Andriano contemplates 4th title, retirement

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Andriano contemplates 4th title, retirement

Montini coach Chris Andriano would like to win a fourth consecutive state championship in 2012, putting his program in a class with Driscoll, Joliet Catholic, Providence and Mount Carmel as the only schools in the history of the state playoff to win four or more in a row.

Whether he wins or not, however, it could be his last season.

"I have told the school president (Jim Segredo) and the athletic director (Bob Landi) that next year might be my last year," Andriano said as he closed the book on his 33rd season at the Lombard school.

"I will be 60 years old on Dec. 7. I have completed 33 years as head coach. I am looking at retirement. I'm getting to the point where there is time for someone else to run the show. Next year might be it.

"I have four grandchildren and I like to fish in Canada. This job gets tougher every year. My health is good. But this is a year-round job now. Now it is the college recruiting season. Three college coaches came in today.

"When I started, it was a simpler job. Life was simpler. Football was a simpler game. The off-season wasn't as complicated with recruiting and workouts and weight room and conditioning and planning things out.

"If we weren't winning, life would be simpler. But it's a great problem to have. There's a bigger buildup when you're in the limelight. If you win three state titles in a row, you reach a special category in Illinois high school football. How many teams have done that? You're in a pretty select group. And everyone is gunning for you."

It was a never-to-be-forgotten season, the stuff that dreams and legends are made of...beating Joliet Catholic 70-45 for the state title with a team featuring the best quarterback (John Rhode) and the best player (wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp) that he has produced.

"When you win three state titles in a row, that's off the charts for me," Andriano said. "We've had some good teams but to win three in a row is more special than anything else we've done here.

"Four years ago, I had a great team, maybe my best team, four Division I players, but we lost to Driscoll in Week 9 and lost to Wheaton St. Francis in the quarterfinals. I'm coaching players whose fathers played here. We have a connection with families that goes back to when I first started here. There is great loyalty here."

How do you top it?

"Next year we will have another great group of kids," Andriano said. "Who will be the quarterback? Who will replace Westerkamp? We will have five starters back on offense and three on defense. Every year different kids emerge. It will be another good, solid team."

Andriano will build his 2012 team around versatile Joe Borsellino, who played quarterback, wide receiver, running back and defensive back this season but will be a primary receiver next season. Other standouts will be 6-5, 280-pound guard Tate Briggs, quarterbackwide receiver Mark Gorogianis, 6-3, 255-pound defensive end Fred Beaugard and running back Demetri Taylor.

The coach's game plan calls for Gorogianis to replace Westerkamp at wide receiver. He was Rhode's backup this season at quarterback but Andriano would like to keep him at wide receiver. That means sophomore Jimmy Barron will have to earn the starting spot at quarterback.

"Experience-wise, right now, Gorogianis is our best kid at quarterback," Andriano said. "Barron has to prove he can run the offense and make the right decisions. It's all about decision-making."

Westerkamp can't be replaced, of course. He set state records for pass receiving yardage and touchdowns in a career. "He is the best the state has ever seen at his position, strong and physical, a great blocker, a do-everything type. There is no doubt that he can be a dominant player at Nebraska--and he has a shot at making it in the NFL," Andriano said. "One play in the state championship game that I am more proud of him than of anything else he has accomplished is he ran down Joliet Catholic's Malin Jones after he intercepted a pass. A lot of kids wouldn't have come back to make that tackle. Jordan has great heart. He's a great competitor."

Rhode, the transfer from Marian Catholic who missed the first month of the season with a broken thumb, came on so strong and was so impressive that Andriano insists he has the tools to be a Big 10 quarterback. Unfortunately, he didn't get any exposure last year and most colleges have filled their quarterback slots for next year.

"He has great arm strength and touch to make all the throws," Andriano said. "He sees defenses, reads them, knows our offense, can check down and can throw it away. He will take off and run. He is so smart with the ball. He has zip on the ball. He puts the ball in positions where the receiver can get it and defenders can't. There never has been a quarterback that smart before."

While Andriano contemplates retirement, he admits that a third state championship has only provided him with a greater appreciation for the kids in his program.

"Three state titles is about the hard work and talent we have," he said. "The freshman started in the weight room today (Monday). Everybody else is off until after Christmas. Then next year's team will start working out. When you go 14 weeks with games and get all that extra practice with younger kids, it is a big plus. It gives us plenty of time to work on strength and speed when we get back in January. These kids are committed."

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White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”