High School Lites: Championship Weekend

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High School Lites: Championship Weekend

It's the reward for all the hours spent in the weight room in March. Or the prize for battling through two-a-days in 95-degree August heat. It's why the Rocky soundtrack gets played as a motivator every Friday night in September. Or why the high-fives and words of encouragement seem more emphatic in October. It's all based on the hopes and dreams that every Illinois high school football player has: Playing in Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend. It's the chance to play for a first place trophy.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago is the place to be for all eight Illinois state championship football games, with live action starting Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. Every matchup is in HD and all postgame press conferences will be streamed live on CSNChicago.com. CSN contributor Matt Bowen provides analysis for the 7A and 8A title games and anchorreporter Susannah Collins will handle sideline duties throughout the weekend.

Here is a snapshot of every game we will profile on Saturday night's High School Lites at 10:30pm:

1A:

Stockton (13-0) vs. Maroa-Forsyth (12-1), Friday - 10:00am

If you throw out Stocktons 22-15 victory over Lena-Winslow on October 12th, the 13-0 Blackhawks would be averaging 53 points per game (instead, its only a paltry 51). They scored on seven straight possessions in last weeks 51-14 victory over Stark County. Maroa-Forsyths only loss this season came to 3A title contender Tolono Unity. This will be the Trojans fourth trip to the finals since 2006. Coach Josh Jostes teams have won at least 10 games every season since 2005.

2A:

Mercer County (13-0) vs. Belleville Althoff (10-3), Friday - 1:00pm

The Cinderella season continues for the 10-3 and 15th seed -- Crusaders, who have stunned some kingpins in the playoffs, including Casey-Westfield and Camp Point Central. Their defense is tight. Cornerback Michael Harris has 10 interceptions on the year. Itll be an interesting matchup against quarterback Tanner Matlick and a Mercer County offense that put 80 points on the board in a game earlier this year. Coach Nat Zunkels Eagles advanced by beating Clifton Central 26-7.

3A:

Aurora Christian (12-1) vs. Tolono Unity (12-1), Friday - 4:00pm

Head Coach Don Beebe has to impressed with what his team has accomplished this year. Their only loss was a 31-27 nail-biter to 5A finalist Montini, and their passing game has been top notch. Quarterback Ryan McQuade has top targets in Cory Windle and Chad Beebe (Dons son). The Unity Rockets have a short drive to Memorial Stadium (8 miles). Two-way player Connor Grace will get a lot of looks on offense. The running back amassed 205 yards last week against Greenville.

4A:

Rock Island Alleman (12-1) vs. Rochester (12-1), Friday - 7:00pm

Like Unitys Rockets, these Rochester Rockets score in bunches as well (11 of their scoring totals have been 41 or higher). The big question, though, surrounds running back Dylan Hathaway. Rochesters leading rusher (1,600 yards this season) re-aggravated an ankle injury last week. Can Alleman answer the call? They are coming off a convincing 23-7 win over Evergreen Park. Senior quarterback John Tracey leads the Pioneers in passing and rushing yards.

5A:

Montini (11-2) vs. Morris (12-1), Saturday - 10:00am

Its good to be a furniturecabinet maker in the Lombard area. The 11-2 Broncos will be looking to bring their fourth consecutive state title back to the trophy case at Montini. Wide receiver Joe Borsellino and running back Dimitri Taylor are two players to keep an eye on when Montini has the ball. The Morris Redskins, another familiar name in late-November football, features Indiana-bound DLTE Danny Friend, quarterback Zach Cinnamon and running back Reese Sobol.

6A:

Cary-Grove (13-0) vs. Crete-Monee (13-0), Saturday - 1:00pm

Its uncharted waters for Crete-Monee, as they will be playing for their first state championship. Itll be a game of contrasting styles as well. Crete-Monee has the aerial assault game with quarterback Marcus Terrell and elite wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Cary-Grove, looking for their second title since 2009, loves to run the ball. Running back Kyle Norberg is having a dream season. Both defenses, though, have been clutch all season long and could be the deciding factor.

7A:

Glenbard West (13-0) vs. Lincoln-Way East (13-0), Saturday - 4:00pm

Lincoln-Way East quarterback Tom Fuessel has made some incredible, highlight-reel runs to the end zone this year. The NIU recruit has a nice complement in the backfield with running back Nick Colangelo. Lincoln-Ways defense is one of the best in state, as is the defense for the Hilltoppers. GBW has kept eight opponents to a touchdown or less this year. Quarterback Henry Haeffner and running back Devante Toney will look to bring a state title back to Glen Ellyn for the first time since 1983.

8A:

Glenbard North (12-1) vs. Mount Carmel (12-1), Saturday - 7:00pm

Mount Carmel quarterback Don Butkus sprained his left ankle against Neuqua Valley last week. His status is day-to-day. Will that put more pressure on running backs Matt Domer and Draco Smith? The two backs, along with a bruising defense, have carried the Caravan far this year. Glenbard North has a bruiser all their own: Justin Jackson. The running back (who also plays defense and special teams) carried the ball 46 times for 230 yards and factored in all four of GBNs scores last week.

Our Muscle Milk Team of the Week is Cary-Grove. The Trojans won a state title in 2009. Can they do it again in 2012? We'll also bring you highlights of the Chicago Prep Bowl, featuring Public League champion Simeon and Brother Rice, the winner of the Catholic League crown. Both schools are familiar with the Prep Bowl and are looking to end the season on a positive note at Soldier Field. Plus, well have one final feature on the on the thrilling Hilltopper football season -- it's Joliet Catholic's Drive segment, presented by Northern Illinois University. And well take a drive down Memory Lane in Flashback and bring you up-to-the-minute scores from across Chicagoland.

High School Lites streams this Saturday night on CSNChicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Email us at: highschoollites@comcastsportsnet.com

SportsTalk Live: David DeJesus discusses time spent with Joe Maddon, World Series criticism

SportsTalk Live: David DeJesus discusses time spent with Joe Maddon, World Series criticism

"Be sexy."

That was one of two rules manager Joe Maddon told David DeJesus when the Tampa Bay Rays acquired him in 2013.

DeJesus appeared on SportsTalk Live on Wednesday to discuss his time spent with Maddon in Tampa Bay.

"Just be yourself out there," DeJesus said of Maddon when the Rays traded for him. "I want you to have fun and I want you to just have that ora of 'just don't worry, just go out there and play.' It kept the whole team loose."

DeJesus also shared his thoughts on Maddon's questionable managerial decisions in the World Series.

Hear that, and more, in the video above.

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Sammy Sosa has stayed so far off the radar that his long-running absence from Cubs Convention didn't even come up during last weekend's Q&A session with ownership.

And the Cubs can't go viral all the time and dominate every offseason news cycle, with the National Baseball Hall of Fame revealing the election results on Wednesday and welcoming Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez as part of its 2017 class.

But it's become out of sight, out of mind for Sosa, who barely crossed the 5-percent threshold (8.6) needed to remain on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for another year.

Sosa — a seven-time All Star, 1998 National League MVP and the franchise's all-time leader with 545 home runs (and 609 overall) — hadn't gained any traction at all during his first four years under BBWAA consideration, hovering between 12.5 and 6.6 percent.

It's complicated with Sosa, a diva personality who experienced a dramatic late-career renaissance and got named in a New York Times report that exposed him as one of the players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003 (during what was supposed to be an anonymous survey).

The Cubs have undergone a complete makeover since Sosa walked out in 2004, leaving him without many allies in the organization. It's nothing personal, but in the past the Ricketts family has hinted that Sosa could mend certain fences and fill in some of the blanks he once left open during an unconvincing performance in front of Congress.

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The Cubs brought Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg to meet President Barack Obama during their Martin Luther King Jr. Day visit to the White House and keep adding former players to the front office. It's awkward after a World Series run where so many alumni showed up to do TV work, throw first pitches, spray champagne or simply watch a rare playoff game at Wrigley Field.

— If Sosa's looking for a roadmap, Manny Ramirez did his penance and cooperated with Major League Baseball to the point where Cubs president Theo Epstein shockingly hired him as a Triple-A Iowa player/coach in the middle of the 2014 season, something that would have been unthinkable during their clashes with the Boston Red Sox.

As a hitting consultant, Ramirez took a come-and-go-as-you-please arrangement, becoming a national story during the 2015 playoffs but largely staying away from the 2016 championship team, perhaps gearing up for his independent-ball comeback in Japan this year. Even after failing multiple drug tests, one of the greatest right-handed hitters of his generation still finished at 23.8 percent in his first year on the BBWAA ballot.

— Lee Smith (34.2 percent) — a drafted-and-developed Cub and the franchise's all-time leader with 180 saves — didn't come close in his 15th and final time on the BBWAA ballot. Smith had been grandfathered when the Hall of Fame narrowed the eligibility window to 10 years, possibly trying to squeeze Steroid Era symbols like Roger Clemens (54.1 percent) and Barry Bonds (53.8 percent).

— This will make Cub fans feel old: Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano are Hall of Fame-eligible for the first time in 2018, when based off this year's returns Trevor Hoffman (74) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7) should be building momentum toward the 75 percent needed for induction into Cooperstown.