Defensive dominance leads to shutout for St. Rita


Defensive dominance leads to shutout for St. Rita

Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010
11:14 PM

By Pat DiSabato

St. Rita coach Todd Kuska has waited all season for his team to produce a complete 48 minutes of solid football. The wait is over.

Jahwon Akui rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns and the Mustang defense stuffed an explosive Carmel offense en route to a dominant 21-0 victory in a Class 7A quarterfinal Saturday night in Chicago. St. Rita advances to take on Lake Zurich, a 17-14 winner over Simeon, next weekend.
Photos: Carmel vs. St. Rita

"We talked about it before the game how we need to put together 48 minutes of good football," said Kuska, whose Mustangs improved to 11-1. "We feel like we haven't done that yet. But tonight, especially on defense and special teams, we really played well."

It would be an insult to refer to the Mustangs performance on defense any other than dominant.

Carmel had averaged 38 points and approximately 340 yards of offense entering the contest. On this night, it would total just 171 yards. It was the first time Carmel's high-powered offense had been blanked in nine years.

The Mustangs frontline of Ben Tomasek, Pat O'Connor, Joe Filomeno and Charlie Buche were relentless. Carmel quarterback Brian Serio registered a team-high 94 yards rushing, but he had to fight for every single one of them.

Linebackers Ryan McGowan, Matt Mullen and Will McNamara were outstanding as well.

"They just tore us up defensively," admitted Carmel coach Andy Bitto, whose team capped off its season at 10-2. "They were just pushing us backwards. We haven't struggled like that in a long time. Hats off to their defense."

Neither team could establish much offense in the first quarter.

That would change, at least for the Mustangs, in the second period.

St. Rita mixed up its attack during a 13-play, 79-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Brandon Johnson (6 of 14, 115 yards) completed a pair of clutch passes, both to Bobby Gallagher that covered 7 and 14 yards. That forced Carmel, which had loaded up to eight players in the box, to honor the Mustangs ability to pass.

Akui eventually capped off the drive, leaping in from one yard for a 7-0 lead at 7:02 of the second quarter. Chris Donahue added the first of his three extra point kicks.

"It's not that we can't pass," Kuska said. "We pass when we have to or when we want to."

When St. Rita tacked on another score, with Johnson hitting a wide-open Mitch Saffold from 29 yards out at 11:30 of the fourth quarter, the lead stretched to 14-0.

Carmel was forced to pass the football more often, something it prefers not to do.

Serio attempted one pass in the first half and finished 4 of 10 for 13 yards.

"We don't pass very much and most of the time, we don't have to," Bitto said. "We average like 340 yards of offense and we didn't even come close to that. They just totally outplayed us."

Akui applied the icing on the cake with a 26-yard TD run with 3:42 to go.

"I'm just happy to be practicing still," said Kuska, when asked about next week's opponent. "We've got a lot of work to do."

Travis Starks added 35 yards of rushing on six carries for St. Rita.

Clayton Kershaw the latest to compare Kyle Hendricks to Greg Maddux

Clayton Kershaw the latest to compare Kyle Hendricks to Greg Maddux

LOS ANGELES - The best pitcher on the planet (besides Andrew Miller) compared Kyle Hendricks to the best pitcher of a generation. 

Clayton Kershaw will go up against Hendricks for the second time in the National League Championship Series in Game 6 Saturday at Wrigley Field and the Dodgers ace said he sees a little Greg Maddux in the young right-hander.

"He's kind of like the Greg Maddux of this generation, with his ability to sink the ball, cut the ball and put him in spots where hitters are enticed to swing at it, but you can't put the barrel on it," Kershaw said before Thursday's Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.

"He's really good at mixing speeds, changing it up. He's a tough guy to go against, for sure."

That's some high praise from a guy who's won three NL Cy Youngs (2011, 2013, 2014) and tallied four straight ERA titles from 2011-14.

Maddux won 355 games over a 23-year career and took home four straight Cy Youngs from 1992-95, a span in which he had a ridiculous .721 winning percentage (75-29) and 1.98 ERA.

Hendricks, of course, is in the Cy Young running this season and paced the big leagues with a 2.13 ERA.

In Game 2 at Wrigley Field, the two pitchers squared off in a pretty epic duel. The Dodgers wound up winning 1-0 on a second-inning wind-aided homer by Adrian Gonzalez.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

During the regular season, pitchers usually dismiss the notion that they're going up against the other starter, talking more about pitching to the opposing lineup than trying to match the other guy on the mound.

But in the postseason, runs are fewer and farther between, so pitching matchups come to the forefront.

"In the playoffs, it is a little more between the pitchers than it would be in the regular season," Hendricks said. "I only say that because regular season, you don't really look at it at all.

"In playoffs, you definitely look at it. I think that's the difference there, especially when you're going up against a guy like Kershaw. You know he's over there, so it makes it fun."

Kershaw shut down the Cubs - and the whole can't-pitch-in-the-postseason narrative - and gave his team a big lift in Game 2, silencing the Wrigley crowd.

Instead of going on short rest in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium, the club opted to keep Kershaw in their back pocket and try to neutralize the 40,000-plus Cubs fans in Game 6.

"He could definitely negate a phone booth," Maddon said. "This guy, when he's pitching well, he's just that good. There is that certain set of pitchers that are that guy and the confidence he brings to their group.

"There is no question about that. But at this time of the year, if you wanted to get to your ultimate goal, you have to beat people like that. You have to."

Brock Spack on potentially returning to Purdue as head coach: 'I don't see it happening'


Brock Spack on potentially returning to Purdue as head coach: 'I don't see it happening'

Brock Spack seems like one of the logical candidates — perhaps the most logical candidate — for the Purdue head-coaching job just vacated by the firing of Darrell Hazell.

But the current Illinois State coach doesn't envision him moving back to the program where he played and where he was an assistant for a combined decade and a half.

"I don't see it happening," Spack said earlier this week, his quotes published by the Pantagraph. "I've kind of moved on from that a long time ago."

Spack was a Purdue linebacker in the early 1980s. He was Purdue's defensive backs coach from 1991 to 1994 under Jim Colletto, and he was the Boilermakers' defensive coordinator under Joe Tiller from 1997 to 2008.

Purdue had a couple chances to make Spack the head coach, opting for Danny Hope after Tiller's tenure ended and then picking Hazell ahead of the 2013 season. Hope's teams posted one winning record in four seasons, and Hazell was fired last weekend after amassing just nine wins in three and a half seasons.

Spack has been the head coach at Illinois State since the 2009 season, posting a 59-33 record and leading the Redbirds to three FCS playoff appearances, including a trip to the national title game in 2014.

"I'm not anticipating any," Spack said, on if there'd been any contact from his alma mater. "I just don't see Purdue going after an FCS head coach right now. It's difficult for me. It's the same record that keeps playing over and over again. I don't think it's healthy for me to go through all that stuff, so I don’t really think about it."