Wheaton Warrenville South reloads for 2012

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Wheaton Warrenville South reloads for 2012

Looking to get a preview of the 2012 high school football season in Illinois?

Circle Wednesday, June 27, on your calendar. That's when Wheaton Warrenville South will host the 16-team Red Grange Classic, a 7-on-7 competition that will feature most of the top-rated programs in the state in Class 7A and 8A.

The participants are Wheaton Warrenville South, Montini, Bolingbrook, Maine South, Glenbard West, East St. Louis, Naperville North, Naperville Central, Wheaton North, Batavia, Elk Grove, Lincoln-Way East, Simeon, Hubbard, New Trier and Lyons.

The winner will qualify for the national 7-on-7 tournament in Hoover, Alabama, in July. Last year, Maine South defeated Montini in the inaugural event that featured eight teams.

In addition, while some of the state's leading passers, receivers and defensive backs will engage in 22-minute contests, the linemen will compete in an eight-event challenge. The 16 schools will participate in a 7-on-7 competition at Wheaton North at the sophomore level.

"Nationally, 7-on-7 is becoming a big thing competitively," Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch said, noting that Illinois-bound Aaron Bailey of defending Class 8A champion Bolingbrook and Northwestern-bound Matt Alviti of Maine South will be two of the highly rated quarterbacks who will be showcased at the June 27 event. "It is good to teach the passing game and pass defense."

It will give Muhitch an opportunity to begin evaluating his stable of quarterback candidates to see if he has another Reilly O'Toole in the making. They are senior-to-be Don McKee and juniors-to-be Ryan Graham, Alex Wills, Barrett Davis and Casey Paraday, a transfer from Springdale, Arkansas.

Last year, Muhitch's quarterback corps was riddled with injuries and he was forced to bring up a sophomore to start in the state championship game. After an 0-2 start, losing to highly rated Glenbard West and Maine South, WW South rallied to finish 10-4, losing to unbeaten Rockford Boylan in the Class 7A final.

He has a knack for filling in the blanks, solving problems and finding the right players to fit into the right positions. In 10 years, he has won 84 percent (106-21) of his games. The Tigers won state titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010 and finished second in 2007 and 2011. In the last seven years, they have lost only nine games, four last year.

Muhitch expects more of the same in 2012. He returns his entire offensive line, including 6-foot-4, 265-pound tackle Frank Garcia, 6-foot-5, 250-pound tackle Kyle Joyce and 6-foot-5, 225-pound tight end Brian Welch. "When I have that, life is good. The group has been together for two years. I see some good things," the coach said.

"The key is this summer we will do a lot of soul-searching to find kids for right spots. We need to find a running back (to replace Northwestern-bound Dan Vitale) and a quarterback and complementary receivers."

Muhitch doesn't plan to change his multiple offense. Once again, he will spread the field. Last year, he gave the ball to Vitale. This year, he will give the ball to senior-to-be Brandan Adams, who didn't play much last season, or 6-foot-3, 210-pound Josh Wilson, who played at Mount Carmel as a freshman and Downers Grove North as a sophomore.

The defense needs a complete overhaul. Muhitch already has shifted some offensive players to fill holes in the defense. Hollis Henry, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, has moved from left guard to rush end. Muhitch is optimistic about 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive lineman Dan Chism, who saw little playing time last year because of a knee injury, and safety Kevin Giltz. But he is looking for linebackers.

WW South's best player and best athlete is wide receiver Corey Davis, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder whose brother Titus came on strong as a senior and was Rookie of the Year in the Mid-American Conference last year at Central Michigan. Muhitch predicts the same storyline for Corey, who also returns punts and kickoffs.

"Corey should be one of the best players in the class of 2013, one of the best receivers in the Chicago area," Muhitch said. "He has been an up-and-coming athlete for the last two years. Nobody knew much about his brother but he had a great senior year for us. I see the same storyline for Corey."

Another good storyline is kicker Jesse Padalik, who follows in a line of former WW South stars Dan Conroy (Michigan State), Nick Campos (Indiana) and Nick Immekus (Illinois). "He is as good a kicker as Conroy and as good a punter as Campos," Muhitch said.

But the schedule hasn't changed. WW South opens at Glenbard West, then hosts Maine South in Week 2. It won't be easy, of course, but Muhitch is hoping to improve on last year's 0-2 start.

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

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