Joliet Catholic too much for Sacred Heart-Griffin in Class 4A football state championship
DEKALB — The Sacred Heart-Griffin football team had seen some players as quick as Jordan Anderson.
But perhaps not as big and strong as the Joliet Catholic tailback.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior totaled 30 carries for 306 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 56-27 victory over the Cyclones in the Class 4A state championship game at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium on a chilly Friday night.
“There’s some guys in the NFL that’s not that big,” SHG coach Ken Leonard said.
Anderson, who is committed to University of Illinois, added two catches for 69 yards and one TD while setting a Class 4A title-game rushing record. Richmond Burton’s Jack Dechow had the previous 4A record with 244 rushing yards against Rochester in 2011. JCA’s Ty Isaac still holds the 5A championship rushing yards record with 515 from 2011 against Lombard Montini.
Also on Friday, JCA's all-state running back Vinny Iannantone compiled 131 rushing yards and two TDs, as well. “Like everybody says, we’re the dynamic duo in the state,” Anderson said. “It’s hard to stop me and Vinny.”
Anderson came into the night 1,238 rushing yards and 26 TDs but was largely limited throughout the season by injuries. That included a groin strain in Week 4 against New Lenox Providence Catholic and an ankle sprain after Week 7 against Chicago Brother Rice.
“I was just going to put my heart out there,” Anderson said. “Last game, I wasn’t going to hold back anything. I was going to do what I do and just go out there and play.
"I didn’t want to disappoint the team — just go out there and play with them for the last season.”
JCA MAKES EARLY RESPONSE
SHG junior receiver DeAndre Stewart set a Class 4A record with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to vault the Cyclones ahead 6-0 at the start.
“When that hole opened up, I just left my body,” Stewart said. “I was just running, running, running. I saw No. 10 coming, pushed him off me and dove into the end zone. It was unbelievable.”
JCA (14-0) responded with a 17-play drive that included two fourth-down conversions. Anderson’s 2-yard TD run capped the Hilltoppers' first possession on fourth-and-goal to go ahead 7-6 with 5:24 left in the first quarter.
That lead grew to 35-6 with 1:18 remaining in the second quarter following Iannantone’s short TD run.
“We came in like that against Brother Rice,” Anderson said. “They were up 14-0 and it just went through our head we have that fire inside of us and we weren’t just going to let it go. It’s easy to just give up like that. We just kept on going, fighting through it and that’s what we did.”
SHG SHOWS CHARACTER
SHG junior quarteback Ty Lott and junior receiver Madixx Morris connected on three straight passes, including a 6-yard TD pass with 44 seconds left to end the first half trailing 35-13.
SHG senior Tommy Thoma recovered the onside kick to begin the second half, and Lott threw a 30-yard TD pass to junior KeShon Singleton to bring the Cyclones to within 35-20 with 10:28 left in the third quarter.
“We just got into the locker room, and coach told us to believe,” Morris said. “We had to believe we would get it done and we got the onside and we got the momentum but then when it came down to the end, we couldn’t get a stop.
“We just know we need to get in the weight room. We know we have to work. … We have a whole year ahead of us. I think we’ll be back.”
Lott went 14-for-23 for 210 yards and three TDs. Morris had five catches for 105 yards and two TDs.
“I feel like it just shows the character of all of our players on the team,” Lott said. “Nobody ever gave up on the sideline. We kept our energy up trying to come back.”
SHG senior lineman Noah Gray said there’s nothing to be sad about going 12-2 overall.
“It was tricky in the beginning,” Gray said of getting the team to mesh early in the season. “We had some struggles, but we got it together. Tyaire really stepped up and did his job and made plays.”
Leonard lauded his team’s first state run since 2016.
“No one expected us to get here, and I’m just so proud of them,” Leonard said. “The kids hung in there. We had a lot of injuries early on, but Joliet Catholic is a great program and great team. I have the utmost respect for them.”
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