Hammond provides leadership at St. Patrick

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Hammond provides leadership at St. Patrick

They haven't tagged a nickname for themselves--you could call them the Fab Five or the Hungry Hounds or the Pizza Platoon--but St. Patrick's five offensive linemen have a lot to do with the Shamrocks going from 3-6 a year ago to 7-3 this season.

They are 6-foot, 265-pound senior guard Jon Hammond, 5-foot-11, 250-pound senior center Max Reider, 6-foot-2, 265-pound senior guard Jack Dardanes, 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior tackle Jimmy Young and 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior tackle Jack Donovan.

"I'm just a blue-collar kind of guy who loves to play in the trenches," Hammond said.

Hammond is one of the team captains, a returning starter and a member of the National Honor Society. He is getting looks from Cornell and Valparaiso. He wants to play football in college.

"If he was two or three inches taller, more people would be interested," coach Dan Galante said.

"It isn't frustrating not to be 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3. And I don't worry about playing in college," Hammond said. "I love playing with my team. There is a great satisfaction of playing with my friends. Football is an equalizer. It isn't about who is bigger but who wants it more."

Hammond used to play soccer and baseball. He didn't start to play football until fifth grade, when he was 13. His mother didn't want him to play football because she worried he might get hurt. But Jon and his older brother Daniel begged her to let them play football. She finally relented.

"I love football. It's my passion, my favorite thing to do," Hammond said. "I love the team atmosphere. You have to work together for a common goal. I love playing offense and defense but I prefer offensive line because it's so satisfying to see a running back score a touchdown and know your block made it happen."

Imagine how Hammond and his offensive line mates felt last Saturday as they blocked and blocked for 5-foot-9, 210-pound junior Jeremy Molina. He set a school record by rushing 32 times for 303 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-15 victory over Glenbard South in the opening round of the Class 6A playoff.

Molina, who has rushed for over 1,300 yards, grew up playing for the Park Ridge Falcons (a training ground for Maine South players) and was brought up to the varsity as a sophomore. A week ago, he scored five touchdowns in a 42-30 victory over St. Viator.

The Shamrocks, who have won four games in a row since a 3-3 start, will play highly rated and unbeaten Cary-Grove on Saturday in Cary.

"Last year, we started 3-0, then lost six in a row. Three games went to the wire. We were better than our record. But we're playing in the East Suburban Catholic against great competition each week," Galante said.

"The difference this year is that we are playing well together in all three phases of the game, better than at any time since I've been here.
We're throwing the ball well, running the ball well, controlling the clock and putting points on the board.

"Defensively, we are playing physically. We have forced 31 turnovers in
10 games. Our formula is if you win the turnover battle and control the clock and put points on the board and your special teams do well...well, you can be successful. We've had four kickoff returns for touchdowns this year."

The offensive line protects and blocks for Molina and 6-foot-4, 180-pound sophomore quarterback Zach Fuller, who stepped in after the starting quarterback was injured in Week 8. Other standouts are wide receivers Steve Galiardo, a 5-foot-10, 155-pound senior, and John Dabe, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior transfer from Guerin who has returned four kickoffs for touchdowns.

The 4-2-5 defense is anchored by 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior tackle Brian Dillon, 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior tackle Joe Urso, 6-foot, 195-pound senior strong safety Nick Sandowski, 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior linebacker Cesar Almeida, 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior free safety Mike Warner, 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior cornerback Dan Henley and 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior cornerback Pat Gill.

"We have accomplished a lot. Eight players were named to the all-conference team. We finished third in the league after being picked seventh or eighth in the preseason," Galante said, noting St. Patrick's losses were to perennial powers Mount Carmel, Marist and Joliet Catholic.

"We've done more this year. We played our best players both ways. We used to platoon. When you play both ways, the players are invested in both sides of the ball and the team doesn't become offense and defense. Instead, it becomes one team and you keep your best players and difference-makers on the field."

Meanwhile, the offensive linemen understand that if they hang together and eat together, they will have success together. The four seniors have been together since they were freshmen. Donovan is the rookie.

They convened at Young's house last Saturday for pizza and to watch the Notre DameOklahoma game. They meet at Young's house every weekend to watch college games because Jimmy's mother is said to make the best queso dips.

"They are fun guys to be around, a lot of energy, like a brotherhood," Hammond said. "This team plays for each other. It is selfless. There is no me in this team. It's all about we. Molina will come up and say: 'Good block.' And we'll say: 'Tough run.'

"I tell him I won't help him up from under the pile unless he carries three guys with him. His favorite play is called skins, a counter play off a trap. He runs behind me and Donovan. It's been a blast this year. As a senior, I'm taking it all in and having fun. And success, too."

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."