Crystal Lake Central reads, reacts and wins

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Crystal Lake Central reads, reacts and wins

You've heard about John Wooden's UCLA offense, the Princeton offense, motion, triangle, flex, pick and roll, swing, shuffle, triple post and dribble-drive. They are as numerous as there are plays in a playbook, as simple or as complicated as you want.
But what about the read-and-react offense? Sounds like football's triple option. Should I hand off, run with the ball or pitch out? Well, Rick Torbett's innovation may not be as popular or as revolutionary but it has been very effective for Crystal Lake Central this season.
"It's something I saw at a clinic at the Final Four in 2007," said Crystal Lake Central coach Rick Czeslawski. "Prior to that, we were running the Princeton offense. I studied it for a few years, put it in and we went 24-5. It's a versatile offense, easy to teach.
"It isn't a hot offense, more of a grassroots game working its way up. A growing number of coaches are using it, like Pat Ambrose at Stevenson and Mike Bailey at St. Patrick. You can run it with any personnel against any defense, man-to-man or zone. It's a way of teaching offense."
The read and react offense is basically a motion offense but with specific rules and reads for players without the ball. There is more player movement and less standing around. A player is free to do what he sees best--drive, shoot or pass and cut.
"The big thing is spacing," guard Jake VanScoyoc said. "It gives players more freedom to pass and drive to the basket. We are athletic. Anyone can score. The offense suits our team really well. It isn't like a set offense. We look to reverse the ball, make sure our spacing is right, then drive to the basket or kick it back out. There is so much more freedom."
Czeslawski has made it work despite returning only one starter from last year's 22-6 team that lost to Belvidere in the regional.
"We hang our hat on defense. What stands out is we do a good job on defense and share the ball on offense. Our kids have bought into the concept of positive energy," he said.
Whatever it is or whatever it does, it is effective. Crystal Lake Central is 15-2 going into Tuesday night's game against Grayslake North. The Tigers, who had a recent 14-game winning streak snapped by Woodstock, will meet Johnsburg on Friday.
Last Wednesday, Crystal Lake Central bounced back from its stunning 54-53 loss to Woodstock on Jordan Turner's game-winning shot with four seconds to play by smashing Grayslake Central 75-53. Corban Murphy scored 18 points and VanScoyoc and Brad Knoeppel each contributed 11.
"It was a wakeup call for us," VanScoyoc said. "We didn't play a bad game but we learned we must be sharper against teams we play. We didn't come in with as much energy as other games. We were missing two starters but that's no excuse. We've got to play in the present and come out with a lot of energy."
The read and react offense has turned around Czeslawski's program. His teams were 10-20, 15-13, 6-22 and 9-18 before he adopted the new strategy. In the last two years, the Tigers were 24-5 and 22-6. They won the school's first regional championship since 1998 and its only sectional title since 1974. Now they are hoping to make history.
"We have a lot of good kids," Czeslawski said. "It took a few years to get the culture turned around, to expect winning. We had a good group of kids coming through in the first few years and they bought into the system. The school hadn't had much success and we needed to turn it around."
Czeslawski founded a Thanksgiving tournament and got his players involved in a summer league and a summer shootout. While attending a dozen clinics a year, he came up with the read-and-react offense and a concept of positive energy that he discovered after hearing Jon Gordon, author of the book "Energy Bus." Interest was stoked. More kids began to come out for basketball. They wanted to work hard and make a commitment.
The lineup includes Corban Murphy (15 ppg), a 6-foot-3 senior who was one of two unanimous all-tournament selections at the Jacobs Holiday Tournament (with Zion-Benton's Milik Yarbrough); 6-foot-7 senior Kyle Fleck (8 ppg, 8 rpb, 3 blocks); 6-foot-6 senior David Panicko (9 ppg, 7 rpb); VanScoyoc (10 ppg); and Knoeppel (10 ppg, 6 assists), a 5-foot-9 senior point guard. D.J. Thomas (7 ppg), a 6-foot senior, and Corban's brother, 5-foot-11 sophomore Cavanagh Murphy, come off the bench.
They probably couldn't make the roster at Whitney Young or Simeon. There aren't any Division I prospects. A few are being recruited by Division III schools. But put them together and they have a pretty good idea of how to win basketball games and make opponents very unhappy.
"We focus on each possession," Czeslawski said. "We want to make the other team uncomfortable on each possession. We average 16 assists per game. We want to spread the ball around and find the guy who has a match-up edge or has the hot hand."
The coach describes VanScoyoc as "our glue guy, our best defensive player, the guy you least want to go into a game without."
Added Czeslawski: "He has an uncanny knack when he makes a mistake, he makes up for it within the next possession. When he turns it over, he comes right back and steals the ball. His response is to make up for a mistake immediately. He keeps us together. He keeps us going."
A year ago, VanScoyoc was the seventh man. Even though Corban Murphy was the only returning starter, he shared his coach's high expectations for this year's team.
"As sophomores, we went 21-1. We have a lot of team chemistry. I knew we had some talent," he said. "We are versatile. That's our edge. If one guy is having an off game, another steps up. Anyone can score on any given night."
Their goal is to win the sectional. "Our first ever," VanScoyoc said. Not so. Many in the Crystal Lake community don't recall that coach John Swenson's 13-14 team won the school's only sectional title in 1974. Led by Dan Osmun and Rich Sexton, the Tigers lost to Oswego 64-47 in their only trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
"Our goal is to win the sectional," VanScoyoc said. "We don't talk about it too much. We just focus on the next game. No other team in school history has ever started 15-2. But we're just looking ahead to our rematch with Woodstock (on Jan. 29) at their place."

AP Illinois preps football rankings: Week 1

AP Illinois preps football rankings: Week 1

Here are the preseason rankings of Illinois high school football teams in each class, according to an Associated Press panel of sportswriters.

Class 8A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Loyola (12) 1-0 120 1
2 Lincoln-Way East 1-0 104 2
3 Glenbard West 1-0 93 3
4 Homewood-Flossmoor 1-0 84 4
5 Edwardsville 1-0 60 5
6 Brother Rice 1-0 57 NR
7 Glenbard North 1-0 45 8
8 Palatine 1-0 43 7
9 Waubonsie Valley 1-0 19 9
10 Maine South 1-0 18 NR

Other receiving votes: Huntley (13), Naperville Neuqua Valley (2), Naperville North (1), Hinsdale Central (1)

Class 7A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Chicago Mt. Carmel (11) 1-0 119 1
2 East St. Louis (1) 1-0 109 2
3 Libertyville 1-0 86 4
4 Batavia 1-0 73 3
5 Normal Community 1-0 70 5
6 Bradley-Bourbonnais 1-0 60 6
7 Fenwick 1-0 55 NR
8 St. Charles North 1-0 37 9
9 Wheaton North 1-0 15 NR
10 Machesney Park Harlem 1-0 10 NR

Other receiving votes: Lake Zurich (6), Geneva (5), Belleville West (5), St. Rita (4), Wheaton Warrenville South (2), Jacobs (1), Hononegah (1), Benet (1), Lincoln Way West (1)

Class 6A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Sacred Heart-Griffin (Spr) (11) 1-0 118 2
2 Prairie Ridge 1-0 108 4
3 Crete-Monee 1-0 84 5
4 Rockford Auburn 1-0 77 6
5 Montini (1) 0-1 66 1
6 Lemont 1-0 51 7
7 Cary-Grove 0-1 49 3
8 Belvidere North 1-0 41 9
9 St. Laurence 1-0 37 T10
10 DeKalb 1-0 11 NR

Other receiving votes: Chatham Glenwood (4), Providence (4), Oak Lawn Richards (4), Hinsdale South (2), Bloomington (2), Danville (1), Rockford Boylan (1)

Class 5A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Nazareth (13) 1-0 130 1
2 Peoria Central 1-0 114 2
3 Washington 1-0 106 3
4 Champaign Central 1-0 80 5
5 Sterling 1-0 69 7
6 Woodstock Marian 1-0 68 6
7 Joliet Catholic 0-1 44 4
8 Metamora 1-0 36 10
9 Centralia 1-0 34 T8
10 Triad 1-0 10 NR

Other receiving votes: Peoria Notre Dame (6), Sycamore (4), Kaneland (4), Decatur Eisenhower (4), LaSalle-Peru (2), Morgan Park (2), Rich Central (1), Cahokia (1)

Class 4A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Althoff Catholic (11) 1-0 123 2
2 Rochester (2) 1-0 117 3
3 Breese Mater Dei 1-0 88 4
4 Phillips 0-1 83 1
5 Geneseo 1-0 82 5
6 Johnsburg 1-0 60 8
7 Marengo 1-0 57 6
8 Manteno 1-0 47 7
9 Quincy Notre Dame 1-0 15 NR
10 Columbia 1-0 14 NR

Other receiving votes: Taylorville (12), Richmond-Burton (7), Rockford Lutheran (4), Stillman Valley (3), Plano (2), Rock Island Alleman (1)

Class 3A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 IC Catholic (12) 1-0   4
2 Wilmington (1) 1-0   3
3 Monticello 1-0   5
4 North-Mac 1-0   6
5 Newton 1-0   8
5 (tie) Pana 1-0   7
7 Bishop McNamara 0-1   1
8 Byron 1-0   T9
9 Paxton-Buckley-Loda 1-0   T9
10 Tolono Unity 0-1   2

Other receiving votes: Elmwood-Brimfield (13), Williamsville (6), Herscher (4), Breese Central (4), St. Joseph-Ogden (3), Carlinville (1), Winnebago (1), Mt. Carmel (1), Princeton (1)

Class 2A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Auburn (8) 1-0   1
2 Downs Tri-Valley (2) 1-0   2
3 Maroa-Forsyth (1) 1-0   3
4 Deer Creek-Mackinaw 1-0   4
5 Sterling Newman (1) 1-0   5
6 Mendon Unity 1-0   9
7 Orion 1-0   10
8 Wethersfield 1-0   8
9 Eastland-Pearl City 1-0   NR
10 St. Bede 0-1   6
10 (tie) Nashville 0-1   NR

Other receiving votes: Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (7), DuQuoin (6), Fulton (4), Leo (3), El Paso-Gridley (2), Champaign St. Thomas More (1), Rushville-Industry (1), Clifton Central (1)

Class 1A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Decatur St. Teresa (14) 1-0 140 2
2 Ottawa Marquette 1-0 117 3
3 Tuscola 1-0 106 5
4 Forreston 1-0 101 6
5 Dakota 1-0 68 8
6 Mt. Sterling (Brown County) 1-0 63 9
7 Athens 1-0 47 10
8 Stark County 0-1 30 1
9 Bureau Valley 1-0 26 NR
10 Stockton 1-0 23 NR

Other receiving votes: Lena-Winslow (16), Carrollton (11), LeRoy (9), Arcola (8), Camp Point Central (2), Hardin (Calhoun) (2), Chicago Hope Academy (1)

Recruiting news and notes: Jeff Thomas in no rush

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Recruiting news and notes: Jeff Thomas in no rush

East St. Louis senior four-star ranked wide receiver Jeff Thomas (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) put on a show in the Flyers' 34-3 win over Providence Catholic in New Lenox.

Thomas, who hauled in 5 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns while also playing defensive back, is still uncommitted and doesn't seem to be in any hurry to make a college choice.

"Everything is the same," Thomas said. "It's all about my team and the season for right now."

Earlier this summer, Thomas listed his top schools as Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State and Missouri. Missouri just added a recent verbal commitment from East St Louis QB Rey Estes and the Tigers many feel could have an advantage in landing Thomas. Missouri has four former East St. Louis Flyers on its current roster.

Deerfield senior three-star ranked defensive end Joshua Maize (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) recently released his list of favorites schools which includes Toledo, UConn, Indiana, Central Michigan, Miami of Ohio and Ball State. Maize however has also been drawing heavy recruiting looks from several other BCS level schools including Purdue, Syracuse, Rutgers, Illinois and Penn State and those schools plan to re-evaluate Maize early this fall. Maize plans to make official visits before making a final college choice and recently said, "my recruiting process is still very open at this time."

[RELATED - Edgy Tim's Top 25 power rankings: Week 2]

One position that is having rough recruiting ride in the Class of 2017? Quarterback. So far just three in-state Class of 2017 signal callers have given BCS level schools a verbal commitments including Jacob's Chris Katernick (Bowling Green), Marian Catholic's Cameron Thomas (Illinois) and Estes (Missouri). So far, the only FCS level in-state known verbal pledge comes from Hinsdale Central's Josh Bean (Columbia). 

This Thursday (Sept. 1st) is a big day in football recruiting circles for the Class of 2018. Thursday is the first day that prospects are allowed per the NCAA to receive recruiting materials (mail) along with unlimited electronic transmissions (text/instant/direct messages) from college coaches. 

"I've stayed in touch with a handful of college coaches and they all said that I would be hearing from them on Thursday," Lake Zurich junior inside linebacker Jack Sanborn said. "It's exciting to hear from those coaches along with hopefully some new schools as well."

Need proof that the recruiting process calendar is getting pushed up earlier and earlier? From my recently-released State of Illinois Class of 2017 Top 60 recruit rankings, 49 out of the 60 recruits have already given schools a verbal commitment. Out of the 11 uncommitted players, I would say nearly half of those players are being held up from giving a verbal commitment because of various academic questions/issues.

Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites Week 2 Coverage

Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites Week 2 Coverage

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @CSNPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00pm—just after White Sox baseball. The show also live streams at csnchicago.com. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30am and 8:30am the following Saturday. This week, we head back out to “The Region,” as fans will choose between the following Northwest Indiana games:

Crown Point at Merrillville, 7 p.m.

Lake Central at Portage, 7 p.m.

Polls open Monday at noon and close Thursday at 4 p.m. Fans are encouraged to vote more than once! Vote now right here.

Be sure to follow @CSNPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the week,” along with other football news, scores and highlights this season.

Rules: official votes are tabulated exclusively on Twitter and Facebook via the link above. “Re-Tweets” and “Likes” do not count. Also, the original wording of the Twitter/Facebook voting prompt (including hashtags) cannot be manipulated in any fashion. However, feel free to add emojis, numbers, etc. at the end of an official vote’s text, provided there is a space after the final hashtag. Automatically timed-interval (“bot”) votes will also not count.