High School Lites: Football state final preview


High School Lites: Football state final preview

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010
6:05 PM

By Joe Collins

High School Lites: Championship Weekend

Championship weekend is here! Some teams will earn a first place trophy at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. And others will have to endure a long, long bus ride home. High School Lites is your home for high school football coverage in Chicagoland. Friday's edition will air just after the BullsNuggets game and will feature previews of the 5A, 6A, 7A and 8A title games, including an in-depth profile of Wheaton Warrenville South-- Comcast SportsNet's Team of the Week. Our Chris Boden will also feature a Marmion team that is looking to bring the first football championship to Aurora. We'll also bring you highlights of the 1A-4A games and have a complete recap of the 2010 Prep Bowl featuring Curie and Fenwick. Here is a sneak peak at some of the matchups featuring Chicago-area teams:

PREP BOWL: Curie (9-5) vs. Fenwick (7-5), 11:00am Friday at Soldier Field

If there's one thing Curie might be feeling by now, it would be exhaustion. Not that their recent performance would indicate that, of course. In fact, the Condors have actually become stronger. Thanks to a quirk in the IHSA and Chicago Public League Playoff schedule, Curie will become only the second team in Illinois state history to play a 15-game football schedule. Their dramatic postseason continued last week in an epic 40-34 2 OT win over Morgan Park. Brandon Barker scored three touchdowns for Curie. Fenwick's defense was rock-solid in a 7-3 win over Brother Rice last week in the Catholic League championship. Eric Hulihan shook off defenders to score the game's only touchdown. This will be Fenwick's first Prep Bowl appearance since 1991 (28-0 win over Bogan). This will be the first Prep Bowl for Curie.
5A: Montini (11-2) vs. Glenwood (10-3), 10:00am at Memorial Stadium

Can Montini take home the first place trophy for the second straight year? Last years defeat of mighty Joliet Catholic was considered an upset in some circles. This years run to state was built on a strong non-conference schedule, which included those same Hilltoppers and the Loyola Ramblers. Keep an eye on the WesterkampsMatt and Jordan. Quarterback Matt has passed for 2600 yards and 27 touchdowns on the year. His cousin, Jordan, has caught 18 of those touchdowns. Both were integral in last weeks 27-14 win over Kaneland. Matt went 21-for-31 for 295 yards. Jordan had 9 catches for 175 yards and one touchdown catch-- from Matt. Glenwood, near Springfield, advanced by crushing Peoria Richwoods 42-13. Devin VonNordheim-Moore and Tony Giovannelli combined for 326 yards and four touchdowns. Fun fact: Montinis conference (the Suburban Christian Blue) has six teamsand five of them reached the playoffs. Two of them Marmion being the other teamare playing for a state title.

6A: Marmion (12-1) vs. Boylan (13-0), 1:00pm Saturday at Memorial Stadium

After this weekend, Aurora might be known for more than Waynes World, I-88 and the Fox River. They could add football state champions to the citys welcome sign. Auroras Marmion Academy will look to bring the western suburb its football championship ever this Saturday. The Cadets might have the best team in their 77 years of football. T.J. Rally gained 165 yards and scored a touchdown on the third play of scrimmage in last weeks 31-28 victory over Danville. A state championship would be the cherry on top of a fine season. As for Boylan, the Titans took care of business last week, beating Prairie Ridge 14-7 to advance to the state final for the first time since 1975. The defense has been sharp all season. Like Wheaton Warrenville South, they have also kept nine opponents to a touchdown or less. Junior Adonis Brown secured two fumble recoveries in last weeks victory. Fun fact: Marmions football program had six straight losing seasons before head coach Dan Thorpes arrival in 2005, which turned around the program.

7A: Lake Zurich (12-1) @ Wheaton Warrenville South (13-0), 4:00pm Saturday at Memorial Stadium

Lake Zurichs defense steamrolled two of the best offenses in Illinois (Simeon and St. Rita) over the last two weeks. Wheaton Warrenville Souths offense, guided by Illinois-bound quarterback Reilly OToole, is putting up an averageaverageof 43 points per game. The elite defense faces the elite offense. Something has to giveright? These two teams squared off for a state title in 2007, with Lake Zurich coming out on top 7-3. The game could rest in the hands of the Bears offense and Tigers defense. Lake Zurichs running back Jacob Brinlee is the main threat. As for the WWS defense, the underrated unit has kept nine opponents to a touchdown or less, three of them were shutouts. Note: Wheaton Warrenville South wide receiver Travis Kern will miss the game due to a broken collarbone.

8A: Maine South (11-2) vs. Mount Carmel (11-2), 7:00pm Saturday at Memorial Stadium

Its amazing that so many people wrote both of these teams off early in the regular season. Maine South started 0-2 and rattled off 11 straight wins to land in Champaign. Again. Mount Carmel shook off two early losses as well. They have now won seven straight and also find themselves in Champaign. Again. Its a credit to the two coaches, Dave Inserra and Frank Lenti, who always find ways to get their teams back to Memorial Stadium. Credit is due to the players of course, and specifically both quarterbacks as well. The Caravans Chris Suijka scored two more touchdowns last week in Mount Carmels 28-21 victory over Homewood Flossmoor. Meanwhile, Maine Souths talented sophomore quarterback Matt Alviti carried his team past a very tough Loyola defense last week. He racked up over 300 yards of total offense in their 29-22 win. Both defenses face challenges. Fun fact: Maine South and Mount Carmel have played for a title a combined 16 times since 1995.

Also, be sure to stay with us at CSNChicago.com and Comcast SportsNet on Saturday. We will have highlights of the days action and have pep rally coverage if availableon the late edition of SportsNet Central after Blackhawks hockey. Our basketball coverage will begin next FridayDecember 3rd.

We are your source for playoff highlights, scores and more. High School Lites streams live at csnchicago.com.

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

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

As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.