Nineteen receptions would constitute a decent night for some high school football teams.
Or a good month for most players.
Many players won’t even catch that many passes in an entire season, yet Crystal Lake Central wide receiver Jack Ortner did it in one game.
Ortner accomplished that feat Friday in the Tigers’ 34-27 victory at Huntley, a thrilling back-and-forth game Central won in the final minute.
“I knew I had a lot, I didn’t realize it was 19,” Ortner said. “That seems too big of a number for one game. It’s a good achievement, but it wouldn’t have been as big a deal if we didn’t get the win. If Eric Hjerstedt didn’t make that big play at the end of the game, it all kind of goes to waste.”
Quarterback Kyle Lavand tossed a 15-yard scoring pass to Hjerstedt with 13.6 seconds remaining as the Tigers gave Huntley its second excruciating loss in two weeks.
Ortner’s 19 reception ties for second on the IHSA record list, according to ihsa.org. Chicago St. Patrick’s Guy DiBalsamo caught 20 in a game, while Ortner ties three others with 19.
Ortner leads the area with 32 receptions for 391 yards and two touchdowns.
“I had no idea. Holy cow!” Tigers coach Matt Fralick said. “We just took what they gave us. They were playing off our outside receivers, so Jack was open on hitches, slants and deep curls. We just took the underneath stuff.”
Ortner had 15 catches, including a 35-yard touchdown, in the first half. Huntley switched its coverages in the second half and he was not open as often.
“I had no clue, I knew he had a lot,” said Lavand, who was 25 of 40 for 268 yards passing. “We have such good chemistry. It was nothing too fancy, just simple underneath routes.”
Ortner (6-foot, 175 pounds) was called up from the sophomore team last season for four varsity games, including three in the playoffs. Ortner considered it a huge benefit heading into this season.
“He’s a great athlete, with good speed and good hands,” Fralick said. “With the sophomores, he had a lot of success catching the ball and thought he’d fit well in the spread scheme. He hadn’t played the spread scheme with sophomores, so we kind of threw him into the fire.”
Ortner and the other receivers put in extra time in the offseason, throwing and running routes before school with Lavand. This season, Ortner just wanted to do his part.
“I want to be someone who shows up every day and works hard, and is one of 11 guys on the field that helps the team get wins,” Ortner said.