Samardzija banking on another breakthrough year

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Samardzija banking on another breakthrough year

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 2 Glenbard West

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 2 Glenbard West

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26. View Edgy Tim's other football previews here.

School: Glenbard West

Head coach: Chad Hetlet

How they fared in 2015: 14-0 (6-0) West Suburban Silver Conference. Glenbard West made the Class 7A state playoff field. The Hilltoppers defeated Moline, Mount Carmel, Auburn, Cary-Grove and Libertyville to capture the title. 

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Hilltoppers repeat?

Names to watch this season: FB/DE Dionte Moorehead, LB Jackson Goleash​

​​​​​[PREPS: Edgy Tim's Countdown to Kickoff series]

Biggest holes to fill: Who picks up the offensive slack with the graduation of running back Sam Brodner (Wisconsin)?

EDGY's early take: Glenbard West returns 12 starters (five offense, seven defense) from its undefeated state title team last season, and whenever Hetlet has experience back on defense you can expect a strong year from Glenbard West.

Hilltoppers schedule:

Aug. 26 at Bolingbrook (7 p.m.)

Sept. 2 at Hinsdale South (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 9 at York (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 17 vs. Downers Grove North (1:30 p.m.)

Sept. 24 vs. Lyons Township (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 1 at Hinsdale Central (12 p.m.)

Oct. 8 vs. Oak Park-River Forest (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 14 at Proviso West (7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 22 vs. Addison Trail (1:30 p.m.)

Report: Tim Beckman volunteering as assistant coach at North Carolina

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Report: Tim Beckman volunteering as assistant coach at North Carolina

A year ago, Tim Beckman was fired as the head football coach at Illinois after an investigation, spurred by social-media accusations by former players, backed up claims of player mistreatment.

But Beckman is apparently back coaching up student-athletes.

According to a Tuesday-night report from the Champaign News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen, Beckman is serving as a volunteer assistant coach at North Carolina under head coach Larry Fedora.

Illinois plays North Carolina in its second game of the season under new head coach Lovie Smith.

In three seasons as the Illini head coach, Beckman oversaw little on-field success, his teams posting a collective 12-25 record, winning just four Big Ten games and making just one bowl appearance. On Mother's Day of last year, former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic sent out a lengthy string of tweets accusing Beckman of forcing players to play injured, demeaning injured players and threatening to take players' scholarships away. An investigation into the program found evidence supporting those claims, and Beckman was fired a week prior to the start of the 2015 campaign.

Beckman released a statement defending himself but ended up settling with the university for a one-time payment of $250,000.

The Illini have had two head coaches since Beckman's firing. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit was promoted to interim head coach for most of last season before agreeing to a two-year contract that made him the full-time head coach ahead of the Illini's final game of the season. Several months later, athletics director Josh Whitman in one of his first actions dismissed Cubit, then hired Smith a couple days later.

There's no telling whether Beckman, who worked alongside Fedora when the two were coordinators at Oklahoma State during the 2007 season, will be making the trip to Champaign for that game on Sept. 10.

Cubs conserving Jake Arrieta for October and see another Cy Young push coming

Cubs conserving Jake Arrieta for October and see another Cy Young push coming

SAN DIEGO – West Coast atmosphere, late August, almost no-hitter stuff for a Cubs team riding a wave of momentum. Jake Arrieta might be reentering the zone that made him the hottest pitcher on the planet last year. Get your onesies ready.

It felt that way on Tuesday night at Petco Park, where Arrieta shut down the San Diego Padres, allowing only two hits across eight scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory, making another statement in his Cy Young Award defense.

For all the questions about Arrieta’s fastball control and mechanical tweaks – and times where he’s admitted he’s felt a click off – this is still a top-of-the-rotation guy who leads the league with 16 wins and has a 2.62 ERA.

“He should be” in the Cy Young discussion, manager Joe Maddon said. “The only thing that’s been amiss is a little bit of command issues on occasion. Otherwise, stuff is the same. Numbers are fabulous. It’s hard to replicate what he had done last year, because he just nailed it.

“If he gets hot over these last couple weeks…”

It will be up to Arrieta to complete that thought in a World Series-or-bust season for baseball’s first team to 80 wins this year, one that’s now 35 games over .500.  

[SHOP: Get your own Jake Arrieta jersey]

This didn’t feel like a perfect game or create any no-hitter drama. The Padres are already 20 games under .500 and years away from being a serious contender. And Arrieta had to bounce back from last week’s ugly win over the Milwaukee Brewers – when he walked a career-high seven batters – and work around a first-inning walk to San Diego leadoff guy Travis Jankowski.

But the Cubs played spectacular defense behind Arrieta, with catcher Willson Contreras making a lightning-quick throw to pick off Jankowski at third base. The Cubs turned three double plays while a thunderous lineup led by Kris Bryant (33rd home run) and Addison Russell (fifth home run in his last five games) lowered the stress level. After Alex Dickerson’s single leading off the second inning, the Padres didn’t get another hit until Christian Bethancourt’s double with two outs in the eighth.

“I really wanted to let my defense work,” said Arrieta, who finished with six strikeouts against three walks. “When you have Addison and (Javier) Baez in the middle of the infield – two of the best athletes in all of baseball – you want the ball to go to those guys.”

At a time when Clayton Kershaw (back) and Stephen Strasburg (elbow) are on the disabled list, leaving potential playoff opponents like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals in scramble mode, the Cubs can see Arrieta building toward October.

The way Arrieta did with that Aug. 30 no-hitter last year at Dodger Stadium on national TV, walking into the press conference in a moustache-covered onesie, Maddon going with the pajama theme again for the flight home after this weekend’s series in Los Angeles.

But the Cubs ultimately paid the price for all that effort poured into the wild-card chase, which explains why Maddon pulled Arrieta after 99 pitches with a five-run lead (leaving Aroldis Chapman to clean up Felix Pena’s mess in the ninth inning and get the final two outs, giving him eight saves in a Cubs uniform).

“Yeah, I was mad at Joe taking me out,” Arrieta said. “But at the same time, he came over to me and he said: ‘Hey, just remember last year and let’s conserve some things for October.’

“That’s our game plan. We want to be as strong and as dominant as we can be, but still in the back of our mind understanding that late September, early October, mid-October is really the most important time for us.

“Could I have finished the game? Yes. Does it play in our favor to maybe conserve that for later? Yeah. Joe’s a really smart guy. He knows what he’s doing. I feel like he makes the right moves in the right situations. And that’s why we’ve been playing as well as we have.”