6A: Can Crete-Monee's athleticism trump Cary-Grove's discipline?

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6A: Can Crete-Monee's athleticism trump Cary-Grove's discipline?

Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg examined the film and the scouting report of Crete-Monee's 28-27 victory over Lemont in Saturday night's Class 6A semifinal and came to some hard conclusions.
"It will be their athleticism versus our discipline," Seaburg said. "They have more athleticism and more players. I haven't seen that kind of offense. And Laquon Treadwell is the best player we have played this year, without a doubt. The threat of him getting the ball on the perimeter is very scary. You have to be aware of where he is at all times."
Crete-Monee coach Jerry Verde, a former linebacker, examined the film and scouting report of Cary-Grove's 42-21 victory over Lake Forest in Saturday night's Class 6A semifinal and also came to some hard conclusions.
"Cary-Grove is extremely disciplined, as good an option team as we have seen," Verde said. "They have it down to a science. It is choreographed the way they do things, no broken plays, never out of rhythm. It is the best team we have faced, the biggest test for our defense. They are 13-0 for a reason and they show it."
In a nutshell, the question to be answered in Saturday's Class 6A championship game between the two unbeaten teams will be: Can Crete-Monee's athleticism trump Cary-Grove's discipline? Can quarterback Quinn Baker execute Cary-Grove's flex-bone triple option in the face of linebacker Nyles Morgan and the rest of Crete-Monee's aggressive defenders?
"Cary-Grove can run the ball as well as anyone in the state," said Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt, whose team lost to Cary-Grove 21-6 in Week 2. "They have a legitimate fullback (Kyle Norberg) in the tradition of the old-time Catholic League. He is big and strong and can run over or around you. To me, he is a Division I player.
"Quinn Baker runs the flex-bone as well as anyone. And the other running back, Ryan Mahoney, has great speed and gives them a three-headed animal with the quarterback, fullback and him running on the edge. I am hard-pressed to think Crete-Monee can stop Cary-Grove from running the ball. They can't throw the ball if Cary-Grove's offense is on the field all the time."
Rich East coach Barry Reade, whose team lost to Crete-Monee 38-7 in Week 9, said the only effective way to throttle Crete-Monee's athleticism and big-play capability is to keep the ball out of their hands and keep their offense off the field.
"It starts with their athleticism," Reade said. "They have two All-State receivers (Treadwell and Lance Lenoir) and a quarterback (Marcus Terrell) who doesn't make many mistakes. He has odd throwing mechanics (a sidearm motion) but he gets the ball to his receivers and avoids sacks.
"Treadwell is the most physical player on the field on both sides of the ball. You have to disrupt their timing. We were behind only 12-7 at halftime, controlled the ball and didn't allow them to get a big play. Then they got away from us. They are a quick-strike team."
Treadwell's presence can't be ignored, of course, but the game could come down to an eye-to-eye confrontation between Baker and Morgan.
"Our game plan is to control the clock and run the ball. That has been our game plan for every game," Seaburg said. "We win or lose with Baker, Norberg and Mahoney. If we are able to establish Norberg up the middle and Baker between the tackles and get Mahoney involved on the perimeter, that has been our key to success."
Baker, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior, has rushed for 1,000 yards and passed for 600. The brother of Hayden Baker, an All-Chicago Area center last year who is backup center at Northwestern this season, Quinn became a starter after Week 5 last year.
"When he came into the starting lineup, our offense took off," Seaburg said. "He has a great understanding of the offense. He is very smart, a great leader and all the kids respect him. The quarterback in our offense takes a lot of hits but he is a tough kid."
According to Baker, discipline in Cary-Grove's offense scheme of things "is how every single person needs to know where he is going on every play for it to be executed as it is supposed to. We have some designed plays but at least 75 percent of what we do is a true option."
Baker admits it takes a long time to learn the footwork, the reads and the physical play.
"Then the mental game comes down to knowing our plays and knowing all the blocking schemes so I know, based on the defense, what we can run that will be effective. What alignment is the defense in? What play can we run against it? How can we block it?," he said.
"As a sophomore, I struggled a lot with the mental aspect. It took a lot of film study and sitting with the coach to learn what I was doing. It was frustrating at times. But once you understand the mental part, it is about executing. Once everybody is doing what they are supposed to do, it is a beautiful thing to see."
Baker said running the ball is the most fun he has on the field. "It isn't much fun being a quarterback if you are just handing the ball off or throwing the ball. The object of the triple option is not to block the reads, the tackle and strong safety, then get 11 players on 9. We're more fluid and getting better every week," he said.
But can Cary-Grove block Nyles Morgan, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior linebacker who is one of the leading prospects in the class of 2014 nationally. He already has offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan State, Vanderbilt, UCLA and Ole Miss.
"He could be as big a prospect as Treadwell when it is all said and done," Verde said. "I like his intelligence. He is an honor student. He studies film. He understands what needs to be done. He isn't just a raw talent. He has become a student of the game. Athletically, he has size and speed and strength. His acceleration is second to none. He can go from stop to full speed in a flash. He has great closing speed that colleges love. Ihaven't seen a better linebacker."
Growing up, Morgan was a baseball player. He didn't put on football helmet until sixth grade. His father didn't want his son to risk injury when he was young but Nyles persuaded him to let him try out for the Crete Bulldogs as a sixth grader.
"I knew my grandfather and father played football. I wanted to play, too. In seventh grade, I was moved up to the Bulldogs varsity. I realized I can play this sport, that I'm pretty good at it," Morgan said.
After his third game as a sophomore on Crete-Monee's varsity, Illinois coaches who had come to see Treadwell made it a point to let Morgan know that they also were impressed by his performance. Last December, they offered him a scholarship.
"I met a coach and shook his hand. I was too excited. I never thought I'd see a college coach eye-to-eye and shake his hand," Morgan said. "But I'm taking my time with recruiting. You can't get too personal with coaches. All of them have different things to offer. I realize it is a business. The key is for me to find what school fits me, a school with good academics, hospitality, good record, where I can get playing time early, maybe start as a freshman or sophomore."
Morgan is pleased with the quality of the schools that have offered. And he figures to attract more. He has heard from Alabama, Michigan, Florida, USC, Wisconsin, Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona State, Boston College, Oklahoma State and California. He hopes to hear from Florida State.
He has a 3.3 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and wants to study civil or architectural engineering. "My goal is to reach the NFL but if I don't reach it I want something to fall back on, my education in college, my diploma. My parents always emphasized that you need an education to compete in the world. I know the job market is ugly and you need an education to get a good job," he said.
But Morgan has a few years of football to play before he has to think about hanging up his pads and helmet for a suit and tie. He believes his team has what it takes to win the first state title in school history in any sport and he doesn't even mention athleticism. But he does mention discipline.
"I like this team's work ethic, the way we stick together. We had ugly situations I the past but we always stuck together. We picked each other up and won the game," he said. "I've never been on a team where everyone works as hard as the next person. We all show discipline, work ethic and drive. We all are on the same page with the ambition to win state."

Cubs slug their way to impressive homestand

Cubs slug their way to impressive homestand

For the third straight year, the Cubs' season could hinge on an important series with the San Francisco Giants.

In August of 2015, the Cubs swept the Giants in a four-game set at Wrigley Field and they built off that momentum to win 97 games and make it all the way to the National League Championship Series.

Last fall, the Cubs rallied to beat the Giants in an epic comeback in Game 4 of the NLDS, essentially winning the World Series in that game, by Joe Maddon's opinion.

The 2017 Cubs have spent all year hovering around .500 before winning three of four against the Giants this week at Wrigley, looking more and more like the defending champs.

Thursday's 5-1 win over the Giants was the icing on top of an impressive 7-2 homestand that also featured a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds and a split in a rain-shortened series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cubs are now 14-11 at home and 25-21 overall, having caught up to the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. 

They also flashed plenty of defense throughout the homestand, including Javy Baez's ridiculous play in the eighth inning of the series finale against the Giants:

Eddie Butler turned in another solid start, allowing just a run in five innings. Mike Montgomery faced one above the minimum in four innings of relief, inducing six outs on ground balls.

Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist delivered the offense with a solo homer each off former Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Bryant and Anthony Rizzo added insurance by both scoring on a wild pitch (and subsequent error) in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Heyward's blast was his fifth of the season. He didn't earn his fifth homer of 2016 until July 29.

On the nine-game homestand, the Cubs found their offense, scoring 59 runs — good for 6.56 runs per game.

They also smashed 20 home runs, which is nearly a third of their season total (62). On the homestand, 45.7 percent of the Cubs' runs came via the longball.

Cubs enjoy 'Anchorman' road trip after big home stand: '60 percent of the time, it works every time'

Cubs enjoy 'Anchorman' road trip after big home stand: '60 percent of the time, it works every time'

Win or lose, the Cubs were always going to leave Wrigley Field on a good note Thursday evening.

Joe Maddon made sure of that.

The Cubs are set to leave "The Friendly Confines" dressed in "Anchorman" attire for Maddon's themed road trip that will include Kyle Schwarber dressed as fictional sportscaster Champ Kind, right down to the gallon-size hat.

"Champ's my guy," Schwarber said.

Maddon thought Schwarber was the perfect fit for Champ Kind.

"Of course he should be," Maddon said. "Isn't that a [John] Lackey kinda look, also?

"I just love that they're into it. It would've been perfect going to San Diego first, but I'll take it."

The Cubs are shipping out to Los Angeles for a weekend series beginning Friday before heading to San Diego - the site of Ron Burgandy's affection - from there.

The Cubs apparently even have some "Sex Panther" on board, the cologne that Paul Rudd's character used that smelled...shall we say...awful.

"Sex Panther's on board," Maddon said before Thursday's game. "I'm hearing a lot of good things about Sex Panther. 'Sixty percent of the time, [it works every time].' I wanna know who wrote that. That's brilliant.

"Of course, a win always makes it better, but even after a loss, it's a good way to just let 'er go. But I think everybody's embraced the 'Anchorman' very well."

Of course, the Cubs did win, beating the San Francisco Giants 5-1 to close out a 7-2 home stand.