Playoffs, pairings & pizza: Schools gear up for Selection Saturday


Playoffs, pairings & pizza: Schools gear up for Selection Saturday

It's probably a good thing Le Roy head football coach BJ Zeleznik coaches a team in class 1A and not 8A. His pizza party bills would be astronomical.

"No kidding," Zeleznik chuckled. "Well, we used to co-op with Downs Tri-Valley and we would have close to 90 kids join us on Selection Saturday. But we still have 45 kids in the program this year, freshmen through upperclassmen. They'll all joins us. It's a nice tradition."

And it's a ritual that dates back to 1986. BJ's father, Jim, who coached Le Roy from 1979-2000, came up with the idea of having a pizza party on the Saturday after the prep football regular season was complete. The gathering was centered on watching the high school pairings show. Coaches and players would eagerly anticipate hearing their school's name called on the broadcast.

"It's just one part the whole excitement around having a good year," Zeleznik said. And it's a great time of year; the harvest comes in, leaves are falling, it's good to get everyone together. It's a lot of fun."

Le Roy is a town of roughly 3,500 people, just north of Interstate 74 in McLean County. And the bond between the football program and the people of Le Roy goes back generations.

"With some of the kids on our team ... their fathers played for my father. So they know the party is all about. The pizza party can be a motivational tool -- maybe even more so for the coaches."

It's part of the charm about this part of the high school football season. Many teams from around the state will gather together to watch the IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show, this Saturday at 8 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and Some schools will have pizza parties. And others will celebrate with a setting that only Norman Rockwell would dream of capturing. Just west of Le Roy, the Downs Tri-Valley football team will gather to watch the show in the town's fire station.

For other schools, Saturday night represents a zenith of excitement in overcoming challenging times. Take Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, for example. The Warriors didn't win a single game last season. This year, they're going to the playoffs. Or how about Aurora Central Catholic, which hasnt been to the playoffs, period, since 1997? And if Bloom High School in Chicago Heights beats Rich Central on Friday, it will clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time since ALF was dominating the NBC Monday night lineup (1989).

Those schools represent just a small portion of the 256 playoff qualifiers across eight classes who will be anxiously waiting Saturday night. Five weeks later, high school football fans will be able to check out Comcast SportsNet's coverage of the state championships from Memorial Stadium in Champaign-Urbana. The 1A-4A title games will take center stage on Friday, Nov. 23. The 5A-8A games will be on the marquee the next day, Saturday, Nov. 24.

The pairings show and championship games can be seen in Comcast SportsNet's entire viewing territory. Viewers are encouraged to check out for channel locations or the IHSA's channel finder by market.

Better yet, regardless if you (or your team) made the postseason, you can join in on the fun this Saturday. Fans can interact via live chat on and fans are also encouraged to interact via Twitter using the hashtag IHSA.

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

At one point, it was looking like Lucas Giolito could be headed to the White Sox in exchange for Chris Sale.

But when Sale was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, Giolito's name was in the clear of rumors — until 29 hours later, when the Nationals' top prospect would be headed to Chicago in a different trade, which sent outfielder Adam Eaton to Washington.

“It’s kind of like the world we live in now. Social media is always out there and everything is on Twitter,” Giolito said in a conference call Friday. “I saw my name being mentioned on Twitter for Chris Sale. I know with the winter meetings all sorts of stuff being thrown around. I was just trying to focus on what I’m doing in this offseason which is lifting and all my workouts. Kind of just whatever happens, happens. 

“It’s funny that Sale ended up going to the Red Sox and something else happens that I’m going to the White Sox now with a couple teammates. It’s really interesting stuff but I’m super excited.”

The move for Rick Hahn & Co. to acquire Giolito was the second major trade to begin the White Sox rebuilding process. But Giolito didn't come alone.

In addition, the White Sox received Reynaldo Lopez — who Giolito has played with since 2014 — and the Nationals' 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning.

"I definitely think it’s amazing to be coming over to the White Sox with a bunch of young talent," Giolito said. "I think it’s a great opportunity for us to all develop and get better and hopefully put a really good team together in Chicago. Definitely excited to be coming over with a couple guys from my previous organization."

[MORE: Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right]

Giolito went 6-5 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP across three minor-league levels this past season. He admitted his mechanics weren't quite in sync and is looking to improve on that.

"Sometimes things get out of whack. I believe I let too much get out of whack last year," Giolito said. "So this year with my training program I have in this offseason — lifting and Pilates and everything — I’m just trying to make sure that I can stay as athletic as possible so I’m able to repeat the right delivery more often. Once I start playing catch and doing bullpens and everything these next few weeks, right before spring training, I’m going to make sure I put that all together so I can repeat my delivery as best as possible."

His struggles continued when he got to The Show.

In his major-league debut on June 28, Giolito held the New York Mets to just one hit over four scoreless innings before a rain delay cut his night short. That turned out to be his most effective outing of the season as he finished the year with an 0-1 record, 6.75 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in six games with the Nationals, four of them being starts.

"(My MLB debut) didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked it to go, obviously, as you look at the numbers and everything," he said, "but I feel that with the White Sox now (and) getting traded and everything, it’s kind of like a fresh opportunity and a new start to get up to the big leagues again and contribute and do everything I can to stay there as well."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Despite his low numbers, the 22-year-old Giolito believes he's ready to play on the White Sox main roster as soon as next season.

"I’ve had some experience in the big leagues last year," Giolito said. "Especially last year, I took a lot positives away because I did experience such a good amount of failure in a lot of I’d say like hardship when I made it up and didn’t perform up to what I believe is my best capabilities.

"I’ve pitched a good amount of innings in the minor leagues and I’ve had a little experience in the big leagues so I’m just really looking forward to making it up in the big leagues with the White Sox and contributing as soon as possible."

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

For the third time since the event was created, the Blackhawks will participate in the Winter Classic, facing the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 2, 2017.

To build some hype for the Central Division showdown, which will feature two teams that find themselves battling for the top seed in the Western Conference, Ryan Hartman and Trevor van Riemsdyk of the Blackhawks squared off with Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri of the Blues in EA Sports' NHL 17.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Edmunson and Fabbri jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but the finish would be determined in 3-on-3 overtime.

Check out who came out on top in the video below: