Hammond provides leadership at St. Patrick

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Hammond provides leadership at St. Patrick

They haven't tagged a nickname for themselves--you could call them the Fab Five or the Hungry Hounds or the Pizza Platoon--but St. Patrick's five offensive linemen have a lot to do with the Shamrocks going from 3-6 a year ago to 7-3 this season.

They are 6-foot, 265-pound senior guard Jon Hammond, 5-foot-11, 250-pound senior center Max Reider, 6-foot-2, 265-pound senior guard Jack Dardanes, 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior tackle Jimmy Young and 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior tackle Jack Donovan.

"I'm just a blue-collar kind of guy who loves to play in the trenches," Hammond said.

Hammond is one of the team captains, a returning starter and a member of the National Honor Society. He is getting looks from Cornell and Valparaiso. He wants to play football in college.

"If he was two or three inches taller, more people would be interested," coach Dan Galante said.

"It isn't frustrating not to be 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3. And I don't worry about playing in college," Hammond said. "I love playing with my team. There is a great satisfaction of playing with my friends. Football is an equalizer. It isn't about who is bigger but who wants it more."

Hammond used to play soccer and baseball. He didn't start to play football until fifth grade, when he was 13. His mother didn't want him to play football because she worried he might get hurt. But Jon and his older brother Daniel begged her to let them play football. She finally relented.

"I love football. It's my passion, my favorite thing to do," Hammond said. "I love the team atmosphere. You have to work together for a common goal. I love playing offense and defense but I prefer offensive line because it's so satisfying to see a running back score a touchdown and know your block made it happen."

Imagine how Hammond and his offensive line mates felt last Saturday as they blocked and blocked for 5-foot-9, 210-pound junior Jeremy Molina. He set a school record by rushing 32 times for 303 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-15 victory over Glenbard South in the opening round of the Class 6A playoff.

Molina, who has rushed for over 1,300 yards, grew up playing for the Park Ridge Falcons (a training ground for Maine South players) and was brought up to the varsity as a sophomore. A week ago, he scored five touchdowns in a 42-30 victory over St. Viator.

The Shamrocks, who have won four games in a row since a 3-3 start, will play highly rated and unbeaten Cary-Grove on Saturday in Cary.

"Last year, we started 3-0, then lost six in a row. Three games went to the wire. We were better than our record. But we're playing in the East Suburban Catholic against great competition each week," Galante said.

"The difference this year is that we are playing well together in all three phases of the game, better than at any time since I've been here.
We're throwing the ball well, running the ball well, controlling the clock and putting points on the board.

"Defensively, we are playing physically. We have forced 31 turnovers in
10 games. Our formula is if you win the turnover battle and control the clock and put points on the board and your special teams do well...well, you can be successful. We've had four kickoff returns for touchdowns this year."

The offensive line protects and blocks for Molina and 6-foot-4, 180-pound sophomore quarterback Zach Fuller, who stepped in after the starting quarterback was injured in Week 8. Other standouts are wide receivers Steve Galiardo, a 5-foot-10, 155-pound senior, and John Dabe, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior transfer from Guerin who has returned four kickoffs for touchdowns.

The 4-2-5 defense is anchored by 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior tackle Brian Dillon, 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior tackle Joe Urso, 6-foot, 195-pound senior strong safety Nick Sandowski, 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior linebacker Cesar Almeida, 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior free safety Mike Warner, 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior cornerback Dan Henley and 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior cornerback Pat Gill.

"We have accomplished a lot. Eight players were named to the all-conference team. We finished third in the league after being picked seventh or eighth in the preseason," Galante said, noting St. Patrick's losses were to perennial powers Mount Carmel, Marist and Joliet Catholic.

"We've done more this year. We played our best players both ways. We used to platoon. When you play both ways, the players are invested in both sides of the ball and the team doesn't become offense and defense. Instead, it becomes one team and you keep your best players and difference-makers on the field."

Meanwhile, the offensive linemen understand that if they hang together and eat together, they will have success together. The four seniors have been together since they were freshmen. Donovan is the rookie.

They convened at Young's house last Saturday for pizza and to watch the Notre DameOklahoma game. They meet at Young's house every weekend to watch college games because Jimmy's mother is said to make the best queso dips.

"They are fun guys to be around, a lot of energy, like a brotherhood," Hammond said. "This team plays for each other. It is selfless. There is no me in this team. It's all about we. Molina will come up and say: 'Good block.' And we'll say: 'Tough run.'

"I tell him I won't help him up from under the pile unless he carries three guys with him. His favorite play is called skins, a counter play off a trap. He runs behind me and Donovan. It's been a blast this year. As a senior, I'm taking it all in and having fun. And success, too."

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

Quick hits: Blackhawks start strong in win over Blues

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Michigan State gets big win to boost tourney hopes, while Wisconsin loses for fourth time in five games

 

 

 

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling found out at 8 o'clock this morning that he was starting for an ailing Corey Crawford. Considering he did this back in December for a few weeks, adjusting quick for one game was fine.

"It's kind of my job," Darling said.

And Darling, once again, did his job.

Darling stopped 30 of 32 shots and Patrick Kane scored his 24th goal of the season as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 10 games. They're one point behind the Minnesota Wild, who made their splashy trade-deadline move in acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday. But the Blackhawks, thanks to veterans regaining their form, a top line finding its rhythm and youth consistently improving, are just rolling right along.

"We had a great start to the game. I thought Darls was excellent all night, great stretch there in the last 10 minutes where we fight through some tough shifts, particularly in the last couple of minutes in our end. But good win," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You look at the nice plays on the goals, it was kind of a comparable ending to the outdoor game: tied and about the same time they scored, we scored (tonight). Big two points for us."

Jonathan Toews scored his 16th of the season and Artem Anisimov scored the game-winning goal with 5:20 remaining in regulation. Tanner Kero added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds remaining in the game.

The Blackhawks already knew they'd be without Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) for at least a day or two when they found out Crawford couldn't go this morning. As Quenneville said Darling was strong once again, denying the Blues all but twice (a 2-on-1 goal from Magnus Paajarvi and a power-play goal from Alex Pietrangelo).

Toews and Kane (power-play goal) staked the Blackhawks to a 2-0 lead early before the Blues tied it in the second. But late in the third period Anisimov took the feed from Artemi Panarin to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead.

"I saw the puck all the way. It was easy to pick up," Anisimov said. "When you don't see the puck at the last moment and it comes, it's hard to receive and prepare for the next move. But I saw it all the way. Easy to prepare for the next move."

Speaking of next moves, do the Blackhawks make any more before the trade deadline. General manager Stan Bowman said on Friday, following the acquisition of Tomas Jurco, that he'll keep talking and listening but likes the group he has right now. If Bowman's made moves it's for what the Blackhawks have needed, not because of another team's trades. The Blackhawks like what they have right now. Winning nine of 10 and continuing to trend in the right direction, they should be careful not to disrupt what they've got going.

"I think we're, as we've said lately, trending the right way. We're playing solid. I think all four lines are contributing in every which way," Toews said. "I love our group right now. Everyone is getting better individually, contributing more and more and it's a lot of fun to see the way we're playing right now. We know that the ceiling is way higher and we can keep getting better too."