High School Lites previews Week 1 of playoffs

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High School Lites previews Week 1 of playoffs

"I'm not a guy that believes you've got to have a lot of experience to have success in the playoffs."

- Former N.Y. Giants QB Phil Simms

The folks at Bloom High School may want to take that quote and scribble it on a few chalkboards. Bloom will be making their first playoff appearance since 1989 Friday night when they take on Simeon, one of the many games that we will feature on Fridays edition of High School Lites. We will also feature Chicago's Perspectives High School, a team that will playing in their first football playoff game in school history. The story is slightly different with Bolingbrook. The Raiders, who would probably take issue with the Simms quote, are the reigning 8A champs and have made the playoffs in each of the last 21 years. But will they have their starting quarterback ready to go against Sandburg?

Here is a snapshot of each game we will profile on Fridays edition of High School Lites. Please note that all rankings reflect the class seedings in the IHSA playoffs:

8A:

No. 10 Bartlett (6-3) at No. 7 Leyden (7-2), 7:00 p.m.

Opportunity is knocking again for Bartlett. They have not defeated a .500 team yet this year, although they did look impressive in Upstate Eight Valley play. RBDE Aaron Everson, the new Bartlett single-season rushing yardage record-holder, can be dominant. They also feature another two-way player in Central Michigan recruit Chris Kantzavelos. Leyden, the West Suburban Gold champs, look to continue a memorable season with quarterback Michael Smith at the reins.

No. 9 Bolingbrook (7-2) at No. 8 Sandburg (7-2), 7:00 p.m.

The big question here is whether Raiders quarterback Aaron Bailey plays. Bailey, who injured his knee in September against Lincoln-Way East, has been cleared to play according to reports. But will he? Sophmore quarterback Quincy Woods has filled in quite well in his absence. Sandburg defeated Bolingbrook 13-6 on the road in week sevenone of five wins they have in which they kept opponents to a touchdown or less. The Eagles have gone to the playoffs in 25 of the last 29 seasons.

No. 13 Proviso West (6-3) at No. 4 Waubonsie Valley (8-1), 7:00 p.m.

Its an intriguing matchup with the Waubonsie offense going up against a Proviso West defense that has shut out four opponents on the season. The 8-1 Warriors are averaging 41 points per game. Running back Austin Guido and Wisconsin-bound tight end Troy Fumagalli are always threats to score. As for Proviso West, head coach Famous Hulbert had guided a program from relative obscurity to one that has qualified for the playoffs four consecutive seasons.

No. 12 Oak Park-River Forest (6-3) at No. 5 Hinsdale Central (7-2), 7:30 p.m.

Can anything top the excitement the last time these two teams faced each other? In week seven, OPRF shocked Hinsdale Central 42-41 in overtime. The Huskies feature playmakers on both sides of the ball, namely defensive end Nile Sykes and running back Jakari Cammon. Hinsdale features a fine quarterback in Brian Owens. The 7-2 Red Devils have won each of their last four games by a touchdown or less. That said, five of their seven wins were against teams currently in the playoffs.

No. 11 Bloom (6-3) vs. No. 6 Simeon (7-1), 7:30 p.m. at Gately Stadium

Milli Vanilli was at the top of the charts. A gallon of gas cost 1.12. The Cosby Show dominated TV airwaves. Even mullets were big. All of these things happened in 1989, the last time Bloom High School reached the IHSA playoffs. They clinched a spot last week after shutting out Rich Central 21-0. Simeon, on the other hand, is a long-time veteran of postseason play. Their 12th straight IHSA appearance has been fueled by quarterback Elcee Burke and running back Sharoid Roach.

7A:

No. 7 Andrew (6-3) at No. 2 Benet (8-1), 7:30 p.m. at Benedictine University
To say that Benet is having a dream season would be an understatement. The Redwings, who were 1-8 last year, have reversed their record thanks in large part to a stifling defense and sophomore quarterback Jack Beneventi. He passed for 365 yards and four touchdowns in last week's thrilling win over Joliet Catholic. It gave Benet their first share of a conference title in school history. But a good opponent awaits. Andrew's biggest win of the season was in week nine: a 27-0 win over Thornton.

6A:

No. 5 Shepard (6-3) at No. 4 Perspectives (6-2), 4:15 p.m. at Gately Stadium

Chicago's Perspectives Charter is widely known as the school of the NBAs first overall draft pick, Anthony Davis. But that's OK for now. Their football team, who will be playing in their first playoff game in school history, would like to change that thought process. Keep an eye on running back Lonnie Washington. He has racked up 22 touchdowns on the season. Shepard is averaging 36 points per game. Quarterback Jimmy McClinton and receiver Londell Lee have both shattered various Astros records.

No. 7 Lincoln-Way North (6-3) at No. 2 Richards (8-1), 7:00 p.m.

The Southwest Suburban Red conference got five teams into the playoffs, including the 6-3 Phoenix. Julian Hylton is one of their leaders on offense. The junior running back found the end zone three times in last week's 38-9 victory over Stagg. Richards has a few weapons on offense with running back Tommy Mister and quarterback Hasan Muhammed-Rogers. And let's not forget the Bulldogs defense, either. They have posted four shutouts on the season.

No. 12 Lake View (6-2) at No. 5 Grant (7-2), 7:00 p.m.

The 7-2 Bulldogs are familiar faces around the 6A playoff circuit. Its their seventh appearance in the last eight years. This year's team is led by a defensive group who only surrendered nine points in last week's game against Antioch. The offense, however, has been hit by the injury bug. Quarterback Kyle Whitman and running back Jonathan Wells have missed time. The 6-2 Wildcats, who are on a four-game winning streak, will be making their first IHSA playoff appearance since 1996.

No. 15 St. Viator (5-4) at No. 2 Lakes (8-1), 7:30 p.m.

Even though Lakes' football program has only been in existence for eight seasons, they've made the playoffs in five of them (including four straight). The North Suburban Prairie champs are paced by a vicious offense. In their current six game winning streak, they have beaten three playoff teams --Wauconda, Grant and North Chicago-- by scores of 69-20, 42-14 and 62-0, respectively. St. Viator has bounced back nicely after a 2-7 season. They feature Mayo Arogundade at running back.

Our Muscle Milk Team of the Week is the Palatine Pirates-- a team that has had to use a lot of muscle in 2012, and not by choice. The Mid Suburban-West champs were without their star running back, Cam Kuksa, for most of the regular season. But he's back and that could mean trouble for the teams who stand in their way on the road to Champaign. 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 10:30 p.m. Friday night and streaming live at CSNChicago.com. The show will re-air 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

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

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USA TODAY

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

Midfield has been an area of focus this offseason for Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and another new addition to that group was added on Monday.

The Fire have traded $400,000 in general allocation money in return for midfielder Dax McCarty from the New York Red Bulls. Paul Tenorio of Four Four Two first reported the trade.

McCarty was an All-Star in 2015 and part of the league's Best XI that season when he had eight assists to go with a goal. Last season he made 26 starts for the Red Bulls and totaled three goals and had five assists.

"Since the middle of 2016, we made acquiring Dax our No. 1 priority," Rodríguez said in the club's press release. "We believe adding his character and leadership in the locker room, as well as his exceptional soccer abilities on the field, dramatically improves our team."

The last time McCarty played at Toyota Park was a 2-2 draw on July 31 when a Khaly Thiam tackle caused a fractured tibia, which forced McCarty to sit out a month.

McCarty got married on Saturday, which delayed his arrival to the current U.S. national team camp. McCarty's participation in national team camp means he will join the Fire's preseason already in progress. The final match of the camp is on Feb. 3 while the Fire are set to start preseason on January 23.

McCarty, 29, has spent the past five and a half seasons with the Red Bulls. He began his career by playing five seasons for FC Dallas and was with D.C. United for part of the 2011 campaign before being traded to the Red Bulls. As an 11-year league veteran and the Red Bulls' captain, McCarty adds leadership and experience which Rodriguez has prioritized this offseason.

The Fire already added a former MLS All-Star in midfield this offseason in Juninho. The pair could line up next to each other in the preferred 4-2-3-1 coach Veljko Paunovic used for most of last season. This also could potentially put Matt Polster's role with the team in question. As the roster stands now, the third-year midfielder would be competing for two veteran All-Star caliber midfielders who were brought in at a high price.

Not to suggest a position move is in the works for Polster, but he did split time between midfield and right back with the Fire in 2015 under coach Frank Yallop and played there for the U-23 national team in Olympic qualifying. Right back remains a position of need by Rodriguez's own admission.

The trade also adds further context to the Fire trading the No. 3 pick in the draft on Friday. The Fire swapped the pick for $250,000 in general allocation money from New York City FC and Tenorio is reporting the Fire will send $400,000 to the Red Bulls for McCarty. To add those two moves together, the Fire dealt the No. 3 overall pick and $150,000 of allocation money for McCarty.

Does Cubs president Theo Epstein have a future in politics?

Does Cubs president Theo Epstein have a future in politics?

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has a job for Theo Epstein whenever the Cubs executive gets bored or starts to feel restless and wants to think about life beyond baseball.  

After building up the Boston Red Sox and turning around the Cubs, how about Epstein using his leadership skills, analytical personality, sense of conviction and Ivy League education to save the Democratic Party?    

"His job is to quench droughts – 86 years in Boston, 108 in Chicago," Obama said during Monday's White House ceremony honoring the World Series champs. "He takes the reins of an organization that's wandering in the wilderness and delivers them to the promised land. I talked to him about being DNC chair."

Epstein stood behind the president doing a cut-it gesture and that became one of many laugh lines during an entertaining Obama speech that lasted more than 20 minutes and took place against the backdrop of Donald Trump's looming administration. Epstein – who headlined a Lincoln Park fundraiser during the 2012 reelection campaign and attended the president's farewell address last week at McCormick Place – doesn't see his future in politics.

At least "not as a candidate or an elected official," Epstein said during a media scrum afterward. "But I think there are a lot of ways that we can all impact our communities without necessarily running for office."

Epstein – a private person who would never want to subject his young family to that kind of scrutiny – looked like official Washington in a navy blue suit and a striped silver-and-blue tie. He delivered his own speech in the East Room, beginning it by saying "what a tough act to follow."

"We know you may have certain allegiances to another team on the other side of town," Epstein said to the world's most famous White Sox fan. "But we know you're a very proud Chicagoan. And we know your better, wiser half – the first lady – has been a lifelong and very loyal Cub fan, which we appreciate very much.

"Of course, we have great faith in your intelligence, your common sense, your pragmatism, your ability to recognize a good thing when you see one.

"So Mr. President, with only a few days remaining in your tremendous presidency, we have taken the liberty here today of offering you a midnight pardon.

"And so we welcome you with open arms."

This formal ceremony sounded personal for Epstein, who led the presentation giving Obama white and gray No. 44 jerseys, a 44 Wrigley Field scoreboard panel, a lifetime pass to the iconic stadium and an autographed W flag to someday fly at his presidential library on the South Side.  

"Everyone – no matter where you fall politically – can appreciate the dignity with which he served the country," Epstein said. "He did an unbelievable job handling the office and raising his family while here. I think, across the board, folks would agree that he's very dignified and brought a lot of integrity to the office. It was our pleasure to thank him for that today."

[RELATED: 'Among Sox fans, I'm the Cubs' No. 1 fan']

The DNC – or whatever Epstein does for his next act – will have to wait. Before that epic playoff run began, the Cubs locked up Epstein with a five-year deal believed to be worth in the neighborhood of $50 million, putting the future Hall of Fame executive in position to make another trip to the White House with a championship team.          

"Good thing I signed a contract with (chairman) Tom Ricketts," Epstein said. "He was kicking me, saying I can’t leave. It was a kind offer, though."