CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.
School: Vernon Hills
Head coach: Bill Bellecomo
Assistant coaches: Corey Atwell, Greg Stilling, Tim Dydo, Jason Czarnecki, Avelino Cortez, Brian Palmer, Mike Larsen, Dave Schroetter
How they fared in 2016: 10-4 (3-2 Central Suburban North), lost to Peoria in the IHSA Class 5A state title game.
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2017 regular season schedule:
Aug. 25 – Grayslake North
Sept. 1 – @ Zion-Benton
Sept. 8 – Rolling Meadows
Sept. 15 - @ Hoffman Estates
Sept. 22 - Highland Park
Sept. 28 – @ Deerfield
Oct. 6 - Maine West
Oct. 13 - @ Maine East
Oct. 20 - Glenbrook North
Biggest storyline: Can the Cougars make another deep run in Class 5A?
Names to watch this season: Senior WR/DB Max Lyle, senior OL/DL Danny Lester and senior LB Kyle Fasbinder
Biggest holes to fill: The Cougars will need to reload in particular on the offensive side of the football with just three starters back from a season ago.
EDGY's early take: The Cougars had a great run in 2016 and while several key starters have graduated, Vernon Hills still has some gas left in the tank. Getting off to a strong early start could be a big key in 2017 as the Cougars schedule is tough especially early on in 2017.
LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.
With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.
Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.
“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”
Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.
Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.
“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.
“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”