Williams adds punch to Lake Forest defense

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Williams adds punch to Lake Forest defense

Trent Williams, Lake Forest's 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior linebacker, is so active that statisticians can't seem to keep up with him.

In the wake of Lake Forest's 31-19 victory over Notre Dame last Friday in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A playoff, one report had Williams with a school-record seven sacks. Another report had him with six sacks, another with four and another with three.

After reviewing the game film, Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli settled on six.

Williams, who also was credited with 10 tackles, set the tone early in the first quarter by slamming into the Notre Dame quarterback, forcing a fumble, then recovering it to set up Lake Forest's first touchdown.

"He has great genetics. He has good speed and strength and understands leverage. He's a hard guy to block," Spagnoli said. "He is a relentless competitor. He has fire in his belly. His game has gotten better in the last six weeks. Nothing surprises him anymore."

In a 33-13 victory over Libertyville in Week 6, he recovered a fumble and ran 40 yards for a touchdown. In a 23-21 upset of favored Lakes in the second round of the playoff, he blocked a punt and recovered a fumble.

But six sacks in one game? Are you listening, Julius Peppers?

"It isn't important that I had a lot of sacks. It only matters that we won the game," Williams said. "We haven't played a complete game yet. The offense has struggled a bit and the defense has given up some big plays. I don't like to look at the past but at what we can do to improve as a team."

Lake Forest (9-3) will host Cary-Grove (12-0) in a Class 7A semifinal on Saturday in Lake Forest. It marks the Scouts' first trip to the semifinals. They lost in the quarterfinals in 1992 and 1993.

"We don't have any Big Ten recruits on this team, just a lot of good high school players," Spagnoli said. "I feel (defensive lineman) Tom Kutschke is a Division I prospect. But nobody seems to be interested.

"I'm happy for the kids. We have no super stars. And we only have 45 kids on the varsity. But they are playing hard. They are playing well together. They understand all of their roles and assignments."

Spagnoli doesn't choose to dwell on the past. "I'm not that good at looking back," he said. But it is easy to argue that Lake Forest could be 12-0, not 9-3 and a No. 10 seed. The Scouts lost on a forfeit to Lake Zurich (teachers strike), a pass interference penalty against Stevenson and a missed 32-yard field goal with four seconds to play against Warren.

That left Lake Forest at 5-3. But the Scouts have won four in a row behind a fly-to-the-ball defense led by Kutschke and Williams and a quick-striking offense triggered by quarterback Andrew Clifford and running back Hub Cirame.

Against Notre Dame, Clifford passed for 152 of his 162 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Cirame rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns. In 11 games, Clifford, who was mostly a backup last year, has passed for more than 2,500 yards.

"I'm not surprised. He is what we hoped he would be," Spagnoli said. "As a freshman and sophomore, he needed seasoning. He was immature. He had ability but, mentally, he wasn't ready to go. Last year, he started to play more and he realized how difficult it is and how important it is to stay focused. That's when the light went on for him. His leadership and mental framework are great now. He is a complete player."

The light went on for Trent Williams a year ago while watching his older brother Owen, a running back who now is red-shirting at Dayton, and working with Larry Lilja, Lake Forest's strength and conditioning coach and offensive line coach who spent more than 30 years at Northwestern.

"Playing with my brother showed me what it took to be a player. It was a learning process for me to learn what it took to be a varsity player," Trent said. "You have to play fast and smart and play for your teammates and the seniors. I'm trying to make more plays. This is the seniors' last year and I want to do this for them.

"This is my only sport. I started in third grade. There is something about the game that wants me to keep playing. I always liked hitting people. I remember what the coach (Lilja) said before the Lakes game. He said there is no other sport like football, the contact, and the kind of player it takes to play the game. I want to be that kind of player."

There may be no Division I prospects on the 2012 squad. "We just have a bunch of scrappers who play together and play fast and try their hardest in every single game," Williams said. But Williams could emerge as a big-timer as a senior. He hopes to play in college--at the highest level he can. His dream school is Michigan, where his uncle played.

"I want to get bigger and stronger and faster," he said. "But right now I'm only focusing on the task at hand."

Meanwhile, Lake Forest's offense gives opponents as much to think about as its defense.

"We spread the wealth around. Everybody can make plays," Clifford said. "I'm in the shotgun with Scott Powell at fullback and Hub Cirame at running back. It is a mixture of the spread and pro-style. Sometimes we're in the pistol and the shotgun and under center. Sometimes we are in an empty backfield or one or two backs. We give defenses a lot to think about."

"The biggest thing is they play well for each other," Spagnoli said. "They are unselfish. They care less who gets credit."

Even if they make six sacks in one game. Or was it seven?

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

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Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

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Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."