Posted On: 03/31/21 1:03 PM
As a non-Illinois native who moved to the state last May, it’s hard for me to try and explain how excited I was to finally get out and scout some Land of Lincoln football this past Sunday. As one of the most talented high school football states in the Midwest, Illinois preps possess a unique combination of size and speed that I was very intrigued to finally see in-person. As a Minnesota native who has seen his fair share of MN and WI high school football, I couldn’t help but wonder how Illinois’ preps would compare to the aforementioned states, and my choice in a Sunday Special of a matchup between the Joliet Catholic Academy Hilltoppers and the Fenwick Friars did not disappoint in the slightest. With heavyweight prospects filling the rosters of both teams, I got to see some hard hits, big runs, and a ton of talent grace the field of Triton Junior College, and along with the big-time talent, I also got to get my eyes on some prospects I didn’t have on my radar coming into the game. To get a full recap of the game, the MVPs, and some names of standouts that were new to me, just keep scrolling! Thanks for reading.
The game got started with some fireworks, as JCA received the football to begin the game, and on the first play offensively the poised and accurate 2022 QB Aidan Voss Aidan Voss 5'11" | QB Joliet Catholic Academy | 2022 IL fired a dart to a streaking Ja’Arie Mack Ja’Arie Mack 6'2" | ATH Joliet Catholic | 2021 IL (6’2, 216 lbs. – committed to Northern State) on a post or a dig across the field, which Mack caught in-stride, ran, then cut back and threw a helpless defender to the ground, charging over him like a horse and into the endzone for an early lead for the Hilltoppers. This was Fenwick’s first game of the season, and they were forced to wake up fast as JCA took a 7-0 lead with 11:42 left in the first quarter. The Friars answered with a couple nice first downs in their ensuing offensive drive, but were eventually stifled by the 6’2, 275 lb. two-way Hilltoppers lineman Will Berry (also committed to Northern State), who made a huge TFL to put Fenwick behind the chains and eventually force a punt. The JCA offense – led by the poised and confident Voss – quickly found themselves again near scoring position after a couple big throws, where the massive 6’3, 220 lbs. 2022 JCA RB Jordan Jordan 6'0" | DL Harold L Richards | 2022 IL ” last=””]” last=””]” last=””] Anderson ran the ball into the endzone from 10 yards out to put JCA up 14-0 with 9:29 left in the first. The remainder of the first quarter was a defensive battle, with the Fenwick defense finding some juice and forcing Anderson to fumble, and on the flip side JCA senior DE and Drake University commit Pat Strocchia III took control of the LOS and recorded back-to-back sacks to keep the Friars from putting together a complete drive. At the end of the first the score remained 14-0.
— PrepRedzone Oliver (@OliverJamesWes1) March 28, 2021
The second quarter started off hot for the Hilltoppers – much like the first – as senior DB Patrick Duffy made a beautiful play on the ball to snag an interception. The JCA offense got right back to work on the ground and through the air, and Anderson found the endzone for the second straight time with 8:46 left in the half to build a 21-0 lead for Joliet Catholic. Despite some nice defensive plays from the Friars OLB/DE Declan Donnelly (2021, 6’1, 210), and DBs Martin Paris (2022, 6’ 175) and Nick Polston (2021, 5’7, 160), the Hilltoppers offense looked efficient and aggressive, and added two more scores before half on the legs and hands of Anderson, who scored his 3rd and 4th TD of the day. At halftime the score stood at Joliet Catholic Academy 35, Fenwick Friars 0.
— PrepRedzone Oliver (@OliverJamesWes1) March 29, 2021
With the clock running in the second half, momentum remained in-favor of the Hilltoppers, as Anderson put up TD #5 with 7:55 left in the third quarter to put JCA up 42-0. It didn’t come without some fight from Fenwick however, as earlier that drive the Friars FS Jacque Wells (2022, 5’11, 175 lbs.) laid the biggest hit of the game on an errant pass over the middle, laying the WOOD and reminding JCA that this game wasn’t over.
— PrepRedzone Oliver (@OliverJamesWes1) March 29, 2021
Eventually though, JCA put in their second-string defense, and Fenwick capitalized and scored their first TD of the game with 5:11 left in the ballgame on an endzone fade. As the final whistle blew, the score finished in favor of Joliet Catholic Academy 42-7. Good game, fellas.
Jimmy Liston Jimmy Liston 6'3" | OL Fenwick | 2022 State IL – OC. 2022. 6’4, 305 lbs. An absolute workhorse of an OL who is the #1 ranked center in Illinois for a reason, Liston plays with a very strong base and is violent at the point of contact. He’s also patient in pass-pro and does a good job of not overextending, reaching, or putting his body in a compromising position, and when he gets his hands on someone it looks incredibly difficult to disengage, and he finished a ton of blocks on the day. I loved what I saw from him and he was a grinder all game long.
Declan Donnelly – OLB. 2021. 6’1, 205 lbs. Had a tough assignment coming into the game, as he was tasked to hold the edge against JCA’s tricky offense, and had to deal with pullers and lead-blockers all day long. He did a good job despite the hammers coming his way, and I like his toughness and frame at 205 lbs. He also had one of the hardest hits of the game as he came crashing off the edge for a massive blindside crack on JCAs QB, forcing a fumble and giving the ball back to his offense. No reported offers or college football interest.
Bryan Hunt – WR/DB. 2022. 6’, 175 lbs. I was a big fan of Hunt’s versatility, and he made some really tough catches throughout the game that kept Fenwick’s offense alive and needed a strong individual effort by Hunt to keep the chains moving.
Jordan Jordan 6'0" | DL Harold L Richards | 2022 IL ” last=””]” last=””]” last=””] Anderson – RB. 2022. 6’3, 220 lbs. What a game for the massive and dynamic offensive weapon Anderson, who scored 5 TDs on the day through both the air and on the ground. He is a very well-filled out junior with long arms and legs and wide shoulders with a ton of room to continue adding muscle. Coming into the game I thought Anderson would act more as a TE/HB, but he showed that he has the vision, feet, and speed to be featured as RB1, and I absolutely loved how he ran behind his pads and always finished runs with contact, as opposed to going out of bounds. He wore down the tough Fenwick defense, who by the fourth quarter looked like they had been through a war, while Anderson seemed to grow only stronger as the day wore on. With a ton of potential positions he could play at the next level, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Anderson is a P5 prospect, and I hope he recruitment picks up after this spring season concludes.
Will Berry – OG/DL. 2021. 6’2, 275 lbs. Committed to Northern State. I originally met Berry at our inaugural PrepRedzoneIL Showcase, and was very excited to see him move and hit in pads. He more than lived up the hype, as he was an effective and exciting pulling guard who would crush defenders in the open field and moved very well for his size. He also played some DL, and showed a great get-off that helped him penetrate the Fenwick backfield whenever he was given the chance. Northern State got a good one!
Pat Strocchia III – DE. 6’4, 220 lbs. Committed to Drake. An absolute monster off the edge, Strocchia III has a motor that never quits and a ton of length that helped him decimate the Friars OL and QB all night long. Capable of beating OTs with speed or power, he laid some massive sacks and quite possibly lead the team in tackles from his DE spot. Drake is getting a stud.
Under the Radar Standouts
Conor Paris (Fenwick) LB. 6’, 205 lbs. Class of 2022. Illinois wrestling state qualifier. @ConorParis32 – A tough and physical linebacker who was always around the football and showed no fear when taking on the JCA massive ball-carriers. He had a ton of tackles on the night and had a good frame for a LB, with thick arms, legs, and shoulders, and never quit until the whistle blew, often having to go sideline-to-sideline to track down Hilltoppers. I came away impressed, and was not surprised in the least bit when I found out he was a wrestler. The no gloves and lack of smack-talk gave it away from the beginning!
Vinny Lannantone (Joliet Catholic Academy) RB. 6’, 205 lbs. Class of 2022. – The junior rusher was a powerfully built RB prospect whose hard-nosed running-style earned him reps in a loaded JCA backfield despite being only a junior. He ran forward, and ran forward with POWER. He was a little bowling ball out there, and when contact was initiated with the 6’, 205 lber. the pads would come alive and the echoes of their cracks made for a lovely Sunday symphony whenever he ran the football. Although he doesn’t have a Twitter, he’s definitely work contacting the JCA about.