High School Lites Preview: Semifinal weekend

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High School Lites Preview: Semifinal weekend

Looming and Lurking.

If you've followed CSN's prep coverage all season, you'll know that phrase from our CSN Top 20 rankings. It represents the teams on the cusp of making our weekly list of the top Chicagoland football teams. But it now represents Memorial Stadium in Champaign for 32 teams across Illinois-- it's within sight, but there's still some road to be traveled.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago will cover every semifinal game in Chicagoland on Saturday as teams look to secure a berth in a state championship game. We'll bring you action from the north shore all the way to Morris. Could it be an all-Catholic Blue title game in 8A? Can Benet's amazing run continue in 7A? Will Cary-Grove get back to Champaign once again? And who will win the epic rematch of the 2011 5A championship between Joliet Catholic and Montini?

Here is a snapshot of every game High School Lites will profile on Saturday night's 10:30 p.m. show. The rankings reflect the class seeds in the IHSA playoffs.

8A:

No. 4 Glenbard North (11-1) at No. 2 Loyola (11-1), 1:00 p.m.

Loyola has traditionally been known for their air-tight defense over the years. But they might get one of their biggest tests as running back Justin Jackson and the Panthers come to Wilmette. Jackson scored four touchdowns last week to help North secure a 29-23 win at Maine South. Loyola, who defeated Glenbard North 28-13 in last year's 8A semifinal, features Peter Pujals at quarterback and a defense that shut down a very good Palatine offense last week.

No. 3 Mount Carmel (11-1) at No. 1 Neuqua Valley (12-0), 6:00 p.m.

A lot has been said about Mount Carmel's option offense in this space. But check out their defensive numbers: no team has scored more than 10 points on Frank Lenti's crew in the playoffs. Defensive lineman Enoch Smith has helped contribute to those numbers. He'll have a battle Saturday in trying to keep Joey Rhattigan out of the end zone. Neuqua's dominant running back carried the ball 41 times for 293 yards and three scores against Waubonsie Valley in the quarterfinals.

7A:

No. 6 Lake Zurich (10-2) vs. No. 1 Glenbard West (12-0), 1:00 p.m. at Glenbard South

Last week's downpour --and ensuing quarterfinal game-- turned Glenbard West's field into a surface akin to a Chicago street in winter. Thus, the change to a better playing surface at Glenbard South. This figures to be a black and blue war. Both teams have shut-down defenses. West kept Wheaton North off the scoreboard last week while Lake Zurich held down a potent Boylan offense to advance. These two teams met in the playoffs last year, with Lake Zurich winning 10-3. Could be a similar score come Saturday.

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (12-0) at No. 2 Benet (11-1), 6:00 p.m.

Mike Clark of the Chicago Sun-Times made a great point during our weekly video segment: should Benet still be treated as a Cinderella? Sure, they've bounced back amazingly from 1-8 last year. But this is a team that has earned merit with each victory. The ESCC co-champs took down Downers Grove North in a 26-24 thriller last week. Sophomore QB Jack Beneventi has played quite well. He'll face a stingy East defense that picked Edwardsville apart last week. LWE quarterback Tom Fuessel is one of the state's best.

6A:

No. 1 Cary-Grove (12-0) at No. 10 Lake Forest (9-3), 4:00 p.m.

The Trojans are no strangers to playing in November. C-G won state in '09 and finished second in '04. This year's team features a game-changing running back in Kyle Norberg. Lake Forest may not have the playoff history as Cary-Grove but they have the weapons get to Champaign. Quarterback Andrew Clifford has paced the offense while the defense has made headlines recently. Trent Williams had six sacks in last week's 31-19 victory over Notre Dame in last week's quarterfinal.

No. 1 Crete-Monee (12-0) at No. 3 Lemont (11-1), 6:00 p.m.

Yes, high school football is a team game, but this matchup features some of the area's best prep athletes. Crete-Monee's Laquon Treadwell is a nationally-ranked wide receiver who is also a solid defender in the secondary. Lemont features big-name lineman in Ethan Pocic (committed to LSU) and Tim McAullife (Bowling Green). C-M's defense has shut down quality opponents like Ottawa and their Illinois-bound running back Miguel Hermosilo. Lemont advanced by beating South Suburban rival Oak Forest.

5A:

No. 3 Montini (10-2) at No. 12 Joliet Catholic (8-4), 1:00 p.m.

Two main angles: (1) Can anything top the epic 70-45 thriller from last year's 5A title game? Montini defeated JCA despite 515 yards and six touchdowns from Ty Isaac. The USC-bound running back, along with backfield mates Tyler Reitz and Mike Ivlow, will look for revenge. (2) It's a game featuring teams who have overcome injuries. JCA's backfield has been hit by the injury bug and Montini's playmakers have missed time as well. Can Montini QB Mark Gorogianis top his 240-yard, five-TD performance last week?

No. 3 Sacred-Heart Griffin (11-1) at No. 2 Morris (11-1), 3:00 p.m.

The visiting Cyclones have scored no less than 33 points since their only loss of the season (to Cathedral of Indianapolis). Running backs Tavion Whitaker and Chris Harris have accounted for a lot of those gaudy numbers. Morris has quite the running back of their own in Reese Sobol. SHG advanced by beating Glenwood and Morris survived Washington in overtime. It figures to be a great game between teams that are synonymous with Illinois playoff football this time of year.

4A:

No. 1 Alleman (11-1) at No. 7 Evergreen Park (9-3), 6:00 p.m.

It's another intriguing rematch on our slate, as Rock Island's Alleman High School fell to the Mustangs in last year's playoffs. Evergreen Park has gone on the road to defeat North Chicago and Richmond-Burton. They beat Brooks 37-14 at home last week. Quarterback Brandon White, who has 36 touchdowns (22 passing) on the year, will face an Alleman defense that was catapulted by two key interceptions in a victory at Coal City in last week's quarterfinal. John Tracey had two touchdowns.

We'll also check in with 3A's Aurora Christian squad as they take on Sterling Newman Central Catholic, along with Chicago's Catholic League Championship contenders (Brother Rice and St. Rita) and the Public League Championship between Morgan Park and Simeon.

Our Muscle Milk Team of the Week is Crete-Monee. How have the Warriors put it together to reach the semifinals for the first time in school history? 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.

And make sure you stay with Comcast SportsNet next weekend. We will air all eight of the state championship games from Memorial Stadium in Champaign. The 1A-4A games take place on Friday November 23rd, while the 5A-8A games have the spotlight the following day. The action begins at 10am each day. Our Matt Bowen provides color commentary on the 7A and 8A games, while Susannah Collins has sideline reports on the 3A, 4A, 7A and 8A games.

High School Lites streams this Saturday night on CSNChicago.com.

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

President Obama on Joe Maddon: 'Not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy'

President Obama on Joe Maddon: 'Not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy'

As one of the cooler presidents ever, President Obama knows cool when he sees it.

The president talked about numerous members of the Cubs during the team's visit to the White House on Monday, but he only offered the "cool" label to manager Joe Maddon, who most folks can agree is probably the coolest person to ever manage the Cubs.

"Let's face it, there are not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy. Look how he looks right now," Obama said, pointing out Maddon's non-traditional suit. "That's cool."

The president also praised Maddon's unique style, with his themed road trips and visits from zoo animals, as well as his on-field prowess, throwing in a joke about something the skipper couldn't control during the World Series.

"He's got a lot tricks to motivate. But he's also a master of tactics and knows how to make the right move at the right time: when to pinch hit, when to pinch run, when to make it rain in Game 7 of the World Series. It was masterful."

Maybe President Obama really does admire Maddon's style. Or maybe he's just extending his bromance with Vice President Biden to other famous Joes.

Check out the video above for more from the president.

At Cubs' White House visit, President Obama touts Michelle Obama's Cubs fandom, shouts out Jose Cardenal

At Cubs' White House visit, President Obama touts Michelle Obama's Cubs fandom, shouts out Jose Cardenal

Unlike her husband, Michelle Obama hasn't made a big deal out of her baseball fandom over the past eight years.

But as President Obama mentioned while he honored the World Series champion Cubs on Monday at the White House, it turns out the First Lady is a pretty big Cubs fan and watching the Cubs win the World Series meant an awful lot to her.

"It is no secret that there's a certain South Side team that has my loyalty," the president said. "So I can't claim that I have the same visceral joy of some in this White House. But FLOTUS is a lifelong Cubs fan, and I will tell you ... in the eight years that I've been here, we've hosted at least 50 teams. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, you name it. Michelle has never come to a single event celebrating a champion until today. She came and shook hands and met with every one of these members of the Cubs organization and told a story about what it meant for her to be able to see them win. She remembers coming home from school, and her dad would be watching a Cubs game, and the bond and the family, the meaning that the Cubs had for her in terms of connecting with her father and why it meant so much to her. And I almost choked up listening to it. And it spoke, I think, to how people feel about this organization and that it's been passed on generation after generation. It's more than just sports."

And one ex-Cub even got a special invite to the White House so the First Lady could meet her all-time favorite player. That was former pitcher Jose Cardenal, once famous for his large afro. According to President Obama, his wife used to try and wear her hat over her afro just like Cardenal did.

So while President Obama was presented with a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field, perhaps it's Michelle who will get more use out of it.

Check out more from the president in the video above.