Bradshaw stars on, off the field at Brooks

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Bradshaw stars on, off the field at Brooks

No wonder Ahmad Bradshaw has trouble getting any attention from college recruiters. When they look for Brooks' 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior quarterback on the Internet, they often are exposed to running back Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants instead.

But the high school version is rapidly making a reputation of his own. Last Friday, he ran for three touchdowns and passed for another as Brooks snapped Austin's nine-game winning streak 49-12 in the second round of the Class 4A playoff.

Coach James Brown's team is in rarified air. The Eagles (8-2), who started 1-2 with losses to highly rated Kaneland 25-24 and Rock Island 33-28, will put their seven-game winning streak on the line against Evergreen Park (8-3) this weekend in a quarterfinal match-up at Evergreen Park.

Since the Public League began participating in the state playoff in 1979, only three representatives (Hubbard, Lane Tech, Tilden) have reached the semifinals and only one (Robeson in 1982) has advanced to the championship game.

"We had a lot of adversity in the beginning of the year," Bradshaw said. "We had to jump the gates to practice on our own field. But we always come together. What I learned when we played Kaneland and Rock Island is we can play with anybody. Our goal is to be the first Public League team to win the state title."

Brown wouldn't be surprised. "This is one of the best teams I have seen. They work hard in class and on the field. We have 11 Division I players. We have kids who scored 25 on the ACT and have 3.6 grade-point averages on a 5.0 scale. I thought we'd be undefeated. But things worked out against us," the coach said.

That's because Brown heeded some advice from Hubbard coach Elton Harris, whom he assisted for six years. "Coach Harris said to schedule tough opponents early. Last year, we lost to Kaneland 44-0 and to Rock Island by 14. But we played them tougher this year. We were one play from winning both games. You've got to get tested early so it won't be a shock in the playoff," Brown said.

He thinks the strategy will pay off. Most of his players started as freshmen. "They took bumps and bruises. But they stayed together. They have a special bond. They go to the park on Sunday to work out and they watch TV together. They have worked hard for this," Brown said.

Nobody has worked harder than Bradshaw. He has a 4.39 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale with honors courses. He has scholarship offers from West Point, Illinois, Northern Illinois, Stanford, Wisconsin, Air Force, Syracuse and Fordham.

"You can't rely on football to get where you want to go," Bradshaw said. "One of my coaches is paralyzed from the neck down. A friend of mine was killed on his birthday two weeks ago. You have to take academics seriously."

Bradshaw plans to study athletic training or law or pre-med or broadcast journalism in college. He also wants to play quarterback. Some schools are recruiting him as an athlete, which spells wide receiver or defensive back.

"I could play any position but I want to play quarterback because I'm good at it and that's what I've been doing since seventh grade," he said. "I'd like to attend Michigan State, Fordham, West Point or Wisconsin or any Big Ten school that has my major and where I can fit into football."

In 10 games, he has passed for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for over 900 yards and 13 touchdowns.

"He is the trigger of this team," Brown said. "We have a lot of great kids but he's the leader on offense."

Bradshaw grew up in Bronzeville, near 44th and Prairie. He played for the Mighty Men youth football program near Dunbar. He played basketball at Beasley but his mother got him involved in football and he soon realized that he was better at football, that he had enough talent to play at another level.

"I love football more," he said. "Football teaches me to work with people, to come together with people, to overcome adversity, to never give up. It is a family oriented sport and you've got to be a family or it won't work. Everybody has to do his job or it won't work."

Bradshaw loves to pull the trigger on Brown's triple option spread offense. "I always wanted to be a quarterback. In grammar school, people looked up to me. I looked at myself as a natural leader at quarterback. I'm a dual threat. I want to get the job done, no matter whatever it takes, even if I have to throw the ball with my left hand. I played with a broken rib in one game last year," he said.

Brooks' offense, which is averaging 37 points per game, features Bradshaw, 5-foot-7 160-pound senior wingback Cleveland Clark, 6-foot, 190-pound senior fullbacksafety Josh Smith, 6-foot, 300-pound junior center Lavalle Hughes and 6-foot, 285-pound senior guard Leon Harmon.

In Friday's victory over Austin, Clark carried 22 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns while Smith rushed 15 times for 155 yards and one touchdown. In 10 games, Clark has rushed for more than 1,450 yards and 14 touchdowns. Smith, Brooks' only two-way player, has offers from Illinois and Michigan State as a free safety.

In Brooks' 49-14 romp over Payton in the opening round of the playoff, Cleveland and Smith each rushed for over 100 yards. Bradshaw scored on a 60-yard run and Clark scored on a 95-yarder to give the Eagles an early 14-0 lead. Smith also scored on a 28-yard interception return and Jackson set up another touchdown with a 90-yard interception return.

Defensively, Smith is the leader. Other contributors are 6-foot-2, 240-pound senior middle linebacker Egypt Johnson, 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior end John McCain and 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior free safety Zeriam Jackson. The Eagles are allowing 14 points per game.

In his fifth year as head coach at Brooks, Brown has plenty of experience. At 43, this is his fourth head coaching job. He was an assistant to John Wrenn when Homewood-Flossmoor won the state title in 1994. He won 22 games in two years as head coach at Westinghouse and also was head coach at Corliss for two years before going to Brooks.

The way things are going at the South Side school, it won't take long for college recruiters to figure out who the real Admad Bradshaw is.

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

Carl Edwards Jr. couldn't dream up a better pitcher to try to emulate than Mariano Rivera.

Not for a young right-hander who is still getting used to being a reliever with a cutter as his bread and butter pitch.

After picking up his first career save late in 2016, Edwards mentioned how he has been watching video of Rivera. At the Cubs Convention earlier this month, Edwards name-dropped Rivera again in response to a fan question and went into more detail with exactly what he's aiming to accomplish by watching Rivera tape.

Let's be clear: Mariano Rivera is inimitable. He's a once-in-a-lifetime talent and there almost assuredly will never be a better closer in Major League Baseball.

But Edwards knows that. 

"He's great. He's a Hall of Famer," Edwards said. "He goes out there like he has the world in the palm of his hand. He's very competitive; I've never seen him back down. That's one [takeaway] for myself — I'm gonna go out and never back down.

"I don't really get into trying to be like him. I just look more into how he goes about his business. That's something that I can control — how I go about my business."

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Cubs coach Mike Borzello was there with Rivera in 1997 when the now-legendary cutter was born.

It's not fair to compare Edwards' cutter to one of the greatest pitches ever, but his version is pretty nasty in its own right:

The Cubs are still searching for long-term answers in the rotation, but don't have any intentions of moving Edwards back to a role as a starter.

Like Edwards, Rivera began his career as a starting pitcher coming up through the Yankees system. But Edwards actually has a leg up on baseball's all time saves leader: Edwards' first save came in his age 24 season while Rivera didn't tally his first save until age 26 in New York.

Edwards also struck out 13 batters per nine innings in 2016 while Rivera never posted eye-popping whiff totals (a career 8.2 K/9 rate).

As Edwards gets set for what he and the Cubs hope will be his first full season in the big leagues in 2017, his maturation will be important in an age of baseball where relief pitchers have never been more valued.

Rivera pitched in the playoffs nearly every year, routinely working more than one inning and posting ridiculous postseason numbers: 0.70 ERA, 0.759 WHIP and 42 saves while taking home the World Series MVP in 1999 and ALCS MVP in 2003.

The Cubs hope Edwards will be pitching in the postseason on a regular basis, too.

For now, the 25-year-old is still reveling in the glory following the 2016 Cubs championship.

He served as honorary drummer at the Carolina Panthers game in November.

"That was pretty amazing. That's a highlight of my offseason," Edwards said.

He grew up as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan despite being a South Carolina native, but Edwards said he did get a pair of Cam Newton cleats to wear for 2017 when he and Cubs teammates like Addison Russell or Matt Szczur throw the football around in the outfield to get loose.

Edwards was also blown away by the reception from Cubs fans at the Convention — "This is my third year and every year as been better" — but still hasn't fully wrapped his mind around the ending of the 108-year drought.

"Everything happened so quick," he said. "Hopefully in the next couple weeks when I have a break, I can sit down and soak it all in."

Vote for this week's High School Lites Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Vote for this week's High School Lites Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of area basketball fans in our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @CSNPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00pm. The show also live streams at csnchicago.com. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30am and 8:30am the following Saturday. This week, for the first time ever in our “Viewers’ Choice” poll, we will have girls basketball as our focus:

Warren at Lake Forest, 7:00pm

Glenbrook South at Maine South, 7:00pm

Vernon Hills at Maine West, 7:30pm

Poll opens Monday at 12:00pm and closes Thursday at 4:00pm. Here is what fans need to do to vote:

**Follow @CSNPreps on Twitter.

**Note the “pinned Tweet” atop the @CSNPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.

**Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @CSNPreps just after 4pm Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @CSNPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other basketball news, scores and highlights this season.