Bret Curtis: Glenbard South's version of Butkus

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Bret Curtis: Glenbard South's version of Butkus

Bret Curtis wears No. 51. Some high school athletes wear Nos. 23 or 34 or 77 or 18 or 32 because famous professionals wore them. If you have to be told that Dick Butkus once wore No. 51, you have never played football.

Curtis has been wearing that number since second grade.

"When I was playing with the Lombard Falcons youth football team, my dad showed me who Butkus was and I saw him on film. I wanted to be like him," said Glenbard South's 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior middle linebacker. "I used to be a defensive end but the coach moved me to linebacker as a sophomore. He thought I had athletic ability. I liked defensive end but I like linebacker more because I have more control over the game."

Like Butkus did.

Curtis is the Metro Suburban Conference's defensive player of the year. He is Glenbard South's leading tackler. He has recorded 11 sacks. He has interest from Illinois, LSU, South Carolina, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Illinois State and Western Illinois. As a senior, he has straight A's in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. He wants to study aerospace engineering.

"He isn't a blue chipper," coach Jeremy Cordell said. "But he is a special kid, our leader, our catalyst. He works hard. He is very aggressive. The way he flies around the ball gets other kids excited."

Curtis' message to college recruiters? "I'm not looking for a Division I school or a chance to play in the NFL. I just want to play in college. I'm probably not the best athlete and I'm probably not that fast. But I'm a good pass rusher. I can hit, I like to get dirty, I'm good at stopping the run and I love the game. I'm just a football player," he said.

In his third year, Cordell has built a competitive program at the Glen Ellyn school. Last year's team was 2-3 and finished 7-4, losing to Class 6A champion Prairie Ridge in the second round of the playoff. This year's team also started 2-3 but has rallied to win its last four games in a row.

In last Friday's 41-28 victory at Rock Island, quarterback Alex Jeske completed 8 of 13 passes for 122 yards and running backs Justin Gjerazi and Zach Smith each rushed for 117 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore linebacker Jack Curtis returned an interception for a touchdown.

"It was an exciting 2 12-hour bus trip home from Rock Island," Cordell said. "We beat a state-ranked team and we won convincingly in all three phases of the game. We're starting to get in a playoff mode."

On the way home, the coaches and players tried to figure out who their first-round opponent would be. They thought they would play Lake Forest. But the Raiders will meet St. Patrick at Hanson Stadium on Saturday night in the opening round of the Class 6A playoff.

"Our motto is: take the next step. We want to go beyond where we went last year," Cordell said.

"Coach Cordell is bringing a new mindset to the team and we want to put Glenbard South on the map. We want to make it a football school. We want to establish our own identity," Bret Curtis said.

"He (Cordell) can make a difference. He had a rough time in his first year (4-5). He preached to the choir. But we took steps forward last year and got momentum going. I like the work he puts in, more than other coaches. He likes hard-nosed football.

"The defense has stepped up since last year. We have more speed. We like to fly around. At quarterback, Jeske has a great head on his shoulders and makes great decisions. We don't have a lot of Division I players and we aren't big but we have good athletes who do the job and like to play football."

On defense, Bret Curtis is surrounded by 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior linebacker Matt Loos and 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior lineman Darnell Barrett.

The offense, which has averaged 48.5 points in its last four games, features Jeske, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior; Gjerazi, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior; Loos at running back; Smith, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior; and 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior running back Clark Gary. Gjerazi has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the last four games and Jeske has passed for over 1,300 yards.

"How do I explain averaging 48.5 points in our last four games? We haven't made any changes in the lineup or installed any new plays or come up with any gimmicks," Cordell said.

"Our offensive line has improved, our backs are doing a better job of seeing the holes and we're getting better as a football team. Our formula has been to get better as a team. Our kids have committed to the process. They want to get better."

Fire trade Kennedy Igoboananike to D.C. United

Fire trade Kennedy Igoboananike to D.C. United

With just five days until the summer transfer window closes in Major League Soccer, the Chicago Fire have made their first big move of the window.

Kennedy Igboananike has been traded to D.C. United for Targeted Allocation Money and a third round pick in 2019.

Per the Fire's release, Igboananike will still count as a Designated Player through the rest of 2016 and the Fire will retain a percentage of any transfer fee if he is sold outside the league in 2016. Paul Tenorio also reported that the Fire are still paying a majority of Igboananike's salary.

Igboananike is the second DP forward to leave the team during this season. Gilberto and the Fire mutually terminated the Brazilian's contract in late June.

David Accam is the only DP left on the Fire roster, but with Igboananike still counting as one this season, the Fire only have the one spot vacated from when Gilberto departed. However, when the Fire head into the offseason they will have two DP spots to work with.

Igboananike joined the Fire before the 2015 season and made 55 appearances between MLS play and the U.S. Open Cup. He scored 13 goals for the Fire. This season, the Nigerian scored four goals and carried the offense when David Accam was injured in the early part of the season.

He has not scored since May 11, a 10-game drought. Even still, his four goals are still tied for the team-lead this season. Igboananike also led the Fire in shots (48) and shots on target (15).

The 27-year-old was a hard-working, but ultimately only moderately productive forward with the Fire. He was also not as featured in the attack since the arrival of Michael de Leeuw.

“Moves like this are needed in order to execute our plan for roster development,” general manager Nelson Rodriguez said in the press release.

Rodriguez has said that he and the club were working towards a multi-year plan that made it sound like 2017 was more the priority than 2016 in terms of building the roster. This move goes along with that.

D.C. is chasing a playoff spot and the Fire have become a longshot to make the playoffs. Dumping Igboananike allows the Fire to have more flexibility heading into the offseason to prepare for 2017.

White Sox: Robin Ventura doesn't want to see Sale or Quintana traded

White Sox: Robin Ventura doesn't want to see Sale or Quintana traded

MINNEAPOLIS -- He has considered the trade rumors and Robin Ventura doesn’t like the idea of a world in which Chris Sale or Jose Quintana aren’t White Sox players.

The White Sox manager said Friday that his job would be much more difficult were either front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher to be traded. While chances seem remote that either is dealt before Monday’s 3 p.m. CST nonwaiver trade deadline, Sale and Quintana continue to be mainstays in the rumor mill. And even though players often tell media they avoid rumors, Ventura said it’s almost impossible for them to avoid hearing the latest trade chatter and where they possibly could be headed.

“All you have to do is think about it for a second and realize it wouldn’t be as good if you don’t have those guys,” Ventura said. “That stuff, I think the time of year, it’s rampant. Everybody talking about people, and a lot of it can just be fans or people saying, ‘Trade this guy for that guy.’ But it’s not that easy. People have fun doing that and sometimes it gets the best of guys inside because, one, they’ll get their feelings hurt because they think that’s actually going on, and sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

“Guys, it does distract them.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The latest news surrounding Sale is that the New York Yankees have reportedly checked in on him, according to Today’s Knuckeball’s Jon Heyman. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that there’s skepticism industrywide whether the White Sox would trade Sale before the deadline. But, Rosenthal added, the White Sox have listened now more than ever on Sale, who returned from a five-game suspension to pitch on Thursday.

Both the White Sox and Sale have said they want to move on from what the pitcher called “a fiasco” and focus on the team’s final 60 games. Sale reiterated on Thursday night that he wants to stay with the White Sox and see if the team can make a push for its first postseason appearance since 2008.

The White Sox began the day six games back of the second wild-card spot. Ventura thinks the club is better prepared to stick around in the race than they were in 2015, when they fell apart in August.

Where he spoke with Hahn every day while the team was in Chicago, Ventura won’t do that while the team is on the road. Prior to Thursday’s game, Ventura said he thinks the deadline will be relatively quiet.

“I don't want to see anybody go out of here,” Ventura said. “I don't think that's going to happen.”

Cubs battle rain, explode for blowout over Mariners

Cubs battle rain, explode for blowout over Mariners

A little rain Friday couldn't dampen the Cubs' spirits as they welcomed the Seattle Mariners into town.

The Cubs offense rudely greeted their American League opponent en route to a 12-1 victory at Wrigley Field that included a 74-minute rain delay after the game was well in hand.

As the Cubs have gone through a little offensive lull over the last week or so, they've maintained they need to take what's given to them from opposing pitchers and try not to do too much.

They did that and a whole lot more Friday afternoon, giving the announced crowd of 40,951 fans a lot to stand up and cheer about all game.

"Just a really well-played game," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We pitched well, we played well, we did everything well. After a really hard-fought series with the White Sox, it was kinda nice to play a game like that today."

Chris Coghlan — just activated off the disabled list Friday morning — got things started with a two-out, two-run single in the second inning and then came around to score on Kris Bryant's single.

Jason Heyward added a two-run homer in the fifth inning and the Cubs then touched up the Mariners bullpen for six runs in the sixth inning, including a three-run double from Anthony Rizzo and a solo homer from David Ross.

In all, the Cubs rapped out 14 hits and walked six times. Bryant led the way with three hits and a pair of walks.

"These days are great," Ben Zobrist said. "It's a mental breather for everybody. When you get up early in the game like that, you allow the pitcher to have some breathing room.

"... I think all across the board as a team, it's a real feel-good win."

It was all the offense starter Jon Lester needed, as he tossed six shutout innings with seven strikeouts for his 11th victory on the season.

"I felt actually a lot better than I have here recently," Lester said. "Still two pointless, useless walks out there. Still trying to clean that up for whatever reason.

"But at the end of the day, we win. That's what you want to do. Guys swung the bats really well. I try to always tell them: 12 runs and an airtight defense makes the pitcher's job a lot easier."

Lester even got in on the offensive onslaught, drawing a walk and scoring a run in that sixth inning explosion. 

With the Cubs up big, Joe Maddon opted to take out Lester for the top of the seventh after 95 pitches, giving way to Justin Grimm and former Mariner Mike Montgomery for the final three innings.

The game got so out of hand, the Mariners brought in infielder Luis Sardinas to pitch the eighth inning (and he promptly retired Addison Russell, Heyward and Javy Baez in order).

The lopsided score also helps the Cubs' new bullpen, giving Aroldis Chapman, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop the day off.

The Cubs have looked like a different team since the All-Star Break, with their starting rotation once again leading the National League in ERA (2.60) in the second half.

The Cubs also haven't lost a series since before the All-Star Break, taking two of three from the Rangers, Mets and Brewers before splitting a four-game set with the White Sox.

"I think to a certain degree, yes [we have gotten our mojo back since the break]," Zobrist said. "It gave us the rest that our staff needed to get back to the kind of staff that they are and our hitters — we've struggled a little bit coming out of the All-Star Game.

"But today was a good day to kinda bust through with a lot of runs early. Hopefully there's some more games like that to come."