St. Edward tackling its assignments

St. Edward tackling its assignments

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
12:05 PM

By Erik Jacobsen
YourSeasn.com

St. Edwards defense provides a lesson in what teamwork is all about.

The Green Wave entered the season lacking size and experience on defense, but that hasnt stopped the unit from becoming the areas stingiest squad, statistically speaking.

Going into Saturdays showdown against Mendota (6-4) in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs, St. Edward (8-2) boasts a defense that is holding opponents to 10.7 points per game. The 107 points allowed by the Wave this season is more than 50 points fewer than the next area team.

Those accomplishments seem even more impressive when it is taken into account that St. Edwards defense returned only four starters from last season and primarily uses a group of 12 players who average about 180 pounds.

So what is the key to success? Coach Mike Rolando says it is all about the players understanding the teams system.

All the guys are very coachable, Rolando said. They understand their assignments within the defense and they dont try to make too much happen. They understand that their job may not be to make tackles, but to contain or to not let receivers behind them.

The big thing is they understand each others roles and they count on each other to get the job done. Theyre not selfish and they dont go outside of their own discipline to try to make plays.

Rolando admits that the defense was a big question mark coming into the season.

Senior defensive tackle Derek Porto, junior defensive tackle Evan Finnane, senior linebacker Jon Keokanlaya and senior safety Sam Pozezinski were the only returning starters for the unit, meaning there would be several new faces at every level of the defense.

It didnt hurt that the incoming junior class was fresh off an undefeated sophomore campaign, but questions still remained.

Any time you make the leap from the sophomore level to the varsity level its a huge disparity in the speed and the physicality of the game, Rolando said. We were hoping theyd be able to play at this level, but when they make that jump you just never know.

It didnt take long for the juniors to assert themselves and take on leading roles.

Junior linebackers Luke Duffy and Mark Sink rank as the teams top two tacklers with 90 and 79, respectively. Junior defensive end Zack McQueen has a team-high seven sacks while junior cornerback Ryan Johnson and junior safety Sean Richmond are tied for the team lead in interceptions with two apiece.

We knew that our defense was going to mainly be made up of juniors, said Sink, the son of Hampshire defensive coordinator Rod Sink. We knew we had to step up and play big and play for our seniors. We didnt want to let them down.

Junior cornerback Matt Brockner (44 tackles) is another key piece to the puzzle along with Finnane, who is the only junior on the team in his second varsity season. Finnane has 54 tackles, six sacks and six forced fumbles.

Given the production of the Class of 2012, its safe to say defense wont be a major concern going into next season.

Luckily were at this point where were in November and were not thinking about next year yet, Rolando said. But in the back of your mind you do catch yourself thinking That (junior-dominated defense) does bode well for the future.

Rolando adds that the success of the juniors is in part due to the leadership provided by the teams seniors, who also play an important role.

Keokanlaya (73 tackles), Porto (four sacks) and Pozezinski (11 pass deflections) have all stepped up their games this season. Meanwhile, senior defensive end Kevin Danikowski has taken his game to a whole new level.

Danikowski didnt get much playing time last season, but he doesnt come off the field this year. In addition to his 64 tackles and five sacks on defense, he also starts at offensive tackle.

Senior linebacker Bobby Waclawik (58 tackles) is yet another important contributor for the Wave, which gets a boost from the scouting and preparation of defensive coordinator Marc Rusinko and the rest of the coaching staff.

Coach prepares us well, Porto said. We always change things up depending on what the offense on the other team does, and we watch a lot of film to get ready.

St. Edward allowed a season-low 69 yards in last weeks win against Chicago Uplift, which marked the first playoff victory in program history. The Wave hasnt allowed more than 29 points in a game this season, and in its eight victories it hasnt given up more than 14 points.

Along the way St. Edward held three opponents scoreless, including back-to-back shutouts in Weeks 2 and 3. Not since 1984 had the program accomplished such a feat, which proved to be a sign of things to come for a Wave team that is setting the bar higher than ever this year.

We strive to get a shutout every game, Keokanlaya said. We want to set an example and play hard-nosed defense every time out.

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.