Grant overcomes adversity to start 8-2

929985.png

Grant overcomes adversity to start 8-2

If Grant didn't have bad luck, it wouldn't have any luck at all. The Fox Lake school is 8-2 going into Friday night's game at Crystal Lake Central in the second round of the Class 6A playoff despite a laundry list of injuries and setbacks that had coach Kurt Rous shaking his head in disbelief.

On the Thursday before the season opener, senior wide receiverdefensive back Keion Miller had the entire team at his house for a spaghetti dinner. The deck on the patio collapsed. Eleven players were standing on it at the time. Fortunately, no one was injured. But it was an omen of things to come.

"Later, people joked that if a fallen patio can't stop us, who can? We went through a lot of adversity, a lot of injuries, and we're still having one of the best seasons in school history," Miller said.

Two players who rushed for over 1,000 yards a year ago have been sidelined with injuries for the last four weeks. And two defensive backs are recovering from injuries.

Last Friday, in a 59-0 rout of Lake View, Rous started 5-foot-5, 140-pound junior Jason Bach at quarterback, a fourth-stringer who never had started a game at any level and certainly wasn't expected to start a playoff game.

Rous said his team is winning--the Bulldogs have lost only to highly rated Lakes and Stevenson--because he is using a committee of running backs (sophomore Jeremy Bredwood came up to the varsity last Friday and rushed for four touchdowns) and smoking mirrors.

The mainstays are Miller, 6-foot-3, 275-pound senior tackle Dan Haeffele, 6-foot, 250-pound senior guard Luis Echeverria, 5-foot-11, 230-pound senior center Jared Lalanda, 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior tackle Tyler Reynolds, 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior linebacker Dan King and 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior defensive tackle Francisco Uribe.

"Our offensive line has picked us up. We rushed for over 400 yards last Friday," Rous said. "And our very young defense is playing well, too. If we can control the ball, keep our offense on the field and the opponent's offense on the sideline, fly around on defense and rally around the ball and eliminate big plays, we can be successful."

That's a lot to ask of any team, of course, but Miller, who caught a 75-yard touchdown pass from Bach on Grant's only pass of the game to set the tone in last Friday's game, isn't awestruck by the challenge.

"The kids stepped up and filled the void," said Miller, a three-year starter who has experienced more than a few ups and downs. "This is the best of the three teams I've played on. It's all about the way we work together.

"Do your 1-11, the coaches say. If everybody does his own job, we can get the job done. I like how close we all are. We all pick up each other. Everybody works hard in practice every day. We hope accomplish some things that no other team at our school has ever done."

Miller has high expectations for himself. He wants to be a doctor. He ranks No. 65 in a class of 465 and plans to study radiology or anesthesiology at a school in Florida. He has applied to Florida, Central Florida, Miami and Florida State. He also plans to walk on and try to earn a spot on the football team.

He has been playing football since fourth grade, since he began playing for the Fox Lake Cardinals. In his Valley Lakes neighborhood, everybody played football. They played games in their front yards. His friends said he had size and speed so Miller decided to try out for football.

"I couldn't stop playing," he said. "I didn't know anything about the sport. My older brother played basketball. Another brother didn't play much. I was too young. I didn't know how to play. At first, I was scared to get hit. But when I started to play, I instantly loved it.

"What sold me was I liked how intense it got. You can hit people and not get in trouble. You can let a lot of anger out. I loved how pumped up you get for games. There is nothing else like it, especially when you win. But you have to work hard to win in football."

Penn State and negative recruiting becomes hot topic at Big Ten Media Days

james-franklin-0726.png

Penn State and negative recruiting becomes hot topic at Big Ten Media Days

Urban Meyer was taken aback.

Did he or his coaching staff participate in “negative recruiting” against Penn State? Meaning, does Ohio State tell recruits that the continuing fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal will result in future NCAA sanctions?

Meyer didn’t seem to know what to say.

“That's the first time I've heard that," he said.

The question stemmed from comments Penn State head coach James Franklin made in an interview with the Reading Eagle that was published over the weekend.

Franklin is still in the process of dragging his program out of the shadow of the Sandusky scandal, which resulted in NCAA sanctions that reduced the number of scholarships and banned the Nittany Lions from bowl participation for multiple seasons.

That’s all done with now — the bowl ban lifted two seasons ago and Franklin telling reporters Monday that he’s back to a full allotment of 85 scholarships — but Franklin said his team is still short on seniors and the scandal’s effects still loom. Most notably, that’s coming in the form of new developments, new reports of who knew what and when during Joe Paterno’s decades-long tenure in State College.

In that interview, Franklin seemed to accuse Penn State’s Big Ten East Division rivals — Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State — of telling kids on the recruiting trail that more punishments are coming with every new development.

Here’s what he told the Reading Eagle:

“We're able to tell kids they're going to compete against the very highest level week in and week out,” Franklin said when asked what it’s like having those three powerhouse programs in the same division as Penn State. “What makes it tricky, they're not having to deal with some of the things we're dealing with and working through, which magnifies it. Those programs as well as others know that and use that against us. We have that conversation with every single prospect. We don't usually initiate it, but it's coming from somewhere.”

Elsewhere during the interview, he had this to say:

“The one thing that I can't predict is when there is going to be finality to everything. A month ago, I'm in Chicago at a wedding of one of my former players and the most recent things (from the Sandusky scandal) come up. I spend all Friday and Saturday on the phone talking to all of our players because other schools are contacting them and telling them the NCAA is going to get involved again and impose more sanctions.

“The people we're competing with — Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame — this is just not something they have to deal with. Although we want to move on, those other schools are not letting us move on.”

As Meyer said Tuesday, those sound like some pretty serious allegations.

“I'll address that with Coach Franklin if that is an issue," he said. "That's a pretty strong allegation that I've not heard yet. So that's not been presented to me until this moment. Absolutely not. We've got a great deal of respect for every school in our conference. And we don't worry about that stuff. I'm glad you told me that. If that's true, I'll address that."

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was asked the same question.

“From my standpoint, I have not said anything negative about Penn State. And hopefully our coaches have not as well,” Dantonio said. “So I was surprised to read that. I don't know what happens out there on the road completely. But it's not our MO. And that's not how we do business.”

Franklin tried to clear up his comments after the story picked up steam, telling Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman that he didn’t accuse those schools of any negative recruiting.

Additionally, Franklin received his own allegation on Tuesday morning.

Who knows what’s actually going on between coaches and high school prospects. Certainly coaches taking swipes at each other is nothing new, nor is the win-at-all-costs arena of college football recruiting.

Still, it added some drama to the second day of Big Ten Media Days.

31 Days to Kickoff: Minooka

31 Days to Kickoff: Minooka

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26. You can view Edgy Tim's other football previews here.

School: Minooka

Head coach: Paul Forsythe

Assistant Coaches: Bert Kooi, Frank Yudzentis, Paige Schoolman, Matt Harding, Mic Resner

How they fared in 2015: 5-5 (3-4) Southwest Prairie Conference. Minooka made the 2015 Class 8A state playoff field and lost to Huntley in opening round action.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Indians get back to the state playoffs and advance?

Names to watch this season: QB Johnny Carnagio, WR/DB Isaiah Hill

Biggest holes to fill: The Indians will need to replace it's entire starting defensive line from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: With 13 starters back (8 offense 5 defense) from it's 2015 state playoff team the Indians have high hopes this fall. The pass/catch combo of QB Carnagio to WR Hill is one of the tops in the conference. If Minooka can find a few answers up front on defense they could make a return state playoff push.

Former Bears return man Devin Hester released by Falcons

Former Bears return man Devin Hester released by Falcons

Devin Hester is hitting the market.

The Atlanta Falcons announced Tuesday that they have released the kick return specialist after a two-year run with the team.

The former Bear holds the NFL record for most return touchdowns with 20. Hester left the Bears — after eight seasons — tied with Deion Sanders at 19. 

On Sept. 18, 2014, Hester broke that record with the Falcons on a 62-yard punt return against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Prime Time gave Hester this shoutout afterwards:

Hester only played in five games last season due to a turf toe injury. He underwent foot surgery in January 2016.