White, McClendon spark Evergreen Park

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White, McClendon spark Evergreen Park

White, McClendon spark Evergreen Park

By Taylor Bell

Evergreen Park is a Class 4A school (enrollment: 838) in a conference filled with larger schools representing Class 6A and 7A. But college recruiters don't need a road map to find Jaquet McClendon. They always seem to know where talent is.

McClendon, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior wide receiver and outside linebacker, is a rising star in the class of 2014. Northwestern, Northern Illinois and other MAC schools have contacted him. But his stock figures to keep climbing and more Division I schools will join the hunt.

"He is the best player I've coached," Evergreen Park coach Dan Hartman said. "He is being recruited as a receiver and outside linebacker. But he is best at receiver. He has 4.5 speed. He also is a basketball player. He doesn't have much football experience. He is still developing."

In a recent game, McClendon caught four passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. He has rushed for 300 yards and amassed 500 yards via pass receiving.

His close friend, quarterback Brandon White, offers a comprehensive scouting report:

"How good is he? Pretty good if he has the right mind. Sometimes he gets down on himself if things aren't going well. But he was in a good mood last night (in Evergreen Park's 23-7 victory over North Chicago in the first round of the Class 4A playoff).

"We're real close friends. We live a block away from each other. I try to put him in the right state of mind if he has a negative attitude toward things. If he drops a pass he gets down on himself and then he'll shut down unless I talk to him. He realizes how good he can be. I tell him if he stays focused he can be a real great athlete and go to a nice Division I school. He wants to go to Northwestern. He's a real smart kid."

As good as McClendon is, however, the key to Evergreen Park's success is White, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior. The three-year starter has passed for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 600 yards and 10 touchdowns in Hartman's spread option offense.

"Our quarterback will carry us," Hartman said. "Going into this season, we felt we could do some damage if our quarterback and receivers and defensive ends stepped up and became our leaders."

Last year, Evergreen Park finished 8-4 and lost to Richmond-Burton in the state quarterfinals. Ironically, the Mustangs will play at Richmond-Burton on Saturday in the second round of the Class 4A playoff.

"Last year was a new experience for our kids. They hadn't been to the playoff since 2006 and hadn't won a game in the playoff since the late 1990s. It was something to hang our hats on. That positive experience has helped us to prepare for the playoff this year," Hartman said.

The turning point was the Tinley Park game in Week 8. Evergreen Park was 4-3 and everybody understood that they needed to win two of their last three games to qualify for the playoff.

"We were at a crossroads in the season," Hartman said. "We had our ups and downs. We had injuries. We had battled through them and against the bigger teams in our conference each week. We had been in physical games before. We beat them (26-14) on our home field."

Hartman counts on White, McClendon, 6-foot-1, 280-pound senior wide receiver Mike Reuter, 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior running back Keyshawn Carpenter, 5-foot-11, 230-pound senior tackle Andy Piet, 6-foot-1, 295-pound senior linebacker DaQua Gatewood and 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior defensive end Kyle Ven Huizen.

Reuter has caught 27 passes for 500 yards and eight touchdowns. Carpenter has rushed for 650 yards. Gatewood is the team's leading tackler.

White was a basketball player before he fell in love with football as a sixth grader. "I loved the contact of the sport. I like to make big plays to win big games," he said.

He played cornerback and wide receiver in grammar school. As a freshman, he was moved to quarterback because coaches knew he was a pitcher and had a strong arm.

"I liked the idea. I like to be in charge," White said.

He quarterbacked the freshman team to a 5-4 record. After two games on the sophomore squad, he was promoted to the varsity. He started at linebacker, then started the last three games at quarterback. Last year, he guided Evergreen Park to an 8-4 record, most wins since 1994.

"We had a good team last year but it was more of a running team. We are more balanced this year," White said. "This is a better team. We have more players who contribute off the bench. What is our edge? We are focused on getting to the state final."

With White throwing and McClendon and Reuter catching, Evergreen Park's passing game has picked up this season.

"We didn't have that kind of a threat last year," White said.

He attended three passing camps last summer to improve his mechanics. He has become more accurate and more proficient at reading defenses. "I wanted to improve my game. Now I stay on top of the ball and use my legs. I used to throw with just my arm. Now I feel I'm much better at what I'm doing," he said.

White Sox offense can't stay hot in loss to A's

White Sox offense can't stay hot in loss to A's

A day after having quite the offensive party, the White Sox didn’t save any production for Friday.

The White Sox couldn’t muster any offense in a 3-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics in their series opener at Guaranteed Rate Field in front of 25,370 fans.

After recording 18 hits in Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, the White Sox were held to just seven on Friday, but it felt like fewer. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Mike Pelfrey, who fell to 3-6 on the season, took a step back after delivering a strong performance in his last outing against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 33-year-old struggled with his command against the A’s all night. He pitched 4 2/3 innings and issued five walks. Pelfrey also allowed all three runs on four hits and two homers.

The A’s got on the board early with a two-run shot to center field by Khris Davis. In the fifth, Pelfrey allowed another homer, a solo shot, to Matt Joyce to make it 3-0.

The White Sox bullpen staved off any further production and combined for 4 1/3 shutout innings between four relievers. But they weren’t able to generate any of their own.

Not even ejections from Tim Anderson and Rick Renteria could spark a cold offense.

The White Sox best chance came in the bottom of the ninth, where Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu opened with back-to-back singles. After an Avisail Garcia flyout, Todd Frazier popped one over A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso, but Abreu was thrown out at second. Matt Davidson flew out to center field at the warning track to end the game.

Friday marked the start of a season-long 10-game homestand, somewhere the White Sox were happy to be after playing 15 of their last 19 on the road.

Together again: Toews, Saad expect chemistry to return quickly

Together again: Toews, Saad expect chemistry to return quickly

Brandon Saad talked to plenty of people after he was traded back to the Blackhawks. Some were now ex-teammates from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Others, soon-to-be-teammates again from the Blackhawks.

One of the first people he talked to on Friday? Jonathan Toews.

“He’s someone I talked to shortly after it happened. He’s a guy I’ve always kept in touch with, great friend,” Saad said. “To be reunited, getting that chance to play with him again, he’s an incredible player and his resume speaks for itself. I look forward to trying to rekindle that.”

The two didn’t lose touch the past two years. Now that they’ll be reunited on the ice, they hope they didn’t lose the chemistry either. Saad and Toews formed a great combination a few years ago, a steadiness that’s been missing from the top line, especially at left wing, ever since. With Saad’s return, however, the Blackhawks are looking to get that top line consistent again.

[MORE: Blackhawks trade back, select Henri Jokiharju at No. 29

Toews was at the NHL Draft on Friday night, announcing the Blackhawks’ first-round pick with Patrick Kane. The thought of getting Saad back on his left wing was appealing.

“Well there’s no doubt getting an old teammate, an old friend back, another guy who shared that same bond, friendship and having the experience of winning a Cup together with Saader. I guess there’s some reconciliation because you know what you’re getting,” Toews said. “You know what type of guy he is and how he’s going to fit into the locker room and what he’s going to bring.”

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said via conference call today that, while Toews and Saad had great chemistry the first time around, Saad could fit with others. It all depends on what works best.

“That’s up to Joel [Quenneville] on where he wants to use him,” Bowman said. “No doubt they had tremendous chemistry; he found a home on Jonathan’s left wing. But the one thing I’m trying to stress to everyone, even internally, is we don’t want to look backward and replicate some old formula. He’s had great success with Jonathan and if they go back to that, great.”

Toews and Saad found their niche together pretty quickly the first time around. It’s only been two years since Saad departed, so finding that chemistry again shouldn’t take long at all.

“I don’t think so,” Toews said of chemistry taking long to rekindle. “You play at that caliber you just worry about your own game. Go out there and have fun. be prepared, be ready to roll and it shouldn’t take long for things to happen out there.”