7A: Haeffner hopes to give Glenbard West an edge

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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."

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Pirates on CSN

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Pirates on CSN

The Cubs wrap up their three-game series with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage from the North Side starts at 7 p.m., and be sure to stick around following the final out for reaction and analysis on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Jason Hammel (13-7, 3.21 ERA) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (3-3, 3.02 ERA)

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Preview: Chris Sale, White Sox close out series with Tigers on CSN

Preview: Chris Sale, White Sox close out series with Tigers on CSN

The White Sox close out their series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (15-7, 3.14 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (14-7, 3.33 ERA)

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White Sox bullpen falters in loss to Tigers

White Sox bullpen falters in loss to Tigers

DETROIT — The 2016 White Sox expected an improved offense when they addressed two of last season’s biggest needs with trades for Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie.

While scoring is up a hair over the 2015 club, it hasn’t nearly been enough.

As they have for much of the season, the White Sox jumped out to an early three-run lead on Tuesday night but failed to put their opponents away. Their dormancy allowed the Detroit Tigers to rally back to send the White Sox to an 8-4 loss in front of 27,121 at Comerica Park. Frazier homered early before Detroit scored eight runs between the fifth and seventh innings. The Tigers look to complete a three-game sweep of the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon on CSN.

“That’s kind of been the story of our year,” leadoff man Adam Eaton said. “With runners in scoring position we haven’t been able to drive in and get the big hit. When we do that we win. When we get it done we win and when we don’t it bites us.”

The White Sox thought they added serious bite to an offense that finished at or near the bottom of the American League in 2015 in most of the major categories. Frazier was acquired in a three-team deal from the Cincinnati Reds and Lawrie came over from Oakland for two-minor leaguers. On top of the acquisitions of Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche a year earlier, Frazier and Lawrie were expected to bolster positions in which the White Sox finished last in OPS in the majors last season.

To an extent, the plan has worked. The White Sox entered Tuesday having increased their scoring average to 4.07 runs per game, up from 3.84. But even with that improvement, the White Sox started play 13th among 15 AL clubs in runs scored and 63 runs below the league average.

They also were 13th in home runs (131), slugging percentage (.402) and OPS (.717).

Part of their struggles can be attributed to injuries — Lawrie has been out since July 22 and Austin Jackson has been gone since early June. The unexpected retirement of LaRoche also left the White Sox short on left-handed power in the middle of the lineup and forced Cabrera from the second spot to fifth to provide balance. And some can be attributed to down years by several key veterans, including the performance with runners in scoring position by Jose Abreu and Frazier.

But even the White Sox thought they’d be a better run-scoring team than they have proven through 131 games.

“I think we did,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You lose Rochie at the beginning of the year, and that changed the left-handed dynamic of what our lineup would have been like. But you still expect guys to hit a little better and score more runs than we’ve done. We haven’t held up our end of the bargain.”

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Their end of the bargain left the White Sox vulnerable on Tuesday. Frazier’s two-run homer and an RBI groundout by Eaton in the second inning had the White Sox in command. But Daniel Norris struck out Tim Anderson to strand a runner at third.

Then in the fourth, Norris got Tyler Saladino to fly out to shallow right, which prevented the runner on third from tagging. After Eaton walked, Norris got Anderson to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Even though Norris’ pitch count was sky high, the White Sox failed to knock him out of the game. That allowed the Tigers to rally back against Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Albers and Jacob Turner.

“They seem to add on,” Ventura said. “They don’t stop adding on that extra run. A guy on third with less than two outs, they’re able to get it in. That’s been an Achilles heel for us.”

It’s also been a source of frustration, Eaton said. The White Sox look around the room and feel like they have a talented group, especially now with Justin Morneau solidifying the middle. But once again, that group didn’t keep their foot on the pedal and paid the price.

“They just continue to plug away,” Eaton said. “Their offense is good enough to come back from any deficit. Hats off to them, but we’ve got to keep adding on. We got on Norris early and got his pitch count up, but we’ve got to keep knocking on the door. We didn’t keep on it enough and knock him out real early.

“Top to bottom I think we have a pretty good lineup. It is frustrating when you don’t get that big hit and vice versa for the big pitch.”