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."

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead