Benet blanked at Joliet Catholic, faces must-win next week
It would have been easy to understand if there were any ill effects from last week's double-overtime loss to Brother Rice for Joliet Catholic Academy on Friday night when they took on Benet Academy at Busey Bank Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
However, there weren't any.
If anything, the Hilltoppers took out their frustrations on the Redwings, dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and ending the night with a punishing 41-0, homecoming victory.
Running back H.J. Grigsby was not able to play much last week, but he returned to full-time status this week. He got behind the Hilltoppers' massive offensive line, spearheaded by Northwestern-bound Anthony Birsa, and ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
"I love playing football, and it felt great to be back and feel like a part of the team again," Grigsby said. "I got great blocking all night. Those guys up front don't get a lot of credit all the time, but they do the dirty work for us."
Under a steady rain early, neither team scored on its first two possessions, but JCA took over at the Benet 26 after a short Redwing punt. Grigsby ran three times for 23 yards before fullback Hunter Powell bulled his way into the end zone from 3 yards out, and Patrick Durkin's kick gave JCA (6-2) a 7-0 lead.
For much of the first half, the Hilltoppers utilized Powell's 6-foot, 235-pound frame and straight-ahead running style to their advantage. He had all 11 of his carries, which gained 64 yards, in the first half while the rain was falling.
"The weather in the first half made us use Hunter Powell more," JCA coach Jake Jaworski said. "He is more of a straight-ahead runner. We actually put him at tailback in the I [-formation] a few times. I know I wouldn't want to be in the secondary and see him coming at me with a 7-yard head start."
The JCA defense, which held Benet to 10 total yards, then came up big when Bryan Weston intercepted a Benet pass and returned it 32 yards to the Redwings' 8. Grigsby scored on the first play, and the Hilltoppers led 14-0 with: 16 left in the first quarter.
Benet (4-4) punted to the JCA 17, and the Hilltoppers embarked on an 11-play drive, highlighted by a 25-yard pass from T.J. Schlageter to Grigsby. Powell ran six times for 41 yards on the drive, including the last 4 for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
The defense forced another punt, and JCA took over at its own 27 with 2:08 to go in the first half. Grigsby did all the work on the drive, as he had carries of 8, 4, 3 and 5 yards, and Benet was whistled for a 5-yard face mask penalty to put the ball at the Redwing 48. Then, Grigsby broke a tackle and outran the Benet defense for a 48-yard touchdown with 1:02 left before halftime.
The defensive line was a constant for the Hilltoppers, spending nearly as much time in the Benet backfield as the Redwings themselves. Jeremy Johnson, Dillan Johnson, Billy Burke and Mitchell Ragusa all recorded sacks and multiple tackles for loss. When Benet quarterback Jacob Hoeppel wasn't being sacked, he was under constant pressure. As a result, he completed just 1 of 9 passes for 6 yards.
The loss drops Benet to 4-4, meaning it's a must-win next week against Nazareth Academy to get into the playoffs.
"This was a rough one," Benet coach Patrick New said. "We are pretty decimated by injuries, and this isn't a team you want to play when you have guys out.
"[Next week is] two 4-4 teams going at it, just like last year. They got us last year, so we hope to return the favor. Next week is basically a playoff game for us."