A national record for 11-man football may very well have fallen on Saturday in one of the more unlikely places: A state title game, where the two teams competing were incredibly evenly matched, and where no one expected an offensive shootout to follow.
As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, among other sources, the Illinois High School Association Class 5A state title game between Joliet (Ill.) Catholic High and Lombard (Ill.) Montini High featured an astounding 1,644 yards, a total which is almost certainly the most total yards in any 11-man football game in high school history. While the National Federation of State High School Associations does not keep records for most combined total yards, to top the 1,644-yard total put up by Joliet Catholic and Montini, two teams would have both had to put up two of the top seven performances of all time in terms of total yards in a single game. Given that none of the current top-seven performances came against each other, it seems safe to say that the 1,644 total yards should be a national record for any game.
Montini eventually emerged from the shootout with a 70-45 victory on the back of a 21-0 fourth-quarter edge; Montini actually trailed, 31-28, at halftime.
"In the second quarter, it was touchdown, touchdown," Montini quarterback John Rhode told the Sun-Times. "It was a shootout. I knew it was going to come down to who could score most, who could make a stop on defense."
Eventually, the Broncos proved to be the team to find a stop, though it took nearly three quarters to do so. To account for the points they were giving up, Rhode had to pack in the offense, throwing for seven touchdowns -- five of them to Nebraska-bound wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp -- and 585 yards through the air. Montini running back Dimitri Taylor racked up 196 yards and a touchdown on the ground, numbers which would often be good enough to earn a championship game MVP honor by themselves.
On this day, that was only the second-best rushing performance, and it was a distant second.
That's because nearly all of Rhode's heroics were matched by Joliet Catholic running back Ty Isaac (pictured at right), who finished with 515 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Yes, you read that right: A running back rushed for 515 yards and six scores in a state title game, and he still lost. The junior had already broken the Illinois state title game rushing record by halftime, topping the previous 373-yard record by three yards in only two quarters. In fact, Isaac was the only Joliet Catholic player to reach the end zone in the loss, a remarkable achievement considering the fact that his team scored 45 points.
Another Joliet Catholic running back, Malin Jones, also ran for an impressive 187 yards in the loss.
"It was great to score, but [it] wasn't even something you could enjoy," Isaac said. "It was something we needed. ... They're putting up points, we've got to come back and put up points. There was no time to sit around and think about it."
In fact, it seems that the only reason why Isaac and Joliet Catholic wasn't pushing the final scoreline even higher was because of costly turnovers. The team turned the ball over five times -- Isaac fumbled the ball twice himself -- and also turned the ball over on downs twice in the fourth quarter while trying to mount a furious late comeback.
In the end, that provided the difference, sending the Hilltoppers to a memorable loss and overshadowing one of the great one-man performances in state title history … regardless of the state in which that game was held.
"It's very humbling when somebody scores 70 on you," Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp told the Sun Times. "Our offense played very well."