Jeske prepping for No. 1 v. No. 1 showdown

Illinois' state player of the year leads Joliet Catholic into a state-title matchup Saturday

Ho-hum. Another award for Chris Jeske.

Wednesday, the Joliet Catholic linebacker was named the Chicago Sun-Times large-schools state Player of the Year. He had already been named area Player of the Year by the Sun-Times and the Daily Southtown and was named Player of the Year in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.

But brush all of that aside. The 6-foot, 225-pound linebacker is concerned, as he has been all season, with leading the Hilltoppers towards yet another state championship.

So that means a careful consideration of his recruiting options is going to wait for Sunday and beyond, after Joliet Catholic (13-0) takes on rival Morris (13-0) in a state championship game in Champaign, Ill., Saturday, a matchup of the No. 1 team in the state versus the No. 1 team in the state.

You read that correctly. Both Joliet Catholic and Morris were ranked No. 1 in Illinois at the end of the regular season, but in separate classes: Joliet Catholic in 5A, Morris in 6A. The complex manner in which schools are demarcated for the playoffs, however, pushed Morris down to 5A for the state playoffs.

The Hilltoppers and Redskins have been on a collision course since. Joliet Catholic has won its four playoff games by a combined 222-19; Morris' margin is 141-20.

The two schools are traditional powerhouses in the state of Illinois. The Redskins have won two state titles and finished runner-up four other times, while the Hilltoppers are owners of a record 11 state championships and are making their record 14th appearance in the state championship game.

This will be the third time Jeske has played against Morris in the state playoffs. Joliet Catholic topped the Redskins 27-20 in a the state title game in 2001, Jeske's freshman year, and also beat Morris 14-10 in the state quarterfinals last year. The Hilltoppers went on to win their 11th title that season. Joliet Catholic also beat Morris in a quarterfinal in 1999.

"It is a bitter rivalry," Jeske said.

So it is no surprise that Jeske has put recruiting on the backburner.

"To tell you the truth I haven't been giving it too much thought," Jeske said. "I'm kind of just wanting to win that state championship and then I'm going to kind of figure out where I'm going to go on official [visits] and then kind of narrow down after Saturday."

That does not mean Jeske has been avoiding the recruiting travails entirely.

"I get about two or three [calls] a night," he said.

Jeske said his most frequent callers are Wisconsin, Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana, Colorado State, UCLA and Arizona.

"I'm grateful for all my offers," Jeske said. "I've got about 10 written offers now. Some others schools they say, hey, if things don't work out with these other schools we've got an offer on the table for you at any time, which is really nice of them."

For written offers, Jeske named Arizona, UCLA, Wyoming, Colorado State, Indiana, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Kansas.

"I haven't crossed anybody off my list yet," he said. "I'd say I'm open to everybody."

All of the schools recruiting Jeske are considering him as either a middle or weak side linebacker.

"Wherever the coaches think I can help the team the most, that's fine with me," he said.


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