Sacked five times Friday night, Jack Beneventi stood tall, shrugged it off -- and kept throwing.
"I don't mind getting hit," said Benet's 6-foot-6 sophomore quarterback. "It's going to happen."
Beneventi and Benet sure showed they could take a punch.
Down 14 points early at Joliet Catholic, trailing in the second half for just the second time all season, the Redwings rallied for a 31-21 win to claim their first East Suburban Catholic Conference championship.
This group clearly can handle adversity. Benet (8-1, 5-1), 1-8 a year ago, turned it around with its most wins since 1997 and first league title since winning the Catholic Metro Green in 1998.
"It's one of the biggest accomplishments I've ever had in my life," said Benet senior receiver Jack Euritt, who caught 10 passes for 171 yards with 3 touchdowns. "For this team to go 1-8 our freshman year, and then 1-8 again our junior year, to turn it around and win conference is unbelievable. We worked so hard in the off-season and it means everything to us."
Beneventi is a big reason for that bounce-back. The big kid with a quick release, 28 of 35 for 390 yards and 4 touchdowns Friday, threw scoring strikes of 5 and 20 yards to favorite target Euritt to get Benet back to 14-14 in the second quarter. But he also threw 2 interceptions in the first half, the second leading to Tyler Reitz's 3-yard touchdown run for Joliet Catholic (5-4, 4-3) to make it 21-14 right before halftime.
Beneventi didn't miss much after that.
Completing his last 13 passes of the night, Beneventi led touchdown drives of 87 and 94 yards to tie and take the lead. He hit the 6-foot-4 Euritt in stride on a deep post for a 40-yard touchdown, tying it 21-21 with 1:36 left in the third quarter.
"Euritt, he's a gamer," Beneventi said. "He makes it so easy for me."
"He plays like a senior," Benet coach Pat New said of Beneventi. "He has such poise, and he doesn't mind getting hit."
Joliet Catholic, with USC-bound running back Ty Isaac sidelined by a groin injury, was poised to reclaim the lead on its next drive. The Hilltoppers drove inside the Benet 10, but on a third-down run Pat Runger jarred the ball loose from Reitz and Crain pounced on it.
"That's all Pat Runger," said Crain, never far from the ball. "I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time and fell on it."
Beneventi and Co. knew what to do with it. Driving 94 yards in 11 plays, he hit a leaping Euritt for an 18-yard gain on third down, and three plays later he found Joe Batina for a 33-yard gainer. Then on third-and-14 he connected with Nick Surges for 18. One play later it was Crain catching a play-action pass from 3 yards out for the go-ahead score.
After a Tim Veselik interception, John Duvic provided the clinching points courtesy of a 33-yard field goal.
"I knew how tough this game would be. The first thing I told the team on Saturday was, 'This is Joliet Catholic we're playing,'" New said, "and these guys know how to hit. I was getting a little worried in the first quarter, that their offense would just roll and it could get out of hand, but our kids have such heart. They really battled back."