8/26 12:00 H
IHSA 5A Quarterfinals vs.New Lenox (Providence)(12-0)
Cleveland (& Defense) Rocks
New Lenox (Bishop Kaffer Stadium) - The song Cleveland Rocks may just have taken on new meaning. Well at least in the halls of Providence Catholic High School, where Friday night, 5'8" 171 lbs, Clay Cleveland sped by the oversized Hilltoppers to racked up over 200 yards rushing & 4 touchdowns against cross-town rivals Joliet Catholic in a 41-0 victory.
In what was suppose to be a defensive rematch after their week 5 meeting, a game that caught national viewership on ESPN 2 during that stations college matchup. Two of the most storied football programs in Illinois, would meet for the second time in 2002, but the outcome would be far different than the 10-2 defensive slugfest that happen back in September.
Once things got underway, may saw the game unfolding just as it had earlier in the season. The Celtics drove down field only to be held to a 27 yard field goal. The Hilltoppers would get the ball and punt it away three downs later.
When Providence started it's next drive they would hand off the ball to running back Clay Cleveland mid way down the field on their drive to start off his highlight reel.
Cleveland would shoot down field from the 46 yard line to give the Celtics a 9-0 lead with 3:44 left in the first. It would be his first of 4 touch downs on the night.
As Providence went in to the second quarter up 9-0 not even the craziest of Celtics fans would have predicted what would unfold in the remainder of this game. While the Celtic defense was hardly allowing the Hilltopper offense any yards, their offense was running rough shod across one of the most respected defenses in the state and would get a running clock with 3:26 left in the thrid quarter.
Cleveland would add 203 yards on the ground on 21 carries & QB Nick Stanton would go 8 for 14 with 159 yards & 2 TDs, connecting with wide receiver Tony Vlahovic 3 times for 74 yards, one of which was a 44 yard TD. The most unbelievable part of the offensive out pouring was that 4 of the five scores came on plays of 10 or more yards. Cleveland's four scores came on runs of 46, 44, 10 & 8. While the Celtics passing attack had strikes of 44 & 34 on the Hilltopper defense.
The Hilltoppers weren't just being stopped by a pumped up Celtic defense though, two lost fumbles at crucial points, a few special team blunders & a slew of penalties didn't help the Hill threaten Celtic territory or stop Providence from holding them scoreless.
The Hilltoppers would finish the game with 92 yards of offense as senior DB Kale Martin picked off a last chance pass by Ryan Quigley at the Celtic 10 yard line as the running clock would expire soon after he was tackled.
The only weakness the Celtics showed for future opponents was their point after kicking as they would finish the night 2 of 6 on PATs.
by Vincent Johnson
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