“Traditions on the Gridiron” can be an apt description of a celebratory event almost anywhere.
But this is Joliet Catholic Academy. The Hilltoppers have won 13 state football championships, more than any other school in Illinois.
The legendary Gordie Gillespie, of course, laid the foundation and then some. The Hilltoppers won their first four championships in succession and added a fifth under his guidance. Had the playoffs started a decade or so earlier than their actual beginning in 1974, there might have been another notch or two in the Hilltoppers’ championship count.
Jim Boyter and Bob Stone tacked on a state championship each during their coaching tenures. Then came Dan Sharp.
Sharp’s Hilltoppers were state champions in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. Yes, five titles in six seasons. The last of Sharp’s six state titles came in 2007.
After the completion of the 2016 season, Sharp announced he was stepping aside as football coach with 199 victories in his 20 seasons at Joliet Catholic, although he remains the school’s athletic director.
The JCA Alumni Association wanted to recognize Sharp for his accomplishments. Thus, “Traditions on the Gridiron” was born.
The event will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday in Heritage Quad on the school campus, 1200 N. Larkin Ave. Tickets are $25 and may be obtained at jca-online.org/football or at the celebration. The price will include tailgate food, pop and water. A cash bar also will be available. Proceeds will benefit the Joliet Catholic football program.
The evening not only will celebrate Sharp, but also serve as a welcome for his successor, Jake Jaworski.
Jaworski has been involved in Hilltoppers’ state championships as a player and an assistant coach on Sharp’s staff. Most recently, he was Sharp’s defensive coordinator.
Among other highlights of the evening, the 1977, 1987 and 2007 state championship teams will be honored on their 40th, 30th and 10th anniversary years, respectively. In addition, former JCA baseball standout Steve Cservenyak, now nationally known country music singer Stephen Neal, will provide entertainment.
“We are so excited for the community to come together and give Dan the honor he deserves for creating and maintaining such an outstanding program,” said Sue Ruettiger Bebar, the JCA director of alumni relations. “At the same time, it will be good to see the community come out to welcome Jake as he takes over one of the greatest programs in Illinois history.”
ST. JOE’S REUNION
Rob Brophy stopped by our office the other day with information on a reunion that is happening Saturday.
The members of the 1976 and 1978 World Series teams from St. Joseph’s Park will meet for a reunion beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday at 1103 Waverly Place, Joliet.
“The 1976 St. Joe’s team went to the Bronco World Series and was runner-up, and the 1978 team went to the Pony World Series and was runner-up,” Brophy said. “It was pretty much the same guys on both teams.”
Brophy said Terry Gannon and Pat McCanna were among the name players on those teams.
For information, call Brophy at 815-263-4444.
IN THE MAJORS
Since we last caught up on Tanner Roark (Wilmington) and Mike Foltynewicz (Minooka), our area’s right-handed pitchers in the big leagues, both enjoyed excellent games.
Roark, who is scheduled to start for Washington on Thursday night against Miami, notched a big victory last Friday as he beat the Cubs, 4-2, at Wrigley Field. In 61/3 innings, he allowed five hits, two earned runs and had a shutout going until Javier Baez hit a two-run homer in the seventh. For the season, Roark is 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA.
Foltynewicz struck out a career high 11 and walked nobody as the Atlanta Braves beat Miami, 7-2, Saturday night. Now 10-6 with a 3.94 ERA, Foltynewicz yielded four hits and one earned run in 61/3 innings. He is scheduled to pitch Friday night at St. Louis.
Meanwhile, left-handed reliever Tony Cingrani (Lincoln-Way Central), who was traded from Cincinnati to the Dodgers at the recent deadline, allowed a home run and three earned runs in one inning against Atlanta in his first inning for his new team. Then on Sunday, he worked a clean inning with two strikeouts against the Mets.
• Dick Goss can be reached at email@example.com.