7A: Haeffner hopes to give Glenbard West an edge

943687.png

7A: Haeffner hopes to give Glenbard West an edge

Don't you just wish that once in your lifetime, just once, a coach will look into a camera on national television and deliver a scathing scouting report on his opponent?
That team is poorly coached. Bad, bad, bad. The quarterback is vastly overrated. Is his mother writing his evaluations? The defense is small, slow and hits like a sissy. Hey, who taught these guys how to block and tackle, Elmer Fudd?
Bulletin board material, right?
Well, as they approach Saturday's Class 7A championship game in Champaign, coaches Rob Zvonar of Lincoln-Way East and Chad Hetlet of Glenbard West are more subdued--and a lot more diplomatic. This match-up of unbeaten suburban powers could be a classic.
"Lincoln-Way East is well-coached," said Hetlet. "Their quarterback (Tom Fuessel) is a candidate for Player of the Year. If not the best, one of the top three. His speed and skill is something we haven't seen. He is special. And their defense is as good as anyone we have seen."
Zvonar is equally gracious about Glenbard West. "Put them on film. I am amazed at how hard and fast and physical they play. It is championship football the way it is supposed to be. We must commit seven or eight in the box to stop the run. They do a nice job on offense in tweaking formations to get you lined up where they want you. And they are effective in the passing game. Judge the quarterback on what they do if they decided to be in a spread," he said.
Glenbard West passing? What in the name of Bill Duchon is he talking about? There was a time when throwing two passes was one too many, when a quarterback practiced handoffs in his sleep, when he didn't dare lift his arm in a throwing motion for fear of never seeing the field again.
"I grew up watching Glenbard West football games. My dream was to play for them. Now I am living that dream," said quarterback Henry Haeffner. "Sure, I knew Glenbard West had a reputation for running the ball and hardly ever throwing it.
"But as a quarterback, my biggest thing was to manage the offense, no matter what offense. He has to be the one in charge. I had no dreams of throwing the ball 30 times a game. I just do what I have to do to help my team win. My role is to be the leader and make sure we play to the fullest of our capability. And to execute if we need to throw the ball."
Haeffner, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior, has given Glenbard West's offense an added dimension. He has passed for 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns to take pressure off the Hilltoppers' running game. One of his primary targets is 6-foot-5, 210-pound Vanderbilt-bound tight end Nathan Marcus.
"No. 83 (Marcus) is one of the best high school players in the state," said Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt. "They use him very smartly and wisely. He is very hard to defend as a receiver. If Lincoln-Way East can slow down No. 83 or contain him, they have a good chance to win. But nobody has been able to do it."
Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg said Glenbard West is the best team he has seen in the last four years. After losing 49-7 in Week 3, he said the Hilltoppers' defense is best he has seen...speed, aggressive, physical. He said junior safety Hayden Carlson is the best defensive back he has seen all year. Carlson was voted as the defensive player of the year in the West Suburban Silver Conference.
"When the ball is snapped, they come at you full speed," Weinberg said. "They have a relentless personality on offensive, defense and special teams. And they are doing an excellent job of mixing up their offense more than ever. They were more predictable in other years. This year, they keep people guessing more than ever."
Hetlet said his team is playing its best football at the right time, especially on defense. The defensive leaders are Carlson, linebacker Joe Marconi, end Ruben Dunbar and linebacker Tyler Dayton. On offense, Marcus and guard Nick Garland are the marquee players. Garland was named the West Suburban Silver's offensive lineman of the year.
"This team is very deep. We have a lot of players who can play if called upon. But the best thing is chemistry. We're all best friends. We love each other. We can count on each other," Haeffner said.
Leaders? Lots of them, Haeffner said. He singled out Garland, Marconi, running back Joe Zito, linebacker Erik Strittmatter and offensive lineman Jake Brodner.
Haeffner got his quarterbacking education as a backup to Justice Odom last year. He started three games when Odom was injured, then played on the junior varsity. He studied the playbook, learned to read defenses and developed his passing skills. He hoped he would need them. He was right.
"There is always pressure to perform," he said. "I try not to think about it. I'm out there having fun, doing what I've liked to do for my whole life. I've put in a lot of time preparing for it. I know the tradition of the program. Football is a big deal in Glen Ellyn. I know how important it is, something you like to watch.
"It is bigger than yourself. It isn't about one player. You put work in so you can succeed but more importantly so your team and friends can succeed. Statistics aren't important to me. I'm just happy that the team has been successful. My goal was to be a contributor for the team to win football games. I'm pleased with the way I have played."
Haeffner admitted he never has been more pleased than last Saturday when he threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to senior Nathan Hokenson on the second snap of Glenbard West's 19-13 victory over Lake Zurich. He finished with 141 yards passing and two touchdowns, including a 21-yarder to Marcus.
But the TD pass to Hokenson was special. "He has been one of my best friends for a long time. He was running a deep post. That's a play I'll never forget. I'm so happy it was somebody I've known for a long time," Haeffner said.
Glenbard West is big and strong and physical and talented. But are the Hilltoppers good enough to beat Lincoln-Way East, which by all accounts also is big and strong and physical and talented?
"Lincoln-Way East is the most physical team we have played in 34 years," said Montini coach Chris Andriano after losing to the Griffins 20-14 in Week 2. "I never saw a team that hit as consistently and as hard and as fast as they did on defense. They were smothering. We have played a lot of big-name teams over the years but they just take it to you on every play," he said.
Andriano said Lincoln-Way East quarterback Tom Fuessel is special. "He is so fast. You can't contain him. He will make plays. They have great coaching and great kids. I love the way they play," he said.
Providence coach Mark Coglianese said any conversation about Lincoln-Way East starts with Fuessel. "We did a good job of containing him. Then he broke a long one. He is the quickest or fastest guy on the field. He makes plays. He is a big concern for any defense. Athletically, he is the best player I have seen this year," he said.
But Coglianese cautions not to overlook running back Nick Colangelo. "Don't ease up on him or he will hurt you," he said.
"They don't throw exceptionally well. But their defense is like Mount Carmel: fast and physical. You need to throw the ball to beat them. But you better protect your quarterback. Fuessel can make a difference, like Ty Isaac of Joliet Catholic."
The key to Lincoln-Way East's defense, according to Zvonar, are the three linebackers--Mitch Murphy, Adam O'Grady and Kyle Langenderfer--and free safety Jarrett Lecas. Call them mean and lean and aggressive.
Murphy has 131 tackles, Langenderfer 112, O'Grady 111 and Lecas 110. Only 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds, Langenderfer defines the Griffins' toughness. He is the defending state wrestling champion at 138 pounds. As a sophomore football player, he weighed only 135. Zvonar admits he is closer to 5-foot-6 than his listed 5-foot-8.
"He is our team leader on defense," Zvonar said. "He is as physical and as quick and aggressive as any football player we have had. His wrestling skills carry over to the football field. I compare him to Clay Matthews (of the Green Bay Packers). He is our mini-Matthews."

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. – On an October night where you could literally feel Wrigley Field shaking, Brett Anderson fired off a message on his personal Twitter account: "Real classy cubs fans throwing beer in the Dodgers family section. Stay classy f------ idiots."
 
The Cubs had just clinched their first National League pennant since the year World War II ended, beating Clayton Kershaw and playing as close to a perfect game as they had all season. Anderson kept up the entertaining commentary during the World Series, previewing Game 7 – "We can all agree that we're happy it's not Joe West behind the plate tomorrow" – and tweaking his future manager: "Aroldis (Chapman) might puke on the mound from exhaustion." 
 
In another generation, a veteran pitcher might walk into a new clubhouse and wonder about any awkwardness with a hitter he once drilled with a fastball or some bad blood from a bench-clearing brawl. But overall today's players share the same agents, work out together in the same warm-weather offseason spots and understand the transient nature of this business. When pregame batting practice is filled with fist bumps, bro hugs and small talk between opponents, it becomes trying to remember what you said on social media. 
 
"I'm kind of a sarcastic ass on Twitter," Anderson said Monday. "I kind of sit back and observe. I'm not a huge talker in person. But I can kind of show some of my personality and candor on some of those things.
 
"You look at stuff (when) you get to a new team. I'm like: ‘Wow, man, did I say anything about anybody that's going to piss them off?' But I think the only thing I said about the players is that Kyle (Hendricks) looks like he could have some Oreos and milk after pitching in the World Series. 
 
"But that's kind of the guy he is. Just the calmness that he shows is something that we can all try to strive for."
 
Anderson essentially broke the news of his signing – or at least tipped off the media to look for confirmations – with a "Wheels up to Chicago" tweet in late January. The Cubs guaranteed $3.5 million for the chance to compete against Mike Montgomery and see which lefty can grab the fifth-starter job. Anderson could max out with $6.5 million more in incentives if he makes 29 starts this season. 
 
After undergoing surgery to repair a bulging disc in his lower back last March, Anderson made three starts and didn't earn a spot on the NLCS roster.  
 
"I obviously wasn't in the stands," Anderson said. "Supposedly from what I was told – it could be a different story – but there was just some beers thrown on where the families were. I'm going to stick to my family and my side.  
 
"I wasn't calling out the whole stadium. (It wasn't): ‘Screw you, Cubs fans.' It was just the specific (incident) – whoever threw the beers on the family section. Everybody has their fans that are kind of rowdy and unruly.

[SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here] 
 
"That just happened to be a situation. But you like those people on your side. I played in Oakland, and they had some of the rowdiest fans. In the playoffs, it seemed like ‘The Black Hole' for the Raiders games.
 
"You have your bad seeds in every fan base. When people are rowdy and cheering on their team and have one too many beers, the next thing you know, you're throwing them.
 
"Just visiting (Wrigley), it's a fun crowd, because it's such an intimate setting and you feel like they're right on top of you and it's so loud." 
 
Imagine the matchup nightmare the Dodgers could've been if their pitching staff hadn't been so top-heavy and manager Dave Roberts could've confidently gone to someone other than Kershaw, Rich Hill or closer Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers had made Anderson the qualifying offer after a solid 2015 season – 10-9, 3.69 ERA, 180-plus innings, a 66.7 groundball percentage – and he grabbed the $15.8 million guarantee. 
 
Anderson turned around and did the knock-on-wood motion at his locker, saying he felt good after completing a bullpen session with catcher Willson Contreras at the Sloan Park complex. Anderson is a Tommy John survivor who's also gone on the disabled list for a stress fracture in his right foot, a broken left index finger and a separate surgery on his lower back.
 
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Anderson said. "When I'm healthy and able to go out there and do my work, I feel like I'm a pretty good pitcher. I don't think I've ever been able to put everything as a whole together in one season. I've had some good spots – and some good seasons here and there – but hopefully I can put it all together and have a healthy season and do my part."
 
The Cubs are such a draw that Shane Victorino signed a minor-league deal here last year – even with more than $65 million in career earnings and even after a fan dumped a beer on him while he tried to catch a flyball at Wrigley Field in 2009.   
 
Anderson wanted to play for a winner and understood the organization's pitching infrastructure. He saw his pitching style as a match for the unit that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year. He was even intrigued by Camp Maddon and the wacky stunts in Mesa.  
 
"It's obviously an uber-talented group," Anderson said. "(It's also) seeing the fun that they're having. I'm more on the calm and cerebral side, but I think doing some of the things that these guys have in store for me will hopefully open me up a little bit and break me out of my shell. 
 
"'Uncomfortable' is a good word, especially for me. You don't want to get complacent. You don't want to get used to rehab. You want to go out there and do new things and try new things and meet new people and have new experiences. All things considered, the Cubs offered the best mix of everything."