Jackson stars in Glenbard North upset

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Jackson stars in Glenbard North upset

Matt Harness
SeasonPass.com

Justin Jackson did almost everything he could do to lead Glenbard North to Champaign for the first time since 2007.

The junior running back carried the ball 44 times for 236 yards and scored all four touchdowns in the Panthers 27-24 win over Loyola in the Class 8A semifinals Saturday. Jackson also started at cornerback and was spotted on special teams.

Its awesome, said Jackson, who was on the same field last year when the Panthers ended their season with a 28-13 loss to Loyola in the same round of the playoffs. It feels great to be able to help the team out.

Jacksons 59-yard TD run his third rushing TD of the game with 23 seconds left in the third quarter put the No. 6-ranked Panthers (12-1) ahead 27-10, but No. 3 Loyola (11-2) staged a spirited rally to make things interesting down the stretch. Jackson also added a 19-yard touchdown catch with 6:34 left in the first half.

Senior Peter Pujals connected with senior Luke Ford for two late TDs in a little more than two minutes, but the Ramblers ran out of time after the onside kick was recovered by the Panthers, who won their 12th consecutive game.

Glenbard North rarely strayed from its game plan of giving the ball to Jackson, either on handoffs up the middle or on toss sweeps to the outside.

Hes a good running back, said Loyola senior nose tackle Darby Goodwin of the 6-foot, 175-pounder, who runs with a combination of speed and power. We could have tackled better.

Once again, Loyolas offense struggled to move the ball, totaling four three-and-outs during the first half. Meanwhile, the Panthers took advantage and a 14-0 lead.

The Ramblers got on the board with a 25-yard field goal by sophomore Mike Kurzydlowski in the final minute of the second quarter to cap a 10-play, 67-yard drive. Loyola then scored on its first series of the second half on Pujals 12-yard pass to senior Richie Wehman in the third minute of the third quarter to leave the score 14-10.

But Glenbard North answered with its own scoring drive that featured six runs by Jackson, including a 12-yarder into the end zone. After a Loyola punt, Jackson showed hes the total package by breaking through the line before racing past defenders for a 59-yard score.

I didnt think we would run that much, and I didnt know how much success I would have, said Jackson, who hopes to do his part in getting Glenbard North its first-ever state championship in football. All credit goes to the guys up front. We won the line of scrimmage, and thats what really changed the outcome of the game.

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

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Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

[MORE CUBS: Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?]

Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch pitching. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”