Week 7: Carmel Corsairs vs. Joliet Catholic Hilltoppers
JOLIET -- USC-bound Joliet Catholic running back Ty Isaac has been slowed by a shoulder injury suffered Week 1 against Providence, but that doesn't stop Carmel coach Andy Bitto from losing sleep trying to figure out ways to stop him.
Carmel's season is on the line as the 2-4 Corsairs need to win out to reach the playoffs for the 13th straight season. That makes Friday's game at Joliet Memorial Stadium against JCA a virtual playoff game. The game will be shown on CN100, The Comcast Network, at Noon and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6, and 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 8. You can also find it throughout Chicagoland with Xfinity On Demand.
Despite his nagging injury, Isaac still ran for 287 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-13 win over St. Patrick last week for the Hilltoppers. He is coming off a season in which he posted 2.629 yards and 51 touchdowns, making him one of the top running back recruits in the nation.
"He looks like O.J. Simpson when he runs," Bitto said. "You cannot tackle him one-on-one in space and he's a great receiver. He's a tough sucker. You can't let him get the ball in the open. (Ohio State coach) Urban Meyer said he's the best running back in the nation. He might be. That would be fine if they gave him the week off to rest up for the playoffs, but I don't know if (JCA coach Dan Sharp) will do that."
Sharp estimates that Isaac is about 60-70 percent, but said that he has contributed across the board despite not posting the video-game statistics he did last year.
"I think he's more frustrated than anything else," Sharp said. "You come in with the excitement of your senior year, and then you have an injury that is nagging. It's one of those things that won't get any worse, but the only way to heal it is to give it time. It's pretty much a pain tolerance thing. He's handled it very well."
With Isaac somewhat limited, running back Tyler Reitz has built on his solid season as the third back last year. Quarterback Craig Slowik has also passed the ball much better in his second season under center, giving the usually ground-based Hilltoppers a different dimension.
Carmel has played a brutal schedule, but there are no extra marks in Illinois for losing to good teams, so at 2-4, the Corsairs enter playoff mode starting this week. They have to win the next three games to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since Bitto's second of 14 seasons as head coach.
"We have to pin our ears back and win the rest of our games," Bitto said. "They know the implications of it all. We're realistic to say we put ourselves in this position, the only ones that can get us out of it is ourselves. We have to play pretty error-free to beat them, but if we play like we did against Nazareth (a 13-7 win), we have a shot."
After an 0-2 start, quarterback Josh Walinski was moved to fullback and junior Nick Grandolfo took over under center. With a group of wing backs that has been injured off and on, the switch has worked out well for the Corsairs.
It's that nothing-to-lose attitude that has Sharp as concerned about this game as any on the schedule. JCA enters with a 4-2 record.
"That was the theme of our week with the team," Sharp said. "They're desperate. They're going to play hard and loose. Any trick play they have could be used. It's probably going to be one of the toughest games we have to prepare for all year."
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- Paul Johnson, CN100 Correspondent
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