Friday, October 26, 2018

FULL INTERVIEWS; Joliet Catholic's Jake Jaworski and Metamora's Pat Ryan

Pat Ryan speaks to us on Thursday afternoon. PHOTO / ALEX STAAB
Metamora, Ill. - Below is the full Q&A with Metamora Head Coach Pat Ryan ahead of Saturday's matchup with Joliet Catholic. 

Q: We've talked about the tradition this program has. Here we go, you've got another team with great tradition, over 1,100 wins between the two programs, what's it like to go up against another titan of sorts in high school football, right out of the gate?
A: Well, out of the gate, or on down the road, it's still part of the tournament. You're still going to play good teams anyway to have to advance. They are a storied program, there's no question about that. We've got our history too. I think the thing for us that we like is the fact that it's at home. The bottom line, this year's team has played well at home. We had one bad quarter all year, and they were almost able to overcome that. We just want to avoid that bad quarter and play like we've played for a vast majority of the season. 

Q: Joliet Catholic's coach (Jake Jaworski) was actually a member of the 1999 and 2000 teams that played you guys at State. What's that like, a neat little tie-in to this game?
A: I remember Jake. He was a good player. There was a lot of good players on both of those teams. I could appreciate the pressure that he's in from the standpoint of it's a program that's very storied and all of a sudden, you've got the reins. I totally respect a guy that's willing to take on an alumni program. 

Q: We talked about how Washington could test where you guys are at. Looking back, how do you think that game was able to test you guys potentially for a decent playoff run here?
A: I think the thing is, they're real physical. Extremely physical. We saw a very physical team that night. I don't think Joliet Catholic will be any more physical than Washington. Now, will they be as physical? Yeah. We know what that level of play is like. I think that's going to be really, really important.

Q: What are you looking forward to the most out of your boys? As far as getting them mentally prepared, is there much to even do? 
A: There is the preparation. They do some things that are unique on offense. You got to make sure you're in the right spot. We have to have really good possessions. We have to be able to control the football. If we have good possessions like we've had for a vast majority of the season, that's going to help out our defense. The less possessions they have, the better.

Q: Are you able to update the status of Thomas Hall?
A: He's doing great. Doing great. That (surgery on non-throwing hand) was a precautionary thing last week. He's ready to roll.

Q: Do you think being able to have him not play for that Canton game helped with his readiness for this first playoff game?
A: Without a doubt. It also showed that we have two other quarterbacks. Vinny Querciagrossa played great. He did a lot of really good things with his feet and throwing the ball. Zach Beanblossom comes in and make the most of his senior night on Malone Field.

Q: What was that like? Getting to have those guys play, when Thomas has taken the role under center almost all year. 
A: You always got to have the next man up mentality. Anybody that's in a backup role, it takes a little bit of maturity to understand you're one play away. Both of those guys took great advantage of the practice reps all year long, so it wasn't that big of a transition when they got there. If a guy backs off and doesn't commit himself to making the most out of the reps he gets, then he probably can't take that step as easily as those two did.

Q: What do you think is going to be the biggest factor or some of the biggest factors when you go up against the Hilltoppers on Saturday?
A: I think it comes down to this. Don't give up big plays. We can not give them anything. Don't give them anything easy. For us, we can't have a lot of penalties. Can't have turnovers. If we get a chance for a big play, we got to make it happen. 

Q: The preparation for this. What have you seen out of the Hilltoppers so far, and what sticks out to you the most?
They've got a running back that's the running back of the year in their league. He's very, very good. It starts with him. We can't sell the farm to stop him. We obviously have got to know where he's at at all times. That's going to be extremely important. Quarterback's got a good arm. They got a couple of guys that can go catch it. You got to be real careful, because they'll lull you to sleep. Their o-line is big and mobile, as good of an offensive line as we've seen all year. Defensively, they get after it pretty good with the front seven. They're secondary plays it pretty safe. We just have to take advantage, if we can, of spots that we can get the short ball off. If we get guys coming down on the run, we can take a shot at the big one. 

Joliet Catholic Head Coach Jake Jaworski back in 2000 as a defensive back for the Hilltoppers.
PHOTO / IHSA Archives
Metamora, Ill. - Here is the full Q&A with Joliet Catholic Head Coach Jake Jaworski. 

Q: That last win getting you guys in. Take me through the emotions of that, knowing that it came down to Week Nine. 
A: We just preached to the kids after week eight that this was our first playoff game. One of our goals was to make the playoffs and our playoffs started a week early. That was our mentality going in and our guys were pretty excited about it. 

Q: You guys haven't lost in the opening round of the playoffs since 2006. What do you think has to do with that kind of consistency?
A: I think playing in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. Played a lot of schools that are considerably bigger than us in enrollment. Definitely prepares us for the playoffs. Playing a highly competitive schedule gets you ready.

Q: The fact that this was the 1999 & 2000 4A title games. What's that like, renewing that matchup?
A: It's kinda unique. I was a sophomore at Joliet Catholic in 1999. When we won that title, Coach (Dan) Sharp's first title, to come back to JCA and be the head coach. I was fortunate enough to be a starter in the second year on the 2000 team as a junior. It's pretty cool to be playing them. Tons of respect for Metamora and the tradition that they have. Lots of respect for Coach Ryan, his couple of state titles that he won, his numerous other appearances downstate.

Q: Any time it's a challenge, but going on the road in the playoffs to start. Is that something that comes up with your team, or is it just the first round of the playoffs and that's about it?
A: In our mindset, it's just another business trip. It's just going on the road in a hostile environment. I think it goes back to the schedule that we play, going on the road in the ESCC. It's a challenge. I'd expect a great crowd for both sides on Saturday. Our guys will be locked in. 

Q: Who do you think are going to be some of the players to watch? 
A: Our biggest target, our biggest key player, is Keenan Hailey, a senior running back. He is conference player of the year offensively, first team all-conference, has rushed for about 1,700 yards, 21 touchdowns. Our offense goes as he goes. Big credit for that goes to the offensive line. Four of our offensive linemen are three-year starters. We got quite a bit of experience up front. We're big up front. We're a ground and pound-type team. It all starts on the ground. 

Q: Have you been able to look into Metamora? If so, what have you seen at this point?
A: You see the quarterback and the way he can throw the football. They got some athletes out on the edge. They spread you out. Looks like a lot of RPO (run, pass, option)-type stuff. Explosive offense and pretty aggressive defense. 

Q: You can check off various things throughout the year. You've checked off qualifying for the playoffs. What's that anticipation like getting ready to kick off on Saturday? Also, as a coach, is it nerve-wracking, is it exciting, is it a little bit of both?
A: It's definitely both. It's very exciting for our kids. Our kids were ecstatic. It's a little bit nervous. Nervous energy, but not in a bad way. Anybody who's entering the playoffs or entering big games, if you're not a little bit nervous, there's a little bit something wrong with you. It's a high-stakes game, but our kids will be ready.  

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