High School Lites preview: Playoffs - Week 2

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High School Lites preview: Playoffs - Week 2

128 down. 128 still alive. Who will advance to Illinois' version of the final 64?

Comcast SportsNet will have a camera at every high school football game in the Chicagoland area Friday night in week two of the IHSA playoffs. Many sports fans didn't figure Downers Grove North would make it to the second round. Can they pull off another stunner in Harvey? It's a border war in the southwest suburbs as Bolingbrook takes on their Naperville rivals, Neuqua Valley. And we'll profile another revenge game on the north shore. Lake Forest took down Lakes by a touchdown in the regular season. Who wins the Lake battle this time around?

Here is a snapshot of each game we will profile on Fridays edition of High School Lites. The rankings reflect the class seeds in the IHSA playoffs:

8A:

No. 1 Neuqua Valley (10-0) at No. 9 Bolingbrook (8-2), 7:00 p.m.

Storylines abound in this 8A thriller: Border war between Naperville and Bolingbrook. Will Bolingbrook QB Aaron Baileys be 100 after knee injury in week six? Can Joey Rhattigan and the Neuqua offense be stopped? Does Neuqua know that a potential rematch with Waubonsie could be in the cards next week? Whatever angle you pick, this game should be one of the best second round matchups. Bolingbrook took down Sandburg 39-7 last week; Neuqua beat Naperville North 56-20.

No. 3 Mount Carmel (9-1) vs. No. 6 Simeon (8-1), 7:00 p.m. at Gately Stadium

Mount Carmel and Simeon have become quite familiar with one another over the years. They met twice last year; Mount Carmel has won four of the last five in the series. If Simeon is to defeat the Caravan, they are going to have to shut down option attack led by quarterback Don Butkus and running backs Matt Domer and Draco Smith. Simeon defeated Bloom last week 13-10. Quarterback Elcee Burke and Sharoid Roach, two of the heroes in that win, look to lead the Wolverines.

7A:

No. 5 Wheaton North (9-1) at No. 13 Prospect (7-3), 7:00 p.m.

Its been a tale of two seasons for Prospect. Their defense, trampled early and often in the first six weeks, has turned a 180 over the last four games. The Knights stepped up to fend off a good Glenbrook North rushing attack last week. Their workload will increase second round. Wheaton North has a dynamic offense with many capable athletes. Patrick Sharp, Clayton Thorson, John Peltz and Matt Biegalski are four names you will hear frequently when the Falcons have the ball.

No. 8 Downers Grove North (6-4) at No. 5 Thornton (8-2), 7:00 p.m.

Is it too early to call Downers Grove North a Cinderella story? They notched one of the biggest upsets in the state last week, throttling top-seed Batavia. Can they win against Thornton? Sophomore quarterback David Edwards and running back Brandon Salter 224 yards last weekwill face a Thornton team that is very familiar with playoff football. Veteran head coach Bill Mosel has playmakers in twin brothers Jamal & Jason Towns and quarterback JoWahn Brown.

No. 3 Oswego (9-1) at No. 2 Benet (9-1), 7:30 p.m.

The key matchup here is Oswegos potent offense going up against a Benet defense that has limited offensive-minded opponents like Marist and Joliet Catholic in check. The Redwings forced two key second half turnovers in last weeks 24-10 win over Andrew and sophomore quarterback Jack Beneventi made plays. Oswego, averaging 41 points per game, advanced by beating Plainfield North. Wide receiver Jack Kwiatkowski and running back Mickeel Stewart need to be contained.

6A:

No. 14 Notre Dame (6-4) vs. No. 11 Steinmetz (7-2), 6:00 p.m. at Hanson Stadium

The 7-2 Silver Streaks turned the tables on Foreman, a team that beat them in the regular season, in a 26-12 opening round victory. The defense forced five turnovers and quarterback Michael Harris scored three rushing touchdowns. As for Notre Dame, theyre looking to ride the momentum of an incredible performance by running back Chris James. He tallied 323 yards and a jaw-dropping seven touchdowns in a 46-27 victory over Grayslake North. It was the Dons first playoff victory since 1997.

No. 5 Grant (8-2) at No. 4 Crystal Lake Central (8-2), 7:00 p.m.

After winning only eight games from 1998-2005, the Crystal Lake Central program has bounced back. This is their fifth playoff appearance in the last seven seasons. Theyre coming off a 49-7 win over Hyde Park where Matt MacAlpine, back from a leg injury, rushed for three touchdowns. Grant has lost a few offensive weapons due to injuries, but sophomore Jeremy Bredwood filled in nicely last week. The wingback scored four touchdowns as the Bulldogs defeated Lake View 59-0.

No. 1 Oak Forest (9-1) at No. 5 Shepard (7-3), 7:00 p.m.

These two schools are only separated by a seven minute drive, so expect a jubilant crowd on both sides. The 9-1 Bengals might be peaking at the right time. They've given up a touchdown or less in three of their last four games. And they love to run the ball. Ben Santiago and Tyler Usterbowski both ran for over 100 yards in last week's 29-0 win over Hinsdale South. Shepard passes the ball a lot more than Oak Forest. The Astros have a fine QB-WR duo in Jimmy McClinton and Londell Lee.

No. 2 Lakes (9-1) at No. 10 Lake Forest (7-3), 7:30 p.m.

If "20-13" isn't plastered on every locker at Lakes High School, something is wrong. That was the final score on September 7th, when Lake Forest beat the Eagles in Lake Villa. But since that defeat, Lakes has scored the following point totals: 60, 35, 69, 42, 56, 62 and 35. Running back Direll Clark is their go-to on offense. But the Scouts have an opportunistic defense (four interceptions last week against Rolling Meadows) and a talented quarterback in Andrew Clifford.

4A:

No. 1 AustinVOISE Academy (9-0) at No. 5 Brooks (7-2), 7:00 p.m. at Lane Stadium

Brooks might be the best team you haven't heard from yet. Their only defeats: a one point loss to 5A juggernaut Kaneland and a 33-28 setback to an 8-2 Rock Island squad. They have a fine 1-2 punch on offense with quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw and running back Josh Smith. But the undefeated Tigers don't need to hear any of that. They have the defense (five shutouts on the year) and are scoring over 42 points per game. Willie McCullum, a two-way player, has stepped up nicely.

Our High School Lites crew did a little road-tripping this week. We made our way to Ottawa to bring you a story of how this Illinois town has come together to support two playoff teams. Our Muscle Milk Team of the Week is Bolingbrook. The Raiders were thought to have major challenges once star quarterback Aaron Bailey went down with an injury. But sophomore backup quarterback Quincy Woods is putting quite a stamp on the season. Plus, well also catch you up with Joliet Catholic in this weeks Drive segment, presented by Northern Illinois University. And well take a drive down Memory Lane in Flashback and bring you up-to-the-minute scores from across Chicagoland.

High School Lites airs at 10:30pm this Friday night and streams live at CSNChicago.com. The show will re-air on Saturday morning at 7:30 and 8:30.

Follow CSNChicago.com preps writer Joe Collins on Twitter: @JoeCSN.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: highschoollites@comcastsportsnet.com

It’s World Series or bust for Cubs while carrying Aroldis Chapman’s baggage

It’s World Series or bust for Cubs while carrying Aroldis Chapman’s baggage

Aroldis Chapman is the ultimate baseball mercenary for a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908. The Cubs say they are going into this with their eyes wide open, knowing the superstar closer comes with off-the-field baggage and plans to cash in as a free agent this winter.

For all the talking points about being good neighbors and family friendly, the Cubs care about money and winning, which makes them just like any other professional sports franchise.

Chapman behaved in Yankee pinstripes, handled the New York market and performed with game-over efficiency, going 20-for-21 in save chances. The Cubs wanted a lefty with a 105-mph fastball and a 15.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings-pitched career rate, making a 4-for-1 trade by rationalizing that they would rather be with Chapman in the playoffs than against him.

So the Cubs – and not the first-place Nationals or even-year Giants – had to deal with the bad optics and the lost-in-translation moments before Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Chapman did not make a good first impression while getting questions about domestic violence and the 30-game suspension Major League Baseball imposed to start this season.

But if Chapman gets the last out in October, does it even matter if he’s a good guy?

“Ugh,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Was Ty Cobb wonderful? I mean, I don’t know. All these different people that I’ve read about – something happened with (the Sox) in, what was it, 1919?

“At the end of the day, I’m here to get to know him on our terms – me and him. (And) he’s been a great teammate from everybody I’ve read or discussed (it) with.

“That’s the lenses I’m looking at it through right now.”

[RELATED: Hector Rondon says Cubs had to take chance and close Chapman deal]

Chapman joined a team that began the day with a 98.8-percent chance to make the playoffs on the Baseball Prospectus odds report and a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. This is all about what Chapman can do in October and how his presence can help the Cubs survive three postseason rounds.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlighted that the Cardinals haven’t scored a run off Chapman since September 2011, back when Tony La Russa managed a World Series team.

“Again, he did do his suspension,” Maddon said. “He has talked about it. He’s shown remorse. And then everybody else has their right to judge him as a good or bad person.

“That’s your right. But I know there are times where I’ve been less than perfect. I think we’ve all been less than perfect in particular moments that nobody’s ever known about. 

“I want to get to know Aroldis. I think he can be a very significant member. And he’s got the potential, yes, to throw the last out of the World Series. And if he does, I promise you, I will embrace him.”

[MORE: Cubs make business decision to look beyond Chapman's domestic violence suspension]

Inside baseball’s conservative bubble, Maddon has to be the game’s most liberal manager, a hands-off, big-picture guy who lets his players run the clubhouse. The Cubs believe his positive vibes and presence will help Chapman’s transition.

“I’m probably the most non-judgmental person you’ve ever met,” Maddon said. “I don’t go in that direction. I do get upset sometimes when people jump to conclusions without knowing everything.

“(Gather) all the information for yourself and make your own opinion. Draw your own conclusion, as opposed to maybe hearing one thing and then all of a sudden jumping on a negative bandwagon.

“I want to get to know him, get to understand him, have good conversations with him. And then, maybe at that point, I could draw some conclusions. But never having been around him, it’s very hard for me to do that.”

Chapman’s Wrigley Field debut will be electric, the triple digits lighting up the huge video board. At that point, the focus should shift back onto baseball. But the equation doesn’t change in a bottom-line business. There is only one outcome that will truly make Cubs fans happy with this deal.

“They expect me to come here, do my job and try to guide us to the World Series,” Chapman said through coach/translator Henry Blanco. “Especially in this city, they haven’t won a World Series in a long time, so they want me to do everything I can to help us win.”

How Joe Maddon helped inspire James Shields' gem over Cubs

How Joe Maddon helped inspire James Shields' gem over Cubs

Joe Maddon's mere presence may have hurt the team he manages Tuesday night.

As the Cubs invaded U.S. Cellular Field for the final night on the South Side of this Crosstown series, Maddon's current team was tasked with facing one of his old friends.

James Shields pitched for Maddon in Tampa Bay for seven years and the veteran right-hander took the hill for the White Sox Tuesday night, spinning a gem — 7.2 shutout innings allowing four singles and four walks.

After the game, Shields — nicknamed "Big Game James" by some — credited Maddon for his outing.

"I get amped up every game pretty much. But I always want to get amped up in front of my old manager," Shields said. "I have a lot of respect for Joe. He helped build me into who I am today. 

"I always want to go out there and show him, especially being 34 years old, that I’ve got this thing."

Maddon certainly noticed.

The Cubs manager admitted "that's what he looks like" when talking about Shields' outing.

The Cubs had pursued Shields in free agency prior to the 2015 season and came close to deal before the right-hander opted to sign with the San Diego Padres for four years and $75 million.

Part of the reason was Shields' competitiveness and desire to finish every game he starts.

"During the first part of the game, I went up to [John] Lackey and I said Shieldsy went to John Lackey Junior College at some point in his life," Maddon said. "I said I used to compare Shieldsy to you all the time back in Tampa Bay, whenever James would [refuse to come out of a game].

"So Johnny giggled about that. Very similar guys — highly competitive, believe they can beat anybody on any given day. You gotta love that about him. He's very good."

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

The White Sox will "probably" place second baseman Brett Lawrie on the disabled list before Wednesday’s Crosstown game at Wrigley Field, manager Robin Ventura said.

Lawrie initially was diagnosed with a tight left hamstring July 21 against the Detroit Tigers, causing a firestorm of speculation he had been traded when he was removed from the game. He was initially considered day-to-day after undergoing an MRI on Friday, and manager Robin Ventura said before both Monday and Tuesday’s games against the Cubs he could’ve been available in an emergency. 

But Lawrie suffered a setback sometime Tuesday, and with two games under National League rules at Wrigley Field requiring more bench pieces, Ventura didn’t want to head to Clark and Addison short-handed. 

“It just seemed like he was going backwards today, during the game, of his knee,” Ventura said. “There's no way you can go over there and play the National League rules with nobody on the bench.”

[MORE: Shields picks up bullpen as White Sox top Cubs again]

Infielder Carlos Sanchez was removed from Triple-A Charlotte’s game Tuesday night and is expected to replace Lawrie on the White Sox roster. 

Lawrie is hitting .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 22 doubles over 94 games this season. 

Tyler Saladino has done well in his short stint in the starting lineup since Lawrie’s injury, going 4-15 with a walk. His walk-off single on Monday netted the White Sox their third win in what now is a four-game winning streak, the team’s first since May 6-9.