Grant overcomes adversity to start 8-2

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Grant overcomes adversity to start 8-2

If Grant didn't have bad luck, it wouldn't have any luck at all. The Fox Lake school is 8-2 going into Friday night's game at Crystal Lake Central in the second round of the Class 6A playoff despite a laundry list of injuries and setbacks that had coach Kurt Rous shaking his head in disbelief.

On the Thursday before the season opener, senior wide receiverdefensive back Keion Miller had the entire team at his house for a spaghetti dinner. The deck on the patio collapsed. Eleven players were standing on it at the time. Fortunately, no one was injured. But it was an omen of things to come.

"Later, people joked that if a fallen patio can't stop us, who can? We went through a lot of adversity, a lot of injuries, and we're still having one of the best seasons in school history," Miller said.

Two players who rushed for over 1,000 yards a year ago have been sidelined with injuries for the last four weeks. And two defensive backs are recovering from injuries.

Last Friday, in a 59-0 rout of Lake View, Rous started 5-foot-5, 140-pound junior Jason Bach at quarterback, a fourth-stringer who never had started a game at any level and certainly wasn't expected to start a playoff game.

Rous said his team is winning--the Bulldogs have lost only to highly rated Lakes and Stevenson--because he is using a committee of running backs (sophomore Jeremy Bredwood came up to the varsity last Friday and rushed for four touchdowns) and smoking mirrors.

The mainstays are Miller, 6-foot-3, 275-pound senior tackle Dan Haeffele, 6-foot, 250-pound senior guard Luis Echeverria, 5-foot-11, 230-pound senior center Jared Lalanda, 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior tackle Tyler Reynolds, 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior linebacker Dan King and 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior defensive tackle Francisco Uribe.

"Our offensive line has picked us up. We rushed for over 400 yards last Friday," Rous said. "And our very young defense is playing well, too. If we can control the ball, keep our offense on the field and the opponent's offense on the sideline, fly around on defense and rally around the ball and eliminate big plays, we can be successful."

That's a lot to ask of any team, of course, but Miller, who caught a 75-yard touchdown pass from Bach on Grant's only pass of the game to set the tone in last Friday's game, isn't awestruck by the challenge.

"The kids stepped up and filled the void," said Miller, a three-year starter who has experienced more than a few ups and downs. "This is the best of the three teams I've played on. It's all about the way we work together.

"Do your 1-11, the coaches say. If everybody does his own job, we can get the job done. I like how close we all are. We all pick up each other. Everybody works hard in practice every day. We hope accomplish some things that no other team at our school has ever done."

Miller has high expectations for himself. He wants to be a doctor. He ranks No. 65 in a class of 465 and plans to study radiology or anesthesiology at a school in Florida. He has applied to Florida, Central Florida, Miami and Florida State. He also plans to walk on and try to earn a spot on the football team.

He has been playing football since fourth grade, since he began playing for the Fox Lake Cardinals. In his Valley Lakes neighborhood, everybody played football. They played games in their front yards. His friends said he had size and speed so Miller decided to try out for football.

"I couldn't stop playing," he said. "I didn't know anything about the sport. My older brother played basketball. Another brother didn't play much. I was too young. I didn't know how to play. At first, I was scared to get hit. But when I started to play, I instantly loved it.

"What sold me was I liked how intense it got. You can hit people and not get in trouble. You can let a lot of anger out. I loved how pumped up you get for games. There is nothing else like it, especially when you win. But you have to work hard to win in football."

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

The White Sox will battle the Oakland Athletics today, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 3:05 p.m.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Carlos Rodon vs. Kendall Graveman

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Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.

With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:

What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.

But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.

What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.

Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.

He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance

By the Numbers:

167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).

15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.

6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.