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Photo courtesy of Ken Dado
Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp gives quarterback Cade Earl instructions Friday against Notre Dame.

Joliet Catholic runs past Notre Dame

2nd half ground attack leads to win


By Ben Stram and Ed Muniz

JOLIET -- The East Suburban Catholic Conference saw its football champion crowned Friday. Almost certainly the first player to don that crown would have to be Joilet Catholic senior running back Michael Ivlow. His four touchdowns and 299 rushing yards (29 carries) were the main ingredient in the Hilltoppers 37-14 win over visiting Notre Dame at ATI Memorial Field.
The Hilltoppers improved to 7-1, 5-1. Notre Dame (6-2, 3-2) and all other conference foes can do no better than a 4-2 league record.
The visitors dominated much of the first half and controlled the clock. The Dons conducted a good mix of running and passing plays that had the Hilltopper defense chasing from sideline to sideline. Notre Dame accumulated more than 250 yards of offense in the first half led by senior quarterback Ryan Greene (12 of 16 passing, 153 yards) and senior running back Chris James (160 yards, 19 carries).

James two touchdowns, which included a 60-yard sprint, led Notre Dame to a 14-14 tie at intermission.  Unfortunately for the Dons, James was kept quiet the rest of the game.
Joliet Catholic's offense had little success in the first half.  Eventually the Hilltoppers settled on the power running game in the second half with Ivlow leading the way.

“We all talked about it at halftime. We just all talked of needing some big runs. We came together and decided we need to get this done,”  Ivlow said.
“This past off season we worked on my vision and my speed a lot; I kinda got mad I got tackled at 1-yard line but our whole line makes the biggest hole I’ve ever seen. We have three sophomores and two seniors starting, and they have done a hell of a job all year. We figured out what they (the Dons) were running defensively and came around and stuck to the plays that worked.”
The effort was impressive given the injuries Joliet Catholic has experienced on the offensive line. Head coach Dan Sharp was quite happy with the results.
“I thought our young guys in the line stepped up with the inexperience we had there filling in for some of the injured players,” said Sharp.  “They really came of age today and that was a big part of how well the line played. We ran to all sides they all played so well.
"Right and left tackles Justin Hunter and Tyler Witt, our center (Nick) Chavez played well. I thought the whole line all played well as did our ends.”
In the second half, Notre Dame received the kickoff and drove downfield for more than six minutes. The Dons drive stymied at the Joliet Catholic 15 yard-line. After a failed 32-yard field goal attempt,Notre Dame seemed to lose steam.
Big plays in the Joliet Catholic offense followed between the tackles. They included two touchdowns from Ivlow -- a 69-yard burst and 2-yard run that came between 40-yard touchdown runs that wore down the Notre Dame defense.
With a 28-14 Joliet Catholic lead midway through the third quarter, Notre Dame’s Ryan Greene threw a pass off the mark from his own 20 yard-line into Hilltopper Brandon Bolek’s hands to seal the deal. Mike Gruben had seven tackles, and Joe Frescura had two quarterback sacks to pace the host's defense.
“I credit my D-linemen taking on those offensive linemen to give me some room to scrap and make plays,” said Gruben. “It makes it so much easier. I think my short stature makes it hard to see me at times, but it's instincts that take over. You pick it up over time and get really good at it. We took a shot to the face early; we came back out and started punching and had a great stand and great game.”
Notre Dame was led by Shaun Mulcrone with four tackles and a forced fumble and Pat McDonaugh’s five tackles.
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