When Ty Isaac exited with a shoulder injury in the first quarter of Joliet Catholic Academy’s football opener at Providence Catholic, Hilltopper offensive line coach Dave Douglas turned to the next most seasoned runner in the JCA backfield.
He also challenged the ‘O’ line to step up its game.
“Well, they’re definitely doing some good things,” Douglas said. “And Ty Reitz, I remember walking up to him in that Providence game and going, ‘Hey, you’re the old man of the backfield now because Ty Isaac is not around.’
“So, he stepped up like I thought he would. He’s doing a great job and I’ve got to be honest our young line is coming along every week.”
Reitz, a 5-foot-7, 190-pound senior, has combined for more than 350 yards rushing and receiving in two games. He also has scored a team-leading five touchdowns. JCA dropped a 40-34 decision to Providence, but not without fighting back from 30-20 and 37-27 deficits and daring to overtake the Celtics right to the end.
JCA (1-1) rebounded with a in Week 2 and next looks to open play in the East Suburban Catholic Conference on a high note. The Hilltoppers face Arlington Heights St. Viator on Friday. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Forest View Stadium.
Look for Reitz to be in the middle of the action—if you can find him. He is about half the size of Isaac (6-2, 225), the USC recruit whose return is doubtful. In the JCA camp, Isaac is listed as “day-to-day” and more likely will be back in the Hilltoppers lineup for homecoming against Nazareth Academy on Sept. 14.
Until then, Reitz will continue to be JCA’s featured runner. He gets lost behind JCA’s big line and runs with a toughness between the tackles. He has enough speed to turn the corner, too. His work has helped the Hilltoppers average 34 points and 440 yards total offense.
JCA coach Dan Sharp knew Reitz was capable. In fact, he spoke during the preseason of the Hilltoppers hitting opponents with a one-two punch and likened the possibility to the days of JCA’s J.R. Zwierzynski and Chris Gruber running wild at the turn of the millennium.
“Tyler (Reitz) has been a great leader for us,” Sharp said. “He’s a good back. He’s a lot quicker than people think, and he’s a very powerful back. He can run people over—he’s not that big. He has a great center of gravity and he uses it well.
“He can outrun guys, make guys miss. He’s also got great hands. So, he’s a guy that I think could be an all-round great back for us. And the fact a little pressure was put on him this past week, he really came through for us (against Robeson) and really needed to pick up the slack.
“That’s what team football is all about. When someone goes down, it’s how well the guys around play and pick up and the replacements. So, Ty (Reitz) did that. He showed his true leadership by taking over in the running back position for us.”
Reitz has followed the blocks of a JCA line headed by J.B. Butler, Brady Fay, Lino Bibian, Jalen Hansel and Justin Hunter. On the ends, Zach Rezin, Jordan Jones and Chris Tschida are doing their part, too, to kick out linebackers and defensive backs.
“I knew that once (Isaac) went down I was the one we were going to have to go to,” Reitz said. “I was pretty much the next big runner. Everyone else is primarily a blocker.
“So, I was going to have to step it up and do the best I could to fill in for what he would do for the team and, ultimately, not with just running but blocking for our fullbacks and getting into the pass routes, too. Ty (Isaac) does so much for the team. So, I really had to step it up.”
Against Robeson, Nate Dollinger, a converted fullback, played the wing next to Reitz. Mike Ivlow remained entrenched at fullback. Reitz said JCA will look to Frank Turk, Nick Pastore and Austin Butts to add more firepower in the backfield in the coming days and weeks. The three underclassmen are battling for the second wing job.
When Isaac returns, JCA will be better off because of the experience gained by the backs running behind him. Reitz has learned to make reads at the line and has performed like a No. 1 back.
“Going up to the line, with the way we set up with our 45-degree angle, we’re able to see people blitzing,” he said. “If we’re going in motion, we’re able to see the linebackers on the other side, how they’re set up, how the ‘D’ line is set up, if they’re slanting and what they’re doing on the other side.
“We can always set up our kick-out block and our pull. We can read it to see if the pull is going to take longer or if it’s going to be a quick-hitter. That definitely helps with the offense we run.”
And, make no mistake, JCA is running full steam ahead because of Reitz.