Worlds Colliding

Worlds Colliding

Friday, May 28, 2010
5:50 PM

By Frankie O'

Well, its here. The day of reckoning! It was bound to happen. Ive been here 15 years now, having moved from one sports mad city to another. So far there hasnt been much conflict since that while both cities have had good sports teams, they either havent been good enough to matter or havent been good enough at the same time. Of course the Eagles did play the Bears here in the playoffs in 2001, but this city and its teams were still kind of new to me and I honestly did not think that the Bears had a chance in that game. That was the luckiest fraud of a 13 win team that I ever saw and the game and subsequent play of that team proved that out. Of course the Eagles lost the next week and have continued to torture me in many new and old ways since, but I digress. The week before and after that game were a whirlwind for me. Rooting for my Birds was never in question, but the impact that game had on this city was something that stayed with me. No stranger to rooting misfortune, I recognized the feeling of despair in the city as the local heroes had once again let them down. I was also struck by the fact that just about everyone I knew here, all of whom were Bear fans, wished me and my team well. That was kind of cool and introduced me to the minds and hearts of Midwesterners. If it was the other way around I would have been so ticked off that I would not have been able to see straight, let alone remember my manners. But time and age and many of the other things that happen in life have a way of changing that.

Which brings me to the cross-roads where I find myself: A Flyers-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Finals. It feels weird even typing that. What? As Ive accumulated my time living here, the sports fan in me has become immersed in the local pro sports scene. (Like I ever had a chance not to be!) Being behind the bar affords me ample opportunity to watch and talk about everything that is going on here. The difference about the teams here though is while I follow and root for them, I dont have the connection of a lifetime of devotion. While others are miserable about the plight of the locals, I can observe at a distance. No pain. I especially enjoy following the White Sox, the Bulls and the Blackhawks, for many different reasons, but the main one being they would never have to play a Philly team when it matters. Right? Uh oh!

The connection for me to the Flyers is that they were the first team that I grew up rooting for that won a title. Considering that I grew up in a city with a considerable chip on its shoulder,(Just about sports, I swear!) they were a team for the ages and has been loved accordingly since then. I will always be a Flyers fan. In addition to that though, Im a big NHL fan, and with that there is a certain nostalgic connection with the Original Six teams, especially if you move to one of those cities. As Ive often said, I was shocked at the level of disinterest in this team, by this city when I took residence here in 1995. Not to beat that one to death, because I have, along with many others here, I was as excited as anyone else when Rocky Wirtz took over the team and began their transformation three years ago. There is something about being around something as it is built and being able to watch it grow and prosper. I have developed a strong interest in this team and Im excited for what they have accomplished, until now that is. For as much as Ive watched and rooted, there still isnt that attachment that I have with the Flyers and there never will be. You can only have one first love. But I do understand what they mean to everyone else here. They are IT! This team has taken over like nothing I have seen here. There is an incredibly strong bond with the locals, all of them. This is a team ready to write its story that is going to be told for generations.

Of course it has to be against my team, which is on a once in a decade roll, creating a match-up that I will be dealing with for generations. In some ways I feel like I cant win, well almost. This has been a strange time for me at the bar and with my friends. We both want something very badly but getting it means the other cant have it. Its making my life awkward. Consider it Sophies Choice, with playoff beards, mullets and pucks to the face. Its cool to know that one of the two cities I care for the most is going to have a parade in two weeks. It is going to create untold joy. But as I have learned being a sports fan in two different tormented cities, its also going to create untold heartache. Either way, I guess Im going to have to put the Flyers gear away for a while, no need to rile up the neighbors, Ill accept my fate quietly. Better to be under the radar than over the top obnoxious. Have I become a Midwesterner or what? These next two weeks are going to drive me Cup Crazy, judging by what I just wrote, Im almost there. God help us all!

Notre Dame sorting through safety options after Max Redfield's dismissal

Notre Dame sorting through safety options after Max Redfield's dismissal

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly had to chuckle a bit when asked what he could tell a larger-than-normal media contingent about Devin Studstill, the true freshman and presumptive favorite to replace Max Redfield at free safety Sept. 4 against Texas. 

“We’ll have a true freshman on the road playing against a talented team,” Kelly said with a bit of a laugh that, given the circumstances, sounded a bit nervous.

No matter how confident Notre Dame players and coaches are in Studstill, there’s still that unknown part of leaning on a safety who will play his first college football game in front of an exected sellout crowd of about 100,000 people in primetime at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin. 

Kelly described Studstill as a “natural” as the Florida native took first-team reps away from Redfield during spring practice. Linebacker and captain James Onwualu said Studstill’s transition back into the first-team defense has “gone smoothly” with only a handful of practices left until Notre Dame heads to Austin. 

“He was here in the spring, which helped a lot,” Onwualu. “He came in ready to work from Day 1 and you gotta respect that. He’s been working his craft, working his game and there’s not much of a drop-off. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s still young, obviously, so (we) try to push some knowledge on him and continue to talk the game and show him as many looks (as possible).”

Kelly used “talented” and “confident” to describe Studstill this time around. But it won’t be just him at free safety, Kelly cautioned. 

“I think we’ll have to play a few guys at that position,” Kelly said. “I don’t think he’s going to go out there and take every snap.”

At the top of that list: sixth-year graduate student Avery Sebastian, who broke a bone in his foot in Week 1 against Texas last year and missed the rest of the season. The 5-foot-10, 200 pound Cal transfer, who also missed nearly all of the 2013 season with an injury, started six games for the Golden Bears from 2011-2014. 

In exchange for the experience Sebastian brings to the position, Notre Dame would slide a guy who’s more of an in-the-box strong safety over to free safety. The other options at free safety are freshman Jalen Elliott, a former four-star recruit, and sophomore Nicco Fertitta, who saw action on special teams last year. 

Kelly said there haven’t been any conversations about moving an offensive player to free safety to manufacture more depth.

“We feel like we’ve got enough back there that we’ll be solid,” Kelly said. 

Notre Dame’s defense is peppered with first-time starters, which creates plenty of unknowns heading into the 2016 season. In losing Redfield, a player who Kelly said was starting to put everything together after a few inconsistent seasons, another question mark was added to VanGorder’s defense. 

That doesn’t mean that Studstill and whoever else is back at free safety are destined to fail. Maybe Studstill and/or Elliott clears their first-year hurdles and is a solid player and Sebastian winds up being a reliable option there, too. 

But Notre Dame’s defense very likely was going to be better off with Redfield as a starting safety. 

“Max was an outstanding player, and he was having a great, great camp,” Kelly said. “He had a great spring. He’s athletic, he’s fast. So you’re taking a really good player off your defense. But we’ll be able to plug in a guy there that I think will get the job done for us.” 

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 1 Loyola Academy

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 1 Loyola Academy 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: Loyola Academy

Head coach: John Holecek

How they fared in 2015: 14-0 (4-0) Chicago Catholic League Blue Conference. Loyola Academy made the Class 8A state playoff field. The Ramblers defeated West Aurora, Stevenson, Homewood-Flossmoor, Palatine and Marist to capture the 8A IHSA state football title. 

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Ramblers repeat in Class 8A?

Names to watch this season: TE Jake Marwede, DB Ian Swenson

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

Biggest holes to fill: Loyola will need to find answers at a handful of key spots including quarterback and running back.

EDGY's early take: Despite having to replace 14 starters from last year's title team, look for Loyola to reload once again. Holecek has some headliner names in place, along with a very talented and deep roster this season. If Loyola can find some answers early on offense, the defense usually plays at a very high level and can help the offense. 

Ramblers schedule:

Aug. 26 at Milwaukee Marquette (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 3 vs. Maine South (1:30 p.m.)

Sept. 9 vs. Mount Carmel *at Gately* (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 17 vs. St. Francis (1:30 p.m.)

Sept. 23 vs. Fenwick *at Triton College* (7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 1 vs. St. Rita (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 7 vs. Leo (7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 15 vs. Providence Catholic (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 21 at Brother Rice (7:30 p.m.)

Fire fail to hold another lead at home, but reason why was different

Fire fail to hold another lead at home, but reason why was different

Holding onto leads at home has not been a strong suit for the Fire this season.

Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy was the fifth time this season the Fire have been unable to get a win at home in a match they led. In four of those, including Wednesday, the Fire had leads in the second half.

In the previous cases, the Fire dropped deep defensively and tried to simply hold onto the lead or hope David Accam could score on a one-man counter.

“I think once we’re up in the result I think we have to make sure that we kill the game off because there’s been too many times where it’s that 1-0 or that 2-1 and we’re kind of holding there and the next thing you know they’re tying the game at the end of the game,” midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. “We got to keep pushing for that third goal to make sure that we kill things off.”

The game against LA was different. The Fire had multiple quality chances to score a third goal and take a two-goal lead. One opportunity featuring Accam, Luis Solignac and an open net seemed like a sure goal as it was developing.

However, the Fire didn’t find that two-goal lead and LA managed to come back.

“I think we created a lot of chances,” Alvarez said. “We went up 2-1 and unfortunately that third goal didn’t want to go in at the right time and then LA got that bounce.”

[SHOP: Get your own Fire jersey here]

Even though the result didn’t show it, the Fire may have actually turned a corner in terms of how to play with a lead. In the win at Montreal on Saturday, the Fire scored that extra goal to take a two-goal lead, something the team hadn’t done all season in an MLS game.

Against the Galaxy, the Fire actually had more possession in the second half (56 percent) than the first half (46 percent). LA’s only shot on goal in the second half was the tying goal while the Fire put three shots on target in the second 45 minutes.

The Fire did fail to close out another match at home that they had a lead in, but the way it happened was different and maybe that’s a positive sign going forward.

“I think it’s starts from the offense,” Accam said. “If we could have scored then we could have killed the game. The defense did really well. We just need to keep finishing chances and then opponents won’t have the chance to attack us.

“I think we played one of the best games we played this season, but we need to take our chances and today I would say we are disappointed that we dropped two points at home. For me also we created so many chances that on another day we could have taken it. It’s kind of a mixed feeling for me.”