David Lenti has his own identity at Mount Carmel

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David Lenti has his own identity at Mount Carmel

The process of organizing Mount Carmel's football team for each season begins in the summer when the brothers Lenti, Frank and David, discuss personnel. Who will play offense? Who will play defense? Who fits into Frank's split-back veer offense? Who can fill spots in David's 5-2 defense?
Mention Mount Carmel football and three things immediately come to mind--Frank Lenti, winning (nine state championships, a state-record 325 victories) and the split-back veer triple option offense.
David Lenti speaks for the defense. And his message is loud and clear. His defensive unit always is an intimidating presence.
"We have a unique and great relationship," Frank said. "He can be upfront about what I need to hear without hurting my feelings and vice-versa. Nobody is going to outwork him or out-prepare him. I never worry about what our defense will do. He always has a plan. He does his homework. He knows what the other team will do next. His kids are fundamentally sound and play with tenacity."
This year, while Frank's offense has averaged 38.8 points per game, David's defense has allowed only 110 points. The Caravan has shut out five opponents, held nine to one touchdown or less and permitted only two to score more than 15 points.
"It will be a smash-mouth game against Glenbard North (in the Class 8A final)," said Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg, whose team lost to Mount Carmel 45-10 in the quarterfinals. "Their defense is extremely disciplined. They never are out of position, always in the right spot. They have a lot of good players and they are well-coached. They play hard and are physical. They don't make mistakes."
Frank is the oldest of the six Lenti children. David is the youngest. He graduated from St. Francis de Sales in 1980. At DePaul, he managed Hall of Fame coach Ray Meyer's team that included Mark Aguirre, Terry Cummings and Clyde Bradshaw.
After graduating in 1984 with a degree in education, he served as a student teacher at Mount Carmel under football coach Bill Barz. When Barz left for Illinois Benedictine, Lenti was hired full-time and taught math for 14 years. For the last 15 years, he has been vice-president of institutional advancement. Translated, that means he is in charge of fund-raising.
When Frank became head coach in 1984, he hired David, who coached at the sophomore level for two years, then assisted on the varsity for three years before becoming defensive coordinator in 1989. They have been together for eight of Frank's nine state championships.
"He coaches the offense and I have the defense," said David, 51. "He trusts me to run the defense. We put a game plan together on our own, me and my assistants."
What does he look for in a defensive player?
"Every position is different, of course, but speed is the first priority, a kid who likes to stick his nose in there, who likes to tackle and hit people," David said. "You have to run to the ball. You have to have kids who can run. Everything is built around speed for us, fast and physical."
A defensive lineman must have good size and strength and exceptional quickness. A linebacker must have a lot of grit--"football moxie," David said--and run real well. The best athletes are earmarked for linebacker and defensive back. A solid defense starts with them, the brothers agree.
But the game plan has changed over the years. In 1989 and 1990, for example, when opponents ran 80 percent of the time, the outside linebackers were fast defensive linemen. Now, to combat the spread offenses, they are more physical defensive backs.
"You need more speed on the edge to control the spread. You have to be more athletic at the linebacker position," David said. "You looked for more run stoppers before. Now you look for kids who can stop the run and rush the passer. We try to put more pressure on the quarterback."
Don't forget the defensive backs, especially in this era of pass-happy spread offenses.
"The defensive back always plays pass first. We look for a kid who is smart and can read offenses, someone who can determine whether a play is a run or a pass," Lenti said.
He isn't ready to declare that this year's defense is the best he has produced, not until after Week 14. He compares it to 1992...no stars, no standouts, just a lot of kids with great chemistry, great resilience and a don't-give-up attitude.
He reminds that the 1992 defense, nicknamed the "Ninja Turtles" because they were so undersized, also hoisted a state championship banner. The biggest name was future NFL star Simeon Rice, who wasn't highly recruited out of high school but blossomed at Illinois.
This year's unit features two Division I recruits in the line, 6-foot-3, 260-pound junior Enoch Smith and 5-foot-11, 285-pound junior Steven Richardson. Other key contributors are 6-foot-1, 212-pound senior lineman David Denne, 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior linebacker D.J. Romero, 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior strong safety Justin Sanchez and 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior free safety Deontae Brown.
Romero is the team's leading tackler despite missing six weeks with a foot injury. He returned for the playoff. 
"These kids aren't worried about who gets his name in the newspaper or who gets publicity or who is being recruited," Lenti said. "They just want to get the job done."
For Lenti and his defensive assistants--Pete Kammholz, Mark Antonietti and Bill Nolan--the job of preparing for Saturday's state championship game against Glenbard North began after the semifinal victory over Neuqua Valley. The two finalists arranged for a film exchange.
At 8 a.m. Sunday morning, the coaching staff met at the school. They broke down three films of Glenbard North. Frank Lenti and his offensive coaches met in one room and David Lenti and his assistants met in another. The meeting didn't break up until about 5 p.m.
"We analyze all the offensive plays, the tendencies, their favorite plays, plays that could pose problems, what they like to run in certain situations, what they like to exploit, how they will attack your defense, their best athletes, best linemen, best pass plays, best run play," David said.
They begin the agonizing process of putting together a game plan, then go home, do more homework and finalize the game plan in a series of telephone conversations. When the staff arrives at school at 7 o'clock on Monday morning, it is all finalized.
At exactly 7:02, the coaching staff meets the players in the media center. Frank outlines the practice schedule for the week and a brief rundown of the bells and whistles that go into Thanksgivingchampionship week, which is a new experience for this team. Mount Carmel traveled to Champaign in 2005, 2006 and 2010 but hasn't won a state title since 2002.
"There is some motivational stuff. Mark Antonietti introduces the game plan for the kicking game. Then the offensive players go to one classroom with Frank and the defensive players stay in the media center to go over the defensive game plan with me, Pete, Mark and Bill."
Playing on Thanksgiving weekend and taking a bus to and from Champaign on Saturday for the state championship game is a new and thrilling experience for the players. For Frank, David and Pete, who has been on the staff for 31 years, it is a familiar theme.
"You come across a different group of kids every year," David said. "It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them, their first time, maybe their only time. We appreciate it we are playing in a state final. We used to take it for granted. But we appreciate it more now.
"Every year is as meaningful as the year before. It's all about the kids. These seniors have never been to Champaign before. It is the juniors' first experience. We like to take the approach that it is more about us playing to our standard rather than the school we are playing."

Blackhawks don’t extend qualifying offer to Dennis Rasmussen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks don’t extend qualifying offer to Dennis Rasmussen

Dennis Rasmussen was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Blackhawks, a source confirmed on Tuesday. Rasmussen will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Rasmussen was coming off a one-year deal worth $575,000. He was expected to be among those the Blackhawks extended qualifying offers – the deadline was Monday afternoon – but he was not.

The 26-year-old played 68 games for the Blackhawks this past season, recording four goals and four assists. He gave the Blackhawks some options, as he also played some wing and was part of the penalty kill. But he was a surprise healthy scratch more often than not as the regular season continued.

The Blackhawks will enter this season without Rasmussen and, if Marcus Kruger is traded, the team will have some holes to fill at center. 

David Accam named MLS Player of the Week

David Accam named MLS Player of the Week

In one of the least surprising bits of news to come out of Major League Soccer, Chicago Fire winger David Accam was named MLS Player of the Week.

Accam had a hat trick, the Fire’s first since Harry Shipp in 2014, and an assist in the 4-0 win against Orlando on Saturday.

The Ghanaian has 10 goals and six assists this year. The 10 goals match his previous high with the Fire (set in 2015) and the six assists surpassed his previous high of five, which he got last year. With 16 combined goals and assists, he is tied for the league lead with teammate Nemanja Nikolic and New York City FC’s David Villa in that category.

Accam’s first goal was an impressive backheel in the third minute. He is also in the running for Goal of the Week for that effort.

He had his second goal less than 10 minutes into the match, added an assist to Nikolic early in the second half and finished the hat trick with a penalty kick.

Nikolic previously won Player of the Week in April and Player of the Month in May.

Accam is currently with the Ghanaian national team for a pair of friendlies. He will be out for at least two Fire games, Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup match at FC Cincinnati and the Saturday league game against Vancouver.