Saints alive for Andy Munoz and his Joliet Catholic teammates as they play for Class 5A state title. ‘It’s amazing.’

There’s only more game left for senior quarterback Andy Munoz to play with a handful of lifelong teammates at Joliet Catholic. And the memories have already started to flow.

After Saturday’s 31-21 victory over Providence in the Class 5A state semifinals at Joliet Memorial Stadium, Munoz remembered playing in 2018 for the Plainfield Saints.

Munoz, HJ Grigsby, Adrian Washington, Anthony Brown, Austin Bernhard, Nate Magrini and Tai Sesta went to a Pop Warner national tournament that year in Orlando, Florida.

“It’s great to be along for the ride with all of them,” Munoz said. “From Pop Warner to high school football, it’s a great experience. It’s amazing.”

The Hilltoppers (10-3) hope to keep their amazing ride going at 10 a.m. Saturday when they face Nazareth (8-5) in the state championship game at Illinois State’s Hancock Stadium in Normal.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Munoz said he will miss walking onto the field with teammates that he has played with since fifth grade. He wants to end his high school career with a win and a state title.

They didn’t win the national championship in Pop Warner but can make up for it now.

“The teammates on this journey have been amazing to me,” Munoz said. “They are not really teammates anymore — they are family. That’s probably the best thing about this.”

Joliet Catholic’s tradition is based on running the football. That’s the case again this season with Grigsby (239 carries, 1,490 yards, 13 TDs), Larry Stringham (55 carries, 383 yards, 9 TDs) and Keegan Farnaus (72 carries, 737 yards, 10 TDs) taking turns doing the damage.

But despite what he says, Munoz is not just along for the ride.

In a 21-20 win over Marist during the regular season, Munoz hit Washington for three touchdown passes, including a TD with 25 seconds left. In a 28-13 victory over Niles Notre Dame, he also connected with Washington three more times for TDs.

Munoz was razor sharp against Providence. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 137 yards, with TDs to Washington and Stringham. His incompletions came on a dropped pass in the end zone and a catch that was inches out of bounds.

“He was on the money,” Joliet Catholic coach Jake Jaworski said of Munoz. “He was on the run and just gave our guys opportunities. (Providence’s) secondary is probably the best secondary we’ve played all year so far. He put the ball only where our guys could catch it.

“And our guys caught it.”

Munoz’s teammates tipped their cap to him.

“I love him, man,” Brown said. “We’ve played together a long time since our days with the Saints. He’s a team player. He gets the right person the ball every time.”

Thus far, Munoz has an offer from hometown St. Francis and is waiting to see how things pan out after the season is over before making any college decisions.

For him, it’s quality over quantity, but Jaworski finds a lot of quality to the quarterback’s game. Munoz has completed 77 of 145 passes for 1,366 yards and 17 TDs. Washington, his main receiver, has 35 catches for 700 yards and 10 TDs.

“We may not throw the ball 30 times a game to get to 200 yards,” he said. “But with our success of running the football, our play-action game is really good and it leads to a lot of big plays.

“Andy may throw the ball 10 or 11 times and may get 115 yards and two or three touchdowns. But they are timely throws that help us win.”

Jeff Vorva is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.


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