next play Lions' quarterback Cameron Korab threw an interception to Hilltoppers' senior linebacker Michael Mettille.
When the Hilltoppers stepped off the bus, they came running right away. On the second play of the Hilltoppers' offensive drive, senior tailback Josh Ferguson dashed for a 27-yard touchdown run.
The Hilltoppers, led by Ferguson's 6 carries and 190 yards with two touchdowns, ran for a 346 yards on the ground. Junior Malin Jones added 91 yards rushing with a touchdown, as well as senior quarterback Breshion Tucker (3 carries, 21 yards; 71-yard touchdown pass).
"I got to give most thanks to the lineman," the Illinois-bound Ferguson said. "It's good to have the support from the other guys on the ground in other assignments. I learned a lot about my (running strategy) from my father."
Besides the 48-point total that the Hilltoppers registered in the first half, the defense held the Lions to 7 points in the first two quarters. They forced 4 interceptions, 2 fumbles and 2 turnovers on downs.
Mettille recorded a sack and an interception, while senior linebacker Andrew Elliott returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown.
"We knew they were going to run a lot of no-huddle, and try to control the tempo of the game," said Hilltoppers' head coach Dan Sharp. "We've had pretty some good competition with Carmel and Mundelein on our schedule.
"We played good team defense causing a lot of problems for (St. Viator's) offense. Everyone here is capable of working hard."
Even though the Lions' defense displayed problems with stopping the Hilltoppers' run game, they moved the ball quite well offensively.
Korab sustained a concussion on the first drive, so backup Frank Laterza filled in by completing 17 of 29 passes for 216 yards and rushing 7 times for 77 yards and a touchdown. Tailback Jimmy Menges ran for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"They're a good football team," said Lions head coach Chris Kirkpatrick. "We've been winning the turnover battles all year until today. We need to just keep playing."