Preseason No. 5 - Joliet Catholic

No. 5 Joliet Catholic

Last season: 11-3 overall, 6-1 East Suburban Catholic, lost in 5A state championship, ranked 9th in final 2009 poll

Season ahead: Josh Ferguson and Malin Jones created a scary 1-2 running punch as juniors last season. Each halfback ran for more than 1,200 yards and averaged more than eight yards per carry as they scored a combined 41 rushing touchdowns.

Now, they’re seniors. Both are bigger and faster -- and even scarier for opponents. There’s also sophomore running back Ty Isaac, who rushed for more than 600 yards last year as a freshman.

Led by its dynamic backfield, Joliet Catholic is again the favorite to win the always-tough East Suburban Catholic and make another run at a Class 5A state title. Last season, the Hilltoppers were upset in the final seconds by Montini in the championship game.

The Hilltoppers will have a new quarterback handing the ball off this season. Anthony Maddie, last year’s starter, transferred to Aurora Christian. This year’s quarterback will be athletic senior Breshion Tucker, who didn’t play last season. The offense also returns lineman Kyle Rouse and tight end Alex Kolodziej.

Defensively, Andrew Elliott and C.J. Haney lead the returnees.

Player to watch: Josh Ferguson ran for more than 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. He should be a candidate for ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year this season. He’s committed to Illinois.

Newcomer to watch: Senior quarterback Breshion Tucker

Key game: Sept. 17 at Carmel – Joliet Catholic will play one of the state’s most grueling schedules this season. It faces Montini and Providence in its first two games, travels to Michigan for its third game and then opens conference play at Carmel. Joliet Catholic defeated Carmel 19-16 last year.