Deolitsis sparks Hinsdale South revival

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Deolitsis sparks Hinsdale South revival

Hinsdale South is 6-3, its best finish since 2005, but second-year coach Mike Barry isn't surprised. Neither is quarterback D.J. Deolitsis, who directs the Hornets' unique short pistol offense with the precision of a watchmaker and the firepower of a battleship.

In fact, after starting 4-0, they think they should be better going into this week's game against Oak Forest in the Class 6A playoff. After losing to Leyden 17-14 in Week 5, Hinsdale Central 34-27 in Week 6 and Downers Grove South 36-33 in Week 8, they had to beat Willowbrook 41-22 last Friday to secure a playoff berth.

Deolitsis, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior, has amassed more than 1,700 yards in total offense as Hinsdale South has averaged 36.2 points per game. He has passed for more than 700 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 yards and accounted for 23 touchdowns. He has averaged over eight yards per carry.

In last Friday's must-win game against Willowbrook in Villa Park, Arian Toney carried 19 times for 194 yards and three touchdowns in the first half and finished with a career high of 289 yards in 37 attempts to punch Hinsdale South's ticket to the state playoff for the first time since 2005.

Under Barry's guidance, Hinsdale South has made progress. After five losing seasons in a row, the Hornets went 5-4 in his first season. But they didn't accumulate enough points to qualify for the state playoff for the first time since 2005.

"Last year, it was disappointing not to make the playoff. But we were excited to be winning games again," Deolitsis said. "There was a lot of optimism, a lot of guys coming back, a new offense, a lot of positive signs. Everybody was looking forward to this year.

"Coach Barry brought a new energy to the program. Everyone got excited about football again. Our school has rallied around us. No one was excited about football in the last few years. Now nobody looks at us as the old Hinsdale South. Sure, no one thought we'd be this good. They doubted us until we started winning games."

Barry, a Downers Grove North graduate of 1993, played outside linebacker on Pete Ventrelli's state runnerup in 1991. He landed a scholarship to play football at Kent State, spent 10 years as a football coach and teacher in Naples, Florida, then was head coach at Evergreen Park for three years before moving to Hinsdale South.

Why Hinsdale South? "It is a great school district and community. I asked myself: 'Where would I want my kids to go to school?' This is the type of district I want to be in. The framework was there...the talent level, the facilities," he said.

"Even though Hinsdale South is the smallest school in the West Suburban Gold Conference, I'm one who believes my program can be successful. I came from the same situation at Evergreen Park. I want to develop young men of character and I want them to be competitive. We were 5-4 last year, our first winning season in six years. That was a good start."

Barry brought the short pistol offense with him all the way from Florida. He was a defensive player and a defensive coordinator. But he made a switch to offense.

"As a defensive coach, you look at offenses that are hard to stop," he said. "Our triple option is a melding of different styles, spread and short pistol. The quarterback lines up in a short shotgun with a running back behind him. The veer is our base play. You have to have a dual threat quarterback to run it effectively."

With nine starters returning on offense and six on defense, Barry knew he had the makings of a team that could contend for the conference championship and a berth in the Class 6A playoff. Of course, he didn't expect to be averaging xx points per game. But he knew he had a quarterback who could make things happen.

"Deolitsis runs the show," Barry said. "He is a cool customer. He never gets rattled. He makes the right decisions. He can run and pass. He is the complete package."

It took a while for Deolitsis to get into the swing of things and adjust to the new offense. A year ago, he rushed for 500 yards and 12 touchdowns and passes for nearly 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. He improved over the course of the season but he was pleased that he had another year to polish his skills and get more comfortable in the system.

"Last year, I was shaky at reading defense as a whole," he said. "I had to get more comfortable in the pocket. This year, I have more pocket presence and I really feel comfortable. I'm more confident, too. I look at defenses and know what I have to do."

Major contributors to Hinsdale South's success are Deolitsis, 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior linebacker Stephen O'Neill, 6-foot-3, 290-pound senior guard Zach Guritz, 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior wide receiver Justin Ward, 5-foot-9, 200-pound junior running back Arien Toney and 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior defensive end Matt Dangles.

Toney and Ward have emerged as Hinsdale South's other offensive threats. Toney has carried 169 times for 1,104 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averages more than six yards per attempt. Ward averages 20 yards per reception.

"People don't care what you did but what you have done lately," Barry said. "They are waking up to the program's success. Our defense has done a great job of giving the offense the ball in good position. We're playing well as a team, not individuals. But the key is to play consistent and stay healthy."

Dean Joseph Deolitsis has been called D.J. since the day he was born because his mother wanted to call him by his initials. Baseball was his first love. His dream was to be the next Ron Santo. He also played basketball. But he grew to love football from the day he began playing for the junior high school team in sixth grade.

"I played running back and receiver in junior high school but they made me a quarterback as a freshman. They were running a spread offense and put me back there as an athlete. I was pretty happy about it," Deolitsis said.

Then Barry arrived and installed the short pistol. It features more motion and more options than the spread. The snap from center to the quarterback is shorter.

"The main thing is it gets the play going faster because of the shorter snap and I get to look at reads faster and get to the triple option faster," Deolitsis said. "It's a lot of fun because there are so many different things you can do with it.

"We knew going into the season that we would be more explosive on offense than last year but we didn't expect to average xx points per game. We have so many guys making big plays and linemen making blocks and running backs hitting the holes hard and wide receivers making blocks and catching the ball. Everything seems to be clicking."

It hasn't been that way for a while at the Darien school. Hinsdale South hasn't qualified for the state playoff since 2005. Deolitsis remembers that season. Matt Mayberry was playing then. He was one of the best players ever produced at Hinsdale South. He went on to play at Indiana.

"It was exciting when Mayberry was playing and they were winning in 2005," Deolitsis said. "Then it went downhill. We're excited to be winning again. We were 8-1 as freshmen and 6-3 as sophomores. As a team, we have improved so much. We aren't surprised to be where we're at."

If only they can go a little further.

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

The White Sox offense showed a bunch of late life on Thursday night.

Todd Frazier had two hits with runners in scoring position, including the game-winner, as the White Sox topped the Seattle Mariners 7-6 at U.S. Cellular Field. Frazier’s one-out single in the ninth inning off Nick Vincent scored Adam Eaton as the White Sox won for the fourth time in five games. Frazier’s game-winning hit was his first since June 2015 and the fifth of his career. It and a game-tying, two-out, two-run single in the seventh helped Frazier shake off a game in which he struck out three times in his first three at-bats.

“You learn something,” Frazier said. “You take the last at-bat and throw it away and just keep on going. Unfortunately, it took me three times to do that. To come up clutch today felt pretty good.”

Frazier leads the club in home runs and RBIs.

Similar to his teammates, however, Frazier has lefty plenty of chances for more damage on the table. He entered Thursday hitting .159 with runners in scoring position for a team that ranks 18th with runners in scoring position (.255).

While Frazier struck out with runners on the corners in the first inning, he succeeded in his next two tries. He picked up Jose Abreu in the seventh after the slugger struck out against Steve Cishek. Frazier sat on a slider and ripped a 2-0 pitch into left field to drive in Eaton and Tim Anderson, whose one-out RBI double made it a 6-4 game.

Then in the ninth, Frazier came through again. Eaton’s bloop single to center got things going before Anderson bunted him over. Vincent walked Abreu to get to Frazier, who singled to left again.

Frazier was previously 17-for-17 with five doubles, four homers and 42 RBIs with runners in scoring position.

“These are the best ones,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You can't rely just on the homer. There's more to his game than that. You have to be able to knock in runs when you're not hitting them over the fence. He can use the other side of the field. I think he can level it out somewhat and get some hits. Just put it in play more because you don't know know what's going to happen.”

[MORE: Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017]

David Robertson found that out in the top of the ninth inning when his outing was delayed for several minutes by a trio of fans who ran onto the field. Robertson worked around the delay and a one-out walk to keep the score tied at 6.

Down 2-0, the White Sox scored three times in the first inning to briefly take the lead.

Abreu and Avisail Garcia both singled in runs and Dioner Navarro had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

White Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo pitched well after a slow start and then ran into bad luck in the sixth inning. What looked to be a surefire double play ball kicked off Ranaudo’s glove and combined with an Anderson throwing error led to a three-run inning that put Seattle ahead 6-3.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Ranaudo allowed six earned runs in 5.1 innings.

The White Sox were 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s just part of it,” Robertson said. “I guess that happens some times.

“Everybody played hard. They didn’t give up at all tonight. We pitched well enough to win and had timely hitting. A few things went our way, a couple errors that really ended up giving us a few runs. A few things went our way and it was great to pick up a win.”

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Third preseason games come with added significance simply because it is the one practice game in which the starters play the closest to a full game prior to the start of the regular season. But for the Bears, Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs is potentially far more important for another reason.

The Kansas City game looms as something of a new tipping point in the one relationship that must function above all others for immediate success of the franchise:

The working relationship/bond between offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterback Jay Cutler.

The two-plus quarters that Cutler is expected to play will be the longest yet trial by fire for his trust in Loggains. The latter has been a coordinator previously in his career, but with less time and success in the position that most of Cutler’s previous list of coordinators.

And few of those relationships survived, let alone flourished once Cutler lost faith or belief in their messages, whether under an avalanche of sacks, poor play selection or design, or whatever.

Cutler put up the best season of his eight-year career in 2015 with Loggains as his position coach. Adam Gase was the coordinator, Gase came in with credibility from having worked with Peyton Manning in Denver. The credibility traced to not necessarily what Gase might have taught Manning, but rather because of what Gase undoubtedly LEARNED from Manning.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Saturday’s test will be far short of the ones the regular season holds, when Loggains’ offense has been scouted and schemed for. But after a stretch of “quizzes” for Cutler-Loggains, this is a “test.”

Buy-in with Loggains?

Loggains has traction with Cutler – for now. Cutler was consistent in his compliments of Loggains last year, but it was Gase ultimately in his ear on game days. Indeed, the entire offense believed in Gase: “When I’m in the huddle…and we get a play call,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said at the time, “there’s never a time where we look at each other and think, ‘Oh [darn].’”

The NFL reality is that Loggains, who has stressed an even stronger commitment to running the football (Long and associates love that), has to earn, or re-earn that gut-level trust.

Most of all, from Cutler.

The lurching start to the preseason – the Bears’ 22-0 home loss to Denver, in which the offense with Cutler netted 13 yards in 10 plays, two of them ending in sacks of Cutler – was test No. 1. The Cutler-Loggains relationship appeared to emerge intact.

“We talked,” Cutler said. “We talked a lot about that game. I think the major point for us was, ‘Let’s not panic. Let’s not hit the fire alarm and put guys in a panic.’

“Because it was the first preseason game and we watched the film and a lot of the stuff that went wrong was because of mistakes… . So it was a matter of just kind of cleaning that stuff up and just going back to work. Which I thought we did a really good job of offensively [at New England]. Hopefully we can do that this week, too.”

Tough warm-ups

NFL schedule-makers did Loggains and the Bears no favors. Their first three preseason opponents – Denver, New England, Kansas City – were all top-10 run defenses. Meaning: The Bears are working to establish Loggains’ run-based offense right into the teeth of three of the NFL’s best at stopping that.

[RELATED: Rookie class making much-needed impact from Bears]

The Bears want to run. But just consider: What if they can’t run against a monster Chiefs front that includes Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe and which held the Bears to 3.3 yards per carry, tied for their second-lowest of 2015, in their meeting last season?

Which then tasks Loggains with getting the offense to the right solutions, and those traditionally have not been – and should not be – solely found in Cutler’s right arm. The Bears streamlined and simplified Cutler’s decision-making last year, by design, and it was the right strategy, minimizing a Cutler weakness.

But now Loggains is front-and-center in those decisions. And Cutler has never appeared to suffer from an excess of patience through his career, even the new, more mature Cutler.

And not only WHAT Loggains tells Cutler, but also HOW he tells him, will matter. Gase was generally quiet; that worked. Loggains is very expressive, which Cutler said he now appreciates.

“He sets the tone every day,” Cutler said. “There’s never a gray area. He sets the tone, sets the standard, and if you don’t live up to that, meet those expectations, he’s going to be vocal, he’s going to let you know.

“As a player, that’s all you can ask for: A coach telling you how to do it, and when you don’t do it, you expect him to push you and help you achieve those goals.”

Preseason game No. 3 will be the biggest test yet for the synchronicity that is there now but needs to stand up to inevitable failures.

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois added another important in-state piece as Huntley three-star ranked defensive end Olalere Oladipo (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) announced his college decision Thursday night to the Fighting Illini.

"Illinois has a great staff, is close to home," according to Oladipo. "Illinois felt like a nice fit for me."

Oladipo is also the second verbal commitment Illinois added Thursday as the Fighting Illini added a commitment from Miami (Fla.) Central four-star ranked wide receiver Carmoni Green (6-foot-1, 178 pounds).

Oladipo is now the sixth in-state verbal commitment for the Fighting Illini Class of 2017. Oladipo joins St. Rita OLB Marc Mondesir, Auburn OT Verderian Lowe, Marian Catholic QB Cameron Thomas, Chicago Brother Rice WR Ricky Smalling and Bolingbrook ATH Kendall Smith.

Illinois now has 11 known verbal commitments total in the Class of 2017.