WW South cap's off perfect season with 7A title

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WW South cap's off perfect season with 7A title

Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010
9:52 PM

By Mike Clark
YourSeason.com

CHAMPAIGN -- Wheaton Warrenville South hasn't been down like this for a long time.

The Tigers were missing two of their top three receivers and trailed Lake Zurich by four points early in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's Class 7A state championship game at Memorial Stadium.

But WW South shook off that adversity the way Reilly O'Toole, Matt Rogers and Titus Davis shed tacklers en route to the Tigers' 28-17 comeback win over Lake Zurich.

The Tigers (14-0) pushed their winning streak to 26 games in winning their second consecutive state title and the school's seventh. Lake Zurich, which beat the Tigers in the 7A final in 2007, finished 12-2.

WW South's closest game this season before Saturday was a 28-7 win over Hinsdale Central in Week 1. This was more reminiscent of the 2009 state final, in which the Tigers beat Glenbard West in double overtime.

"We were expecting a dogfight and that's exactly what we got," said O'Toole, who threw two touchdown passes to Davis and accounted for 230 of the Tigers' 317 net yards.

Davis, the Tigers' leading receiver all season, was even more a focal point than usual with both Travis Kern and Dan Vitale out with collarbone injuries.

But life in the spotlight suited the speedy senior, who hauled in a 44-yard touchdown pass on Wheaton's first play from scrimmage and caught a 25-yard TD pass 17 seconds before halftime.

"Having Travis and Dan out ... They were a big part of our offense," said Davis (six catches, 104 yards), who finished the year with 58 receptions for 1,239 yards and 18 scores. "We had to suck it up."

So did the WW South defense, which was tasked with trying to stop elusive Lake Zurich running back Jacob Brinlee.

"The best running back I've played all year, bar none," WW South nose guard Sparty Chino said. "He's physical, hard to bring down."

Brinlee ran 33 times for 226 yards. He had 54 yards on five carries during the Bears' first scoring drive, which was capped by quarterback Zach Till's one-yard TD run late in the first quarter. He had 59 more during a second-quarter possession capped by Mike Leiva's 27-yard field goal 6:16 before halftime.

"Credit to Brinlee," WW South coach Ron Muhitch said. "He kept them in the game single-handedly."

Davis' second touchdown catch with 17 seconds left in the half put the Tigers back on top 14-10, a score that was unchanged till the first play of the fourth quarter. John Mularz's one-yard run gave Lake Zurich a 17-14 lead.

Though it was an unfamiliar position, the Tigers didn't panic. "Everyone was calm ... We all worked together and everything paid off," Davis said.

Especially O'Toole, who ran 13 times for 51 yards after carrying the ball just 70 times in the first 13 games. He also went 14 of 23 passing for 182 yards.

"Some of the runs he breaks, the passes he makes when you think the play's over he's a playmaker," Chino said. "That's what he does."

"Reilly is the best athlete I've ever coached at Wheaton Warrenville South as an offensive player," Muhitch said. "He's the complete package."

O'Toole's running and passing helped set up Rogers' one-yard scoring run with 9:14 left. Rogers (13 carries, 87 yards) then sealed the win with a 37-yard scoring dash with 1:48 remaining.

"For the most part we played smart football and made plays when we needed to," O'Toole said.

Enough to win another state title, in fact.

Don Granato thrilled to be working with 'calm' Q again

Don Granato thrilled to be working with 'calm' Q again

For Don Granato, working with coach Joel Quenneville again was a chance he couldn’t refuse. Granato was a young coach with the Worcester IceCats, the St. Louis affiliate when Quenneville was the Blues’ head coach, and Granato learned plenty.

“The presence,” Granato said of Quenneville. “He has a really good presence, a calming influence.”

Wait. Quenneville calm?

“Without a doubt, calming,” Granato said. “It was almost like, ‘Hey, we’re in it together.’ And again, that’s the calm behind the scenes. He helps players and in that case he helped me perform as well as I could at that point. I think he’s good at that, because he’s a people person. That’s what I remember most. It’s more of a feel.”

Granato, who general manager Stan Bowman called “a great communicator,” is happy to be back in the Quenneville coaching fold this season. Granato will be watching the games from upstairs and will bring another voice to a Blackhawks group that is looking to take a fresh approach after a second first-round loss. Assistant coach Kevin Dineen said having another perspective will help.

“I’m looking forward to having Donny here,” Dineen said. “I like to talk. I sit there and talk through things. When you have someone working with you on a specific area of the game you can have those debates. It’s the same thing with players but you’re teaching. With another coach a good, healthy voice like that with Donny’s experience can be great for us.”

Where Granato will help most – and where that calm he learned from Quenneville could be most critical – is with the Blackhawks’ younger players. He’s worked with several already, including John Hayden and Nick Schmaltz, both of whom appreciated Granato’s tutelage.

“It’s so obvious he knows the game so well. I think coaches who know the game well and know how to teach the game well are hard to come by,” Hayden said. “It goes back to what I’ve said about meeting the coaching staff and the rest of the players. You feel comfortable in that regard. With coaching changes that process happens all over again, but I was fortunate to spend two years in the World Juniors with coach Granato, who did an incredible job with coaching and development.”

[MORE: Who goes where? Quenneville already plotting options] 

Granato will have a voice with the Blackhawks and will especially have an impact with their young players. The impact Quenneville made on him is still being felt.

“When he left St. Louis, he and my brother [Tony] coached together in Colorado. So the connection stayed. And I’ve always tried as a head coach to play the system that Joel played. So I’ve always tracked and watched the Hawks and the Avalanche and whoever Joel was playing,” Granato said. “That was fun, that’s the impact he had on me, from not only a presence, but the tactics, as well.

One year later, White Sox have clear direction, no longer 'mired in mediocrity'

One year later, White Sox have clear direction, no longer 'mired in mediocrity'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s been one year since Rick Hahn uttered those three magic words to signal that the White Sox would soon begin a massive rebuild: mired in mediocrity.

Disappointed by another season of middling play despite a roster led with top talent but short on depth, the general manager suggested the White Sox needed a new direction last July 21.

At the time, Hahn only noted that the White Sox were no longer interested in acquiring short-term pieces and they would re-evaluate their future. Ten days later, the front office began a thorough overhaul that has since seen the completion of four franchise-altering deals for young, controllable, top-flight talent by trading reliever Zach Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charlie Tilson. The White Sox sped their rebuild up incrementally in December and have since traded away Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, Tommy Kahnle, Todd Frazier and David Robertson. The series of moves has made it easily apparent where the White Sox are headed.

“It just make it official that it’s a rebuild,” infielder Tyler Saladino said. “You know you’re not in between or what are we going to do? It establishes what’s going on here for everybody.”

The White Sox received a boatload of criticism when the nonwaiver trade deadline passed last Aug. 1 and only Duke had been traded.

One report indicated that the White Sox asked for a “king’s ransom” for Sale, who remained with the club even after his second volatile outburst of the season produced boxes full of slashed throwback jerseys and a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property. A grade-based ESPN article assigned Hahn an ‘F’ for the failure to begin the rebuild before the deadline. Two weeks later, a reported schism in the front office between Hahn and Kenny Williams over the club’s direction prompted chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to call CSN’s David Kaplan to inform him that his decision makers were “in lockstep” and the team’s decision would be easy to detect soon enough.

And just like that it was.

The White Sox switched managers in October, hiring development-oriented Rick Renteria only a day after Robin Ventura walked away. A month later, Hahn spelled it out again at the GM meetings that the White Sox intended to get younger.

And then the exodus began. First went Sale. Then Eaton. There was a brief interlude as the club signed Cuban free agent Luis Robert for $52 million in May. But the exits have since continued with the trades of Quintana, Frazier, Kahnle and Robertson.

“The fact that they've been able to do as much as they have in this short period of time is kind of impressive,” Renteria said. “We're sad to see a lot of the guys (go) that were here with us because they were good White Sox. But everybody knows the direction we're going in and we still go out there and play to try to get a ballgame every single day, so that's part of the process.”

First baseman Jose Abreu said he understands the process and has bought into what Hahn and Co. are selling. Abreu looks at the organization as a whole and believes the White Sox, who now possess 10 of the top 68 prospects in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com, are in better shape than they were a year ago. So even if the team is headed for an ugly final two months, Abreu believes it’ll be worth it.

“We all know that in this process you are going to rough moments and you’re going to feel sometimes like things aren’t going the way they are supposed to go, especially with the trades,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “But if you see now we are a much better organization, especially with all of the young talent we are getting. That’s part of the process too. You are pointing up to the future. All of those positions are for the future, and we are looking for good things to come.”