JCA Hilltoppers & Michael Ivlow Will Continue Their Winning Ways

JCA Hilltoppers & Michael Ivlow Will Continue Their Winning Ways
JCA Michael Ivlow (30) Celebrates vs Tinley Park 2012 IHSA Playoffs (Image: Michael Ciric)

Joliet Catholic Academy's (JCA) 8-5 record last season were the most losses for Head Coach Dan Sharp since his inaugural season at the helm in 1997-1998. And despite those 5 losses the Hilltoppers pushed eventual IHSA Class 5A State Champion Lombard Montini to the limit in their State Semi-Final Playoff Game before losing 40-37 late in one of the most exciting games of the year at ATI Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium.

As the 2013-2014 is set to begin one must be reminded that the Hilltoppers will look somewhat different this year as two of its potent backfield weapons have been lost to graduation; Ty Issac is off to the University of Southern California (USC) to showcase his talents for eager Trojan fans while Tyler Reitz will no doubt be an impact football player for the Siena Heights Saints in Adrian, Michigan.

While I will miss that explosive talent of Ty Issac, I will probably miss Tyler Reitz a tad more as I have watched his development since the days he played on an undefeated Steelers Team in Plainfield Junior Cats with my son. Not only is Tyler a classy kid but one who built upon his talents year after year. SHU is fortunate to have him because he will elevate it to yet another level while there.

But I guess I have been fortunate over the years as I have gotten to know and watch so many of the area players who exhibit all the same qualities. And another one of those players who I think will up his game this year is Michael Ivlow. I started watching him when he played for SPC conference rivals, the Minooka Indians. Of course the watching hasn't stopped just because he moved on over to JCA. And every season there he has steadily developed into a solid player who can block and run with the best of them. So as he steps into the spotlight this season, I believe he will be a key factor in the success of the Hilltoppers.

The torch has been passed and I am confident the JCA Hilltoppers & Michael Ivlow will continue their winning ways in 2013-2014.

Of course one player does not make a team but my putting a spotlight on Ivlow is intended for those unfamiliar with him to want to keep an eye on him this season. He is a good leader and any team that loses a bunch of talent out of their offensive backfield needs a confident, and even sometimes cocky, player back there to get those big Offensive Lineman to do a little extra for them.

After all Football Games are won in the trenches and this where I think the JCA Hilltoppers will be confounding their opposition this season. These guys are not only big but they are quick and will give Ivlow and Company the holes they need to chew yards and time off the clock. Both Guards, Sr. JB Butler (6'-2" 275#) and Sr. Jalen Hansel (6'-2" 306#) as well as Sr. Tackle Justin Hunter (6'-1" 310#) will be testing the patience of  defenses all season long. And if that weren't enough to pull your hair out they also have two multi-talented Tight Ends in Sr. Jordan Jones (6'-3" 185#) and Zach Rezin (6'-2" 220#) who can both get out quick and generate some big yardage if the opposition aren't careful. As for a few key Senior Defensive players whom I think will shine this season; I would definitely keep a close eye on DE Xavier Hernandez (6'-1" 230#), LB Kevin Jensen (6"-0" 225#) and two-way player LB Zach Rezin.

Now I am not sure yet who the rest of the offensive and defensive units will be yet as Head Coach Dan Sharp holds the roster close to his vest until the season opener. But, I have no doubt that the JCA Hilltoppers have a solid nucleus. It should also be pointed out that all the players mentioned above have been tendered scholarship offers already and will only peak more interest in them as the season progresses. It is a great group and they will be well prepared to do battle.

Why? Because Head Coach Dan Sharp isn't the second most winning coach (170-36 16 years) in JCA History after Gordon Gillespie (222-54-6 27 years) for just nothing. He understands talent as well as any coach I have ever seen and his players would run through a brick wall for him if that's what it took to win a game. And believe me folks - that is a heck of a lot harder than you think to accomplish because I can name a few area coaches where that just isn't the case.

But let's be very fair and clear here too. That is not to say any of those coaches are bad, or even bad people. It is just extremely hard to get 50 -80 younger minds to buy into the totality of a football program. I mean look everybody wants to be a starter right? So the hardest thing for a coach to do is to keep those players who aren't starting to accept there roles while maintaining their game sharpness for when their moment comes on the field. It's an extreme tough act - period.

Winning High School Football Programs, though, seem to know how to battle through the adversities and Joliet Catholic Academy is just one of many such programs in the Southwest and West Suburbs. Success is built over many years and decades until the right formula is developed. So many of our suburban schools have young programs when you think of it and are still looking for that right formula that leads to a winning tradition good enough to compete for a State Title.

Joliet Catholic, meanwhile, already has that tradition and even though Head Coach Dan Sharp is some 42 wins away from tying Coach Gillespie's win's mark, Sharp has already won more State Titles (6-5). And that folks is why I look at this program as being a contender every year and why the JCA Hilltoppers & Michael Ivlow will continue their winning ways this season.

And that's why I'll be at ATI Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium on August 30th as the Hilltoppers host Providence Catholic at 7:30pm.

This will be a big early season test for both teams - so don't miss it!

East Suburban Catholic Conference
Week 1 Schedule
Friday, Aug. 30
Arlington Heights St. Viator vs. Chicago Foreman at Hanson Stadium
Chicago Hyde Park at Chicago Heights Marian Catholic
Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge at Niles Notre Dame
Lisle Benet Academy at Downers Grove South
New Lenox Lincoln-Way East at Mundelein Carmel
New Lenox Providence Catholic at Joliet Catholic Academy
Saturday, Aug. 31
Chicago Marist vs. Chicago Brother Rice at Chicago Soldier Field
Chicago St. Patrick vs. Chicago Mount Carmel at Chicago Soldier Field
LaGrange Park Nazareth Academy at Maywood Proviso East


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  • Hello Michael...ready for football? I sure am! Been a LONG baseball season but after the first month that was all washouts, it's been pretty good. About another 5-6 weeks to go til the gear goes away for the winter...but middle school girls basketball is also a mere 3 weeks away! Time to break out the court shoes and whistle!

    So anyway, can't argue too much with your analysis of JCA...they're gonna be a load. Looking forward to your take on the good old SPC race.

    Knowing what I do (which may be very little if you ask some), here's how I see it going into the season:

    1. Oswego
    2. Minooka
    3. Plainfield South
    4. Plainfield North
    5. Plainfield East
    6. Plainfield Central
    7. Oswego East
    8. Romeoville

    It pains me not to go with Minooka at Top Dog but until someone proves otherwise, the conference is Oswego's to lose. As of 2 weeks ago when I spoke to someone in the know, Mike's son Shane is set to go at Minooka at QB. If he doesn't start I may just rip what little hair I have left out of my head. I am looking forward to watching him play. The 3 starts he got last year while Carnagio was out, he looked really solid. He throws a GREAT ball...nice touch, tight spiral, very accurate...just what you'd want in a QB. Not real mobile though. But from what I hear, Minooka's line is BIG (I REALLY hope this is true and not someone messing with me here)! That would be a nice change from last year...they were MUCH too small up front last season. Nathan Gunn is a monster at RB (if he gets to touch the ball...didn't get NEAR enough touches last season in my opinion).

    Allegedly, there have been some schematic changes both offensively and defensively at Minooka...I'll believe it when I see it but if it's true, it sounds as if both sides of the ball will be more physical and aggressive then the past couple of seasons. It also sounds as if they are planning on spreading things out a bit more (you know, so the other team doesn't know they're running the ball before they do...the offense was way too vanilla way too often last year). I don't think anyone is going to forget Air Coryell or the Run 'n' Shoot while watching the Indians but the pieces seem to be in place for a more balanced attack this season with more yards through the air than Minooka traditionally accumulates. I hear they have some athletic, quick receivers...and some height there too. Again, I'll believe the aerial assault when I see it but here's wishing...

    We'll know a lot about Minooka after their first 3 games (@ Morris, vs Providence, and @ Oswego). An 0-3 start may not be a death sentence as it was last year because I think the Indians will be able to get 5 W's in league play. But why bother with worrying? If Minooka comes out of that gauntlet 2-1 or (dare I say) 3-0, we'll know they're legit. If they go 1-2 and are in each game, I still like their chances to get into and perhaps make some noise in the playoffs.

    So, going in, I am cautiously optimistic that Minooka will compete for a conference title and qualify for the playoffs. I'll predict 6-3 overall as of now and hope for better.

    What about those Cougars, Michael? How do you see them shaping up? And what about the rest of the SPC? Looking forward to reading your thoughts now and throughout the season. I'm sure we'll meet up on a Friday at some point. Football is back!!!

  • In reply to adamblue17:

    Hey my old friend how in the heck are you? Say did you try calling me? A number came up as unidentified and I already have you locked in - change numbers?

    Anyhow - yes trying to gather data on the SPC but has been hard getting some of the players that I know (who didn't graduate that is) to open up too much. I did however talk with my contacts that did graduate and got some insight from their perspective.

    I think you are right about the "until someone proves them wrong" for Oswego primarily because they have such a great feeder system that teaches younger players the Panther Way from early on. Much better, I think, than Plainfield Junior Cats or Prowlers; besides PJC and Prowlers must spread talent to 4 conference teams and that makes it tough (oh for a unified team - they would contend every year). Minooka's feeder meanwhile is very good but unsure who else they may feed into? Joliet Catholic? Oswego East and Romeoville is pretty much on their own feeder wise I think (maybe even PJC / Prowlers influence).

    So my early thoughts are either Oswego or Minooka at top two - a toss-up; 3rd Place could be a surprise with either Plainfield East, South, North and....Oswego East. OE has a coach that has been successful in the city and has had a good year to prepare his program here. Plainfield Central, I think will struggle a bit more this year than last and Romeoville - fuhgettaboutit - Coach Kuna just cannot motivate the players and/or get the right kids to come out to play for him (from an anonymous former player). Plainfield North will be interesting to watch as their feature RB that was set to take over (Trenton Cavin) has transferred to Utah and will play for perennial powerhouse Alta Hawks (they opened season last week losing 42-21) but had Cavin and three other starters out while losing to another powerhouse in a non-conference game. North's O-Line will be BIG! Oswego's and you say Minooka BIG! The rest eh small (as every year). South's stud is Clifton Garrett and is being recruited by the SEC and Big Ten heavily (but will have to see if he may hold back to avoid injury???). Plainfield East will be prepared (through the grapevine) but again way too many two-way players and fatigue or injury could spell doom if it rears its ugly head. So let's see:

    1. Minooka [7-2]
    2. Oswego [6-3]
    3. Plainfield East [5-4]
    4. Plainfield North [5-4]
    5. Plainfield South [4-5]
    6. Oswego East [4-5]
    7. Plainfield Central [4-5]
    8. Romeoville [1-8]

    But I will probably revise this after first two games - that could make or break some seasons but there could be 4-5 teams starting 0-2 and the other 3 going 1-1. Some new teams this year as non-conference opposition and that makes this a tough call. So the records I predicted are Plus/Minus 2 Victories for each.

  • I'm great...definitely ready for football season. My Packers and Badgers both look pretty good heading in so we'll see...No # change for me...same phone #. I gotta ump a middle school ballgame here in town before I head to Morris tomorrow night but I'm really looking forward to that one. The last 2 years, if Minooka can simply hold onto the freaking football, they win both those games against the doubt in my mind. It'll be a tough one but I think with the heavy graduation losses at Morris, this is the year the Indians FINALLY get a "W" in Redskin Country...been SOOOOO close a few times. I'll say Minooka, 20-13. Of the 3 biggies to open the season, this one, to me, seems the most winnable. I like their chances in the home opener vs Providence IF they play well at Morris but that Week 3 @ Oswego is daunting. Oswego is VERY tough at home. Of course Morris has incentive too because their Week 2 is @ easy task there.

    I'm sure I'll catch up with you sometime over the weekend. Can't wait for tomorrow night!

  • In reply to adamblue17:

    Adam, okay well you have my number so text me the Quarterly Scores / Highlights. Haven't decided yet which game to go to maybe JCA Providence (tough match-up for both). I will be curious about that Morris Minooka game though should be a barn burner in a full house. Yes we'll catch up ready to post my SPC Preview. Talk with you.

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