JOLIET – Mascoutah coach Josh Lee knew exactly what his team was going up against in its Saturday night Class 5A quarterfinal matchup with Joliet Catholic.
His team didn't.
And that lack of knowledge led to a lack of fear as his Indians toppled the defending Class 5A state champion Hilltoppers, 21-14, at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
The win sends Mascoutah into the semifinal round where it will host Rochester, Joliet Catholic closed its season with a 8-3 record.
"I've been a die-hard football kid since I was five years old, I know what Joliet Catholic is. They are an institution. They are football royalty," Lee said. "Our kids are a little bit far removed from it. We've got a lot of military kids, kids that aren't even from Illinois. So they didn't really even know that they were such a powerhouse. And we certainly tried to use that to our advantage, we told them that they don't even know who you are."
The Hilltoppers certainly got introduced rather curtly over the course of the game, particularly during a fourth quarter drive where Joliet Catholic simply could not get Mascoutah off the field and could only watch as the time slowly dripped away and the Indians kept marching.
In the end, it was an 18-play drive that finished with a 1-yard touchdown run from Devin Wills that drained nearly every second of the fourth quarter as only 16 seconds remained.
Joliet Catholic tried a pair of last ditch plays to tie the game, but both went for naught and Mascoutah was heading back to southern Illinois with one of the biggest wins in its program history.
"They didn't surprise us, I know there was a lot of talk about them not being very strong," Joliet Catholic coach Jake Jaworski said. "But what we saw on film was a big football team and a running back that was just a stud. They were active and physical. It wasn't surprising that was a good football team."
Joliet Catholic starting strong, needing only two plays to find the end zone on a 66-yard touchdown sprint from Kenyetta Williams. But that was one of the few offensive bursts the game would have as it then slowly turned into a grind.
Mascoutah blocked a Joliet Catholic punt and Devon Ross and Aiden Jones hooked up for a 23-yard score to tie the score at 7.
It stayed that way until the third quarter, when Wills broke off an 80-yard touchdown run to give the Indians the lead at 14-7.
But they wouldn't keep it long as Jordan Anderson would break free for a 38-yard score to tie the score once again.
Mascoutah's defense continued to be of the bend but not break variety as Anderson and Williams combined for 267 yards rushing for the Hilltoppers. But come crunch time, the Indians willingness to risk it all to force Joliet Catholic into offensive attacks they weren't really comfortable with paid huge dividends.
"We always try to take away the other team's best run play and we were going to sell out to do that and have eyes in the right spot," Lee said. "Let's make them put in the air and have our athletes chase it down and stop play A and B and see how it works out for us. And it worked out pretty decent."