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."

White Sox draft pick Zack Collins wins Johnny Bench Award

White Sox draft pick Zack Collins wins Johnny Bench Award

This June just keeps getting better and better for Zack Collins.

Collins was selected by the White Sox with the No. 10 pick in the MLB Draft, made it to the College World Series with the University of Miami, signed his first professional contract and now he is the Johnny Bench Award winner.

The Johnny Bench Award was created in 2000 and is given to the top college catcher in Division 1. Previous winners include Buster Posey and Kurt Suzuki.

Collins already had a haul of first-team All-America honors from Baseball America, D1Baseball, the NCBWA, Perfect Game and Rawlings.

Collins hit .363 with 16 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .668 slugging percentage. He also led the nation with 78 walks this season for the Hurricanes, which went 0-2 at the College World Series. Collins started 62 of 64 Miami games and made 59 of those starts at catcher.

How Bulls could land a max free agent and re-sign E’Twaun Moore

How Bulls could land a max free agent and re-sign E’Twaun Moore

Quick note here because we are all eager to get back to our twitter feeds and wild speculation. Even though the Bulls will only have approximately $24 million in cap space, there is one situation in which they can sign a Tier 1 max player AND re-sign E’twaun Moore.

This all hinges on the deal (and discount) that Moore would give the Bulls. The Bulls have Early-Bird rights with Moore; that means they can potentially sign him to a deal and not eat into their cap space. There are a lot of rules into how this works and I won’t bore you with details, but the bottom line is that the Bulls can offer a 3-year deal for approx. $21 million or a 4-year deal for appox $28 million. If Moore accepts this contract, the Bulls just to have account for his ‘cap hold’ of $980,431 in free agency until the actual deal is signed. 

This potential deal would leave the Bulls approximately $23 million to spend, well above the $22.2 million it would take to land a Tier 1 (0-6 year NBA player) in free agency. This includes restricted free agent Harrison Barnes. Again, this only works if Moore doesn’t want to test free agency, or doesn’t receive a better offer in free agency. If Moore wants more money, the Bulls have to use their cap space to sign him to a larger deal.

One important key to any restricted free agent like Barnes, the Warriors will have 3 days to match any offer sheet that Barnes signs. Barnes can’t sign an offer sheet until July 7th, so the Warriors effectively will have until at least July 10th to make that decision. This prevents any team like the Bulls ‘swooping’ in and landing Barnes while Kevin Durant conducts his meetings in the Hamptons.

Cubs aren’t sweating loss to Mets or NLCS flashbacks: ‘Big-boy games are totally different'

Cubs aren’t sweating loss to Mets or NLCS flashbacks: ‘Big-boy games are totally different'

NEW YORK – The Cubs didn’t overreact to getting swept in last year’s National League Championship Series, but the New York Mets did expose some underlying issues while a deep playoff run created a sense of urgency in Wrigleyville.

The Cubs spent like crazy on the free-agent market (almost $290 million) and wore T-shirts around spring training that literally put targets on their chests, knowing the look would go viral on social media and spark love/hate responses.

Making a statement? Sending a message? That’s so last year, when the Cubs were a team still trying to find an identity and learn how to win. The Mets are now the ones feeling the season-on-the-brink anxiety, desperate for offense and crossing their fingers that all those talented young pitchers stay healthy.

Maybe this becomes a turning point for the defending NL champs, beating the Cubs 4-3 on Thursday night at Citi Field to kick off a marquee four-game series in front of 40,122 and a national TV audience. Not that John Lackey – the playoff-tested veteran the Cubs signed to lengthen their rotation for October – felt any added significance in facing the Mets.

“None,” Lackey said. “It’s June, who cares? Big-boy games are totally different.”

Yes, Lackey was “pretty surprised” and a little miffed that manager Joe Maddon pulled him with a runner on and one out in the seventh inning and the Cubs holding a 3-1 lead. Joel Peralta failed this bullpen audition, walking Alejandro De Aza (.158 average) and giving up an RBI single to just-promoted-from-Triple-A Las Vegas rookie Brandon Nimmo.

Neil Walker put the pressure on highlight-reel defender Javier Baez, who fielded a chopper at second base, didn’t have a play at home plate and made the split-second decision to throw toward backpedaling third baseman Kris Bryant. The Mets showed last October that little things matter in big-boy games, and the throwing error from a Gold Glove-caliber player suddenly gave them a 4-3 lead.  

“Getting beat’s one thing,” Lackey said. “But when you feel like you kind of gave one away – or let one go – that’s a different kind of loss.”

The Mets (41-37) might not have must-win games in July, but they needed some good news in “Panic City.” Steven Matz, who set off alarm bells this week with the disclosure he’s been pitching with a bone spur in his left elbow, managed to work into the sixth inning and throw 104 pitches, giving up homers to Bryant and Baez but limiting the damage to only three runs.

Yoenis Cespedes, who revived a lifeless lineup after last summer’s trade-deadline blockbuster, energized the Mets again with a big swing in the sixth inning, drilling a Lackey pitch 441 feet out to left field and onto the third deck, creating a 110-mph exit velocity with his 19th home run.

“New year, different team, different circumstances,” said Jake Arrieta, who lost Game 2 here last October, watching Daniel Murphy reach so far down for a curveball that his left knee almost scraped the dirt, driving it out for a momentum-shifting, first-inning, two-run homer. “We’ll probably relive some memories that weren’t very exciting.

“You never want to lose one step from a World Series. But, again, we had a team that was very young with a lot of rookies contributing. We gained a lot of valuable experience from those games, regardless of the outcome. And we’re obviously better for it this season with some new pieces. We look forward to ending in a little different fashion this year.”

The Cubs (51-27) still don’t have the answer for Mets closer Jeurys Familia, who finished off all four NLCS wins last October and is now 27-for-27 in save chances this season. Miguel Montero led off the ninth inning with a pinch-hit walk and Ben Zobrist followed with a double into right field before those all-or-nothing contact issues resurfaced.

Familia responded by striking out Bryant swinging – all six pitches were marked as sinkers clocked between 97 and 98 mph – and intentionally walking Anthony Rizzo to load the bases. Maybe this exposure will pay off in the playoffs, but Familia struck out Willson Contreras swinging and got Javier Baez to pop out to end the game. The Citi Field sound system started playing Ace Frehley’s “(I’m Back, Back in the) New York Groove.” Not that the Cubs were having flashbacks.

“We know the feeling of getting eliminated, getting swept, but I think we’re onto bigger and better things,” Bryant said. “We’re ready for it. Different year, different players here, different attitude.”