Playoffs, pairings & pizza: Schools gear up for Selection Saturday

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Playoffs, pairings & pizza: Schools gear up for Selection Saturday

It's probably a good thing Le Roy head football coach BJ Zeleznik coaches a team in class 1A and not 8A. His pizza party bills would be astronomical.

"No kidding," Zeleznik chuckled. "Well, we used to co-op with Downs Tri-Valley and we would have close to 90 kids join us on Selection Saturday. But we still have 45 kids in the program this year, freshmen through upperclassmen. They'll all joins us. It's a nice tradition."

And it's a ritual that dates back to 1986. BJ's father, Jim, who coached Le Roy from 1979-2000, came up with the idea of having a pizza party on the Saturday after the prep football regular season was complete. The gathering was centered on watching the high school pairings show. Coaches and players would eagerly anticipate hearing their school's name called on the broadcast.

"It's just one part the whole excitement around having a good year," Zeleznik said. And it's a great time of year; the harvest comes in, leaves are falling, it's good to get everyone together. It's a lot of fun."

Le Roy is a town of roughly 3,500 people, just north of Interstate 74 in McLean County. And the bond between the football program and the people of Le Roy goes back generations.

"With some of the kids on our team ... their fathers played for my father. So they know the party is all about. The pizza party can be a motivational tool -- maybe even more so for the coaches."

It's part of the charm about this part of the high school football season. Many teams from around the state will gather together to watch the IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show, this Saturday at 8 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and CSNChicago.com. Some schools will have pizza parties. And others will celebrate with a setting that only Norman Rockwell would dream of capturing. Just west of Le Roy, the Downs Tri-Valley football team will gather to watch the show in the town's fire station.

For other schools, Saturday night represents a zenith of excitement in overcoming challenging times. Take Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, for example. The Warriors didn't win a single game last season. This year, they're going to the playoffs. Or how about Aurora Central Catholic, which hasnt been to the playoffs, period, since 1997? And if Bloom High School in Chicago Heights beats Rich Central on Friday, it will clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time since ALF was dominating the NBC Monday night lineup (1989).

Those schools represent just a small portion of the 256 playoff qualifiers across eight classes who will be anxiously waiting Saturday night. Five weeks later, high school football fans will be able to check out Comcast SportsNet's coverage of the state championships from Memorial Stadium in Champaign-Urbana. The 1A-4A title games will take center stage on Friday, Nov. 23. The 5A-8A games will be on the marquee the next day, Saturday, Nov. 24.

The pairings show and championship games can be seen in Comcast SportsNet's entire viewing territory. Viewers are encouraged to check out csnchicago.com for channel locations or the IHSA's channel finder by market.

Better yet, regardless if you (or your team) made the postseason, you can join in on the fun this Saturday. Fans can interact via live chat on CSNChicago.com and fans are also encouraged to interact via Twitter using the hashtag IHSA.

White Sox officially announce signing of Luis Robert

White Sox officially announce signing of Luis Robert

The worst kept secret is finally out of the bag.

The White Sox officially announced the signing of free agent Cuban outfielder Luis Robert to a minor-league contract, which includes a $26-million signing bonus.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

“We are excited to add Luis — another young, extremely talented and impactful prospect — to the White Sox organization,” White Sox senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn said. “Luis has the potential to be a dynamic, five-tool player at the major-league level, and we look forward to watching him develop in our system over coming seasons. Luis will immediately be viewed as one of the top prospects in baseball, and his signing adds to the growing depth of quality young players within our organization.”

The 19-year-old Robert played in 210 career games (including postseason) with Ciego de Ávila in the Cuban Serie Nacional and had a .315/.402/.467 slash line with 20 home runs, 92 RBI and 29 stolen bases.

Robert slides into the No. 2 spot on the White Sox Top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Michal Kempny was in and out of the Blackhawks lineup last season but he’ll likely get a bigger opportunity this coming season. On Saturday, he was assured of coming back to get that chance.

Kempny and the Blackhawks agreed to a one-year extension, the team announced on Saturday morning.

“Michal’s style of play is an asset to our defense,” general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “He is the type of player who will continue to improve now that he has transitioned to the National Hockey League. We look forward to his continued development on the ice for the Blackhawks.”

Kempny was part of a very crowded blue line last season — he was one of eight defensemen at the start of it — and played 50 regular-season games. He recorded two goals and six assists in those contests but did not play in the Blackhawks’ four postseason contests. With Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell likely not returning, however, Kempny should get a bigger opportunity this season.

The 26-year-old Kempny also had two goals and an assist in eight games for the Czech Republic team at the 2017 World Championship.