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."

Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

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Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

The White Sox take on the Royals on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. from Kansas City. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 4.57 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (0-0, 2.13 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Phillies on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60 ERA) vs. Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

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Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

The Bears’ decision to move on from Matt Forte, the No. 2 running back in franchise history behind only Walter Payton in yardage, was not necessarily an easy one. It was, however, unanimous at Halas Hall, sources told CSNChicago.com. And it was also part of a significant deeper change in the main operating principle underpinning the Bears’ rushing offense.

Depending upon what Forte does with the New York Jets — and for how long — the decision might be open to question. Few NFL decisions aren’t.

But the Bears’ offense under John Fox and new coordinator Dowell Loggains was clearly going away from what Forte was accustomed to — a true featured back with a relief-back in the form of a Chester Taylor/Marion Barber/Michael Bush — and moving onto a true use of two backs in the fashion that Fox’s Denver Broncos offenses used them.

The change will be more than just a few carries. Forte lost carries last season to Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. This is different.

Instead of Forte and an understudy, as the de facto rushing offense has been since Forte was drafted in 2008, the Bears this offseason made the decision to emphasize the run even more under Loggains, and that has meant something other than simply more carries for Forte’s understudy.

For perspective purposes: Last season Forte missed three full games due to a knee injury but still totaled 276 touches (carries plus targets) to 236 combined for Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. When Forte returned from the three-game injury break, the offense had changed. Forte had four 20-carry games in the first six. He had one over the final six.

Forte did not appear publicly to genuinely embrace the job-sharing approach as Langford’s carries matched and in cases exceeded his own. Whether he would have been on board with ceding even more meaningful time to a co-back is another matter that would have been open to question, though any suspicions that direction are now moot.

(If Forte would have had problems with younger backs rising, he would not have been the first; Thomas Jones ultimately demanded a trade after the Lovie Smith Bears drafted Cedric Benson to broaden the run game.)

Regardless, the true multi-back system will be a change for the Bears, harking back perhaps to the Bears building their run game on two starter-grade backs in Benson and Jones. The Bears’ unsuccessful attempt to bring in C.J. Anderson from Denver suggests less a no-confidence vote in either Carey or Langford than a measure of the commitment to both competition and a depth chart with meaning past the top one or even two names. The Bears have used mid-round picks on running backs in three straight drafts (Carey, Langford, Jordan Howard this year), making the same point the Anderson interest did.

And that’s how Langford took the Howard selection to a position that where confidence in him was one of the reasons the organization was OK with parting with Forte.

“I really didn’t think too much of (the Howard pick),” Langford said. “I know it’s just competition. That’s what brings a lot of running backs, a lot of positions, to push themselves even more. Competition is always a good thing, and playing in the NFL, there’s always going to be competition, so you can’t really become too complacent as a player.”

“Complacent” wasn’t a word anyone was likely to apply to Langford, and certainly to Carey, who played his way up from a roster bubble at the end of training camp last year. And Howard as a fifth-round rookie isn’t guaranteed anything for awhile in training camp except reps with the 2s or 3s, with Jacquizz Rodgers also re-signed after an injury shortened 2015.

Loggains has been dealt a hand without an ace like Forte but with what he and the organization think can be three or four kings, depending on roster decisions at the end of August.

“We like where Jeremy’s at,” Loggains said. “He needs to continue to develop. There’s things he can do a better job of in the passing game, but we still like our other backs. Ka’Deem Carey finished strong for us last year. We obviously drafted a back. We’re excited about getting Jacquizz Rodgers back as well.”