High School Lites: Championship Weekend

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High School Lites: Championship Weekend

It's the reward for all the hours spent in the weight room in March. Or the prize for battling through two-a-days in 95-degree August heat. It's why the Rocky soundtrack gets played as a motivator every Friday night in September. Or why the high-fives and words of encouragement seem more emphatic in October. It's all based on the hopes and dreams that every Illinois high school football player has: Playing in Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend. It's the chance to play for a first place trophy.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago is the place to be for all eight Illinois state championship football games, with live action starting Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. Every matchup is in HD and all postgame press conferences will be streamed live on CSNChicago.com. CSN contributor Matt Bowen provides analysis for the 7A and 8A title games and anchorreporter Susannah Collins will handle sideline duties throughout the weekend.

Here is a snapshot of every game we will profile on Saturday night's High School Lites at 10:30pm:

1A:

Stockton (13-0) vs. Maroa-Forsyth (12-1), Friday - 10:00am

If you throw out Stocktons 22-15 victory over Lena-Winslow on October 12th, the 13-0 Blackhawks would be averaging 53 points per game (instead, its only a paltry 51). They scored on seven straight possessions in last weeks 51-14 victory over Stark County. Maroa-Forsyths only loss this season came to 3A title contender Tolono Unity. This will be the Trojans fourth trip to the finals since 2006. Coach Josh Jostes teams have won at least 10 games every season since 2005.

2A:

Mercer County (13-0) vs. Belleville Althoff (10-3), Friday - 1:00pm

The Cinderella season continues for the 10-3 and 15th seed -- Crusaders, who have stunned some kingpins in the playoffs, including Casey-Westfield and Camp Point Central. Their defense is tight. Cornerback Michael Harris has 10 interceptions on the year. Itll be an interesting matchup against quarterback Tanner Matlick and a Mercer County offense that put 80 points on the board in a game earlier this year. Coach Nat Zunkels Eagles advanced by beating Clifton Central 26-7.

3A:

Aurora Christian (12-1) vs. Tolono Unity (12-1), Friday - 4:00pm

Head Coach Don Beebe has to impressed with what his team has accomplished this year. Their only loss was a 31-27 nail-biter to 5A finalist Montini, and their passing game has been top notch. Quarterback Ryan McQuade has top targets in Cory Windle and Chad Beebe (Dons son). The Unity Rockets have a short drive to Memorial Stadium (8 miles). Two-way player Connor Grace will get a lot of looks on offense. The running back amassed 205 yards last week against Greenville.

4A:

Rock Island Alleman (12-1) vs. Rochester (12-1), Friday - 7:00pm

Like Unitys Rockets, these Rochester Rockets score in bunches as well (11 of their scoring totals have been 41 or higher). The big question, though, surrounds running back Dylan Hathaway. Rochesters leading rusher (1,600 yards this season) re-aggravated an ankle injury last week. Can Alleman answer the call? They are coming off a convincing 23-7 win over Evergreen Park. Senior quarterback John Tracey leads the Pioneers in passing and rushing yards.

5A:

Montini (11-2) vs. Morris (12-1), Saturday - 10:00am

Its good to be a furniturecabinet maker in the Lombard area. The 11-2 Broncos will be looking to bring their fourth consecutive state title back to the trophy case at Montini. Wide receiver Joe Borsellino and running back Dimitri Taylor are two players to keep an eye on when Montini has the ball. The Morris Redskins, another familiar name in late-November football, features Indiana-bound DLTE Danny Friend, quarterback Zach Cinnamon and running back Reese Sobol.

6A:

Cary-Grove (13-0) vs. Crete-Monee (13-0), Saturday - 1:00pm

Its uncharted waters for Crete-Monee, as they will be playing for their first state championship. Itll be a game of contrasting styles as well. Crete-Monee has the aerial assault game with quarterback Marcus Terrell and elite wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Cary-Grove, looking for their second title since 2009, loves to run the ball. Running back Kyle Norberg is having a dream season. Both defenses, though, have been clutch all season long and could be the deciding factor.

7A:

Glenbard West (13-0) vs. Lincoln-Way East (13-0), Saturday - 4:00pm

Lincoln-Way East quarterback Tom Fuessel has made some incredible, highlight-reel runs to the end zone this year. The NIU recruit has a nice complement in the backfield with running back Nick Colangelo. Lincoln-Ways defense is one of the best in state, as is the defense for the Hilltoppers. GBW has kept eight opponents to a touchdown or less this year. Quarterback Henry Haeffner and running back Devante Toney will look to bring a state title back to Glen Ellyn for the first time since 1983.

8A:

Glenbard North (12-1) vs. Mount Carmel (12-1), Saturday - 7:00pm

Mount Carmel quarterback Don Butkus sprained his left ankle against Neuqua Valley last week. His status is day-to-day. Will that put more pressure on running backs Matt Domer and Draco Smith? The two backs, along with a bruising defense, have carried the Caravan far this year. Glenbard North has a bruiser all their own: Justin Jackson. The running back (who also plays defense and special teams) carried the ball 46 times for 230 yards and factored in all four of GBNs scores last week.

Our Muscle Milk Team of the Week is Cary-Grove. The Trojans won a state title in 2009. Can they do it again in 2012? We'll also bring you highlights of the Chicago Prep Bowl, featuring Public League champion Simeon and Brother Rice, the winner of the Catholic League crown. Both schools are familiar with the Prep Bowl and are looking to end the season on a positive note at Soldier Field. Plus, well have one final feature on the on the thrilling Hilltopper football season -- it's Joliet Catholic's Drive segment, presented by Northern Illinois University. And well take a drive down Memory Lane in Flashback and bring you up-to-the-minute scores from across Chicagoland.

High School Lites streams this Saturday night on CSNChicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Email us at: highschoollites@comcastsportsnet.com

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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