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Zach Rezin’s stop saves Joliet Catholic vs. Lincoln-Way West

Lincoln Way West wide receiver Adam Slattery (6) makes catch against Joliet Catholic's Grant Harris(28) Lincoln Way West High School

Lincoln Way West wide receiver Adam Slattery (6) makes a catch against Joliet Catholic's Grant Harrison (28) at Lincoln Way West High School in New Lenox, Illinois, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. | Michael DiNovo~For Sun-Times Media

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PLAYER OF THE GAME

Joliet Catholic junior linebacker Zach Rezin dived at Lincoln-Way West quarterback Justin Keuch and prevented him from crossing the goal line on a 2-point conversion in overtime to save the Hilltoppers 21-20.

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Updated: December 12, 2012 6:53AM



The difference between advancing or packing up the equipment can be minuscule.

Joliet Catholic junior linebacker Zach Rezin dived at Lincoln-Way West quarterback Justin Keuch as Keuch approached the goal line on a keeper up the middle.

If Keuch gets into the end zone on the 2-point conversion attempt, the Warriors knock off the Hilltoppers in Saturday’s Class 5A quarterfinal in New Lenox. But while lineman J.B. Butler was hitting Keuch low, Rezin was able to latch on just enough to pull Keuch back from the stripe.

The overflow crowd of more than 3,000 anxiously awaited the signal from the officials. Finally, no good, he did not get in.

It was that close as Rezin’s heroics allowed the Hilltoppers to escape 21-20.

“I thought No. 7 (West’s LaVonte Blackful) was going to get the ball and take it outside,” Rezin said. “Then I saw the quarterback keep it. I got him and tried to pull him out. I knew he was going down when I grabbed him, but whether the refs saw him get in or not, it’s hard to say. I couldn’t tell in the pile.”

“He was definitely in, no doubt,” said West standout offensive tackle Colin McGovern, who had a good perspective.

Joliet Catholic (8-4) advances to this week’s home semifinal against Montini, a 42-27 winner Saturday over Marian Central.

Lincoln-Way West (8-4) concludes its best season knowing all too well about football being a game of inches.

The Hilltoppers led 14-0 at halftime on the strength of two Ty Isaac touchdown runs, the second a 92-yarder in the second quarter. The senior wingback rushed for 174 yards on 16 carries in the first half, but four times for just six yards in the third quarter before exiting late in the third quarter. He reinjured his groin, and his status for next week is uncertain.

Immediately after Isaac’s departure, West received a punt and got the ball on its 43-yard line. Javier Montalvo (15 carries, 83 yards) went 47 yards to the Joliet Catholic 10 on the next play, and on third-and-goal from the 9, Keuch hit Jake Roberts in the right flat. He broke a jersey tackle by cornerback Grant Harrison, who earlier intercepted two passes, and dived into the end zone to make it 14-7.

Both defenses dominated the day, but the Warriors’ offense mounted the tying drive midway through the fourth quarter. Keuch was Mr. Clutch, hitting Adam Slattery (7 catches, 107 yards) for 10 yards on third-and-9, scrambling for 13 yards on fourth-and-8 and hitting Slattery on a 20-yard scoring strike in the back of the end zone on fourth-and-5. Joe Leo’s conversion kick tied it at 14 with 4:22 remaining.

With Mike Ivlow and Tyler Reitz sharing the rushing load and Craig Slowik hitting Chris Tschida with a 10-yard bullet on third-and-9, Joliet Catholic drove down close enough for Brian Bravo to attempt a 55-yard field goal with a strong wind at his back. But it fell well short, forcing overtime.

In overtime, each team gets the ball at the 10 and has four downs to score. Joliet Catholic was on offense first and went to Ivlow over the left side three straight times. He scored from a foot away on third down.

“I told coach (Dan) Sharp I wanted the ball,” said Ivlow, who rushed for 76 yards on 15 carries. “I’m surprised he let me have it three straight times.”

“Mike Ivlow thinks he should get the ball every play,” Sharp said with a laugh.

Bravo kicked what would become the decisive extra point for a 21-14 lead.

West still had a shot. Montalvo scored off the left side on the first play to make it 21-20 and set up the Keuch-Rezin meeting at the goal line.

Whew!



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