High School Lites previews Week 1 of playoffs

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High School Lites previews Week 1 of playoffs

"I'm not a guy that believes you've got to have a lot of experience to have success in the playoffs."

- Former N.Y. Giants QB Phil Simms

The folks at Bloom High School may want to take that quote and scribble it on a few chalkboards. Bloom will be making their first playoff appearance since 1989 Friday night when they take on Simeon, one of the many games that we will feature on Fridays edition of High School Lites. We will also feature Chicago's Perspectives High School, a team that will playing in their first football playoff game in school history. The story is slightly different with Bolingbrook. The Raiders, who would probably take issue with the Simms quote, are the reigning 8A champs and have made the playoffs in each of the last 21 years. But will they have their starting quarterback ready to go against Sandburg?

Here is a snapshot of each game we will profile on Fridays edition of High School Lites. Please note that all rankings reflect the class seedings in the IHSA playoffs:

8A:

No. 10 Bartlett (6-3) at No. 7 Leyden (7-2), 7:00 p.m.

Opportunity is knocking again for Bartlett. They have not defeated a .500 team yet this year, although they did look impressive in Upstate Eight Valley play. RBDE Aaron Everson, the new Bartlett single-season rushing yardage record-holder, can be dominant. They also feature another two-way player in Central Michigan recruit Chris Kantzavelos. Leyden, the West Suburban Gold champs, look to continue a memorable season with quarterback Michael Smith at the reins.

No. 9 Bolingbrook (7-2) at No. 8 Sandburg (7-2), 7:00 p.m.

The big question here is whether Raiders quarterback Aaron Bailey plays. Bailey, who injured his knee in September against Lincoln-Way East, has been cleared to play according to reports. But will he? Sophmore quarterback Quincy Woods has filled in quite well in his absence. Sandburg defeated Bolingbrook 13-6 on the road in week sevenone of five wins they have in which they kept opponents to a touchdown or less. The Eagles have gone to the playoffs in 25 of the last 29 seasons.

No. 13 Proviso West (6-3) at No. 4 Waubonsie Valley (8-1), 7:00 p.m.

Its an intriguing matchup with the Waubonsie offense going up against a Proviso West defense that has shut out four opponents on the season. The 8-1 Warriors are averaging 41 points per game. Running back Austin Guido and Wisconsin-bound tight end Troy Fumagalli are always threats to score. As for Proviso West, head coach Famous Hulbert had guided a program from relative obscurity to one that has qualified for the playoffs four consecutive seasons.

No. 12 Oak Park-River Forest (6-3) at No. 5 Hinsdale Central (7-2), 7:30 p.m.

Can anything top the excitement the last time these two teams faced each other? In week seven, OPRF shocked Hinsdale Central 42-41 in overtime. The Huskies feature playmakers on both sides of the ball, namely defensive end Nile Sykes and running back Jakari Cammon. Hinsdale features a fine quarterback in Brian Owens. The 7-2 Red Devils have won each of their last four games by a touchdown or less. That said, five of their seven wins were against teams currently in the playoffs.

No. 11 Bloom (6-3) vs. No. 6 Simeon (7-1), 7:30 p.m. at Gately Stadium

Milli Vanilli was at the top of the charts. A gallon of gas cost 1.12. The Cosby Show dominated TV airwaves. Even mullets were big. All of these things happened in 1989, the last time Bloom High School reached the IHSA playoffs. They clinched a spot last week after shutting out Rich Central 21-0. Simeon, on the other hand, is a long-time veteran of postseason play. Their 12th straight IHSA appearance has been fueled by quarterback Elcee Burke and running back Sharoid Roach.

7A:

No. 7 Andrew (6-3) at No. 2 Benet (8-1), 7:30 p.m. at Benedictine University
To say that Benet is having a dream season would be an understatement. The Redwings, who were 1-8 last year, have reversed their record thanks in large part to a stifling defense and sophomore quarterback Jack Beneventi. He passed for 365 yards and four touchdowns in last week's thrilling win over Joliet Catholic. It gave Benet their first share of a conference title in school history. But a good opponent awaits. Andrew's biggest win of the season was in week nine: a 27-0 win over Thornton.

6A:

No. 5 Shepard (6-3) at No. 4 Perspectives (6-2), 4:15 p.m. at Gately Stadium

Chicago's Perspectives Charter is widely known as the school of the NBAs first overall draft pick, Anthony Davis. But that's OK for now. Their football team, who will be playing in their first playoff game in school history, would like to change that thought process. Keep an eye on running back Lonnie Washington. He has racked up 22 touchdowns on the season. Shepard is averaging 36 points per game. Quarterback Jimmy McClinton and receiver Londell Lee have both shattered various Astros records.

No. 7 Lincoln-Way North (6-3) at No. 2 Richards (8-1), 7:00 p.m.

The Southwest Suburban Red conference got five teams into the playoffs, including the 6-3 Phoenix. Julian Hylton is one of their leaders on offense. The junior running back found the end zone three times in last week's 38-9 victory over Stagg. Richards has a few weapons on offense with running back Tommy Mister and quarterback Hasan Muhammed-Rogers. And let's not forget the Bulldogs defense, either. They have posted four shutouts on the season.

No. 12 Lake View (6-2) at No. 5 Grant (7-2), 7:00 p.m.

The 7-2 Bulldogs are familiar faces around the 6A playoff circuit. Its their seventh appearance in the last eight years. This year's team is led by a defensive group who only surrendered nine points in last week's game against Antioch. The offense, however, has been hit by the injury bug. Quarterback Kyle Whitman and running back Jonathan Wells have missed time. The 6-2 Wildcats, who are on a four-game winning streak, will be making their first IHSA playoff appearance since 1996.

No. 15 St. Viator (5-4) at No. 2 Lakes (8-1), 7:30 p.m.

Even though Lakes' football program has only been in existence for eight seasons, they've made the playoffs in five of them (including four straight). The North Suburban Prairie champs are paced by a vicious offense. In their current six game winning streak, they have beaten three playoff teams --Wauconda, Grant and North Chicago-- by scores of 69-20, 42-14 and 62-0, respectively. St. Viator has bounced back nicely after a 2-7 season. They feature Mayo Arogundade at running back.

Our Muscle Milk Team of the Week is the Palatine Pirates-- a team that has had to use a lot of muscle in 2012, and not by choice. The Mid Suburban-West champs were without their star running back, Cam Kuksa, for most of the regular season. But he's back and that could mean trouble for the teams who stand in their way on the road to Champaign. Plus, well also catch you up with Joliet Catholic in this weeks 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 airs at 10:30 p.m. Friday night and streaming live at CSNChicago.com. The show will re-air Saturday morning at 7:30 and 8:30.

Follow CSNChicago.com preps writer Joe Collins on Twitter: @JoeCSN.

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

Notre Dame sorting through safety options after Max Redfield's dismissal

Notre Dame sorting through safety options after Max Redfield's dismissal

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly had to chuckle a bit when asked what he could tell a larger-than-normal media contingent about Devin Studstill, the true freshman and presumptive favorite to replace Max Redfield at free safety Sept. 4 against Texas. 

“We’ll have a true freshman on the road playing against a talented team,” Kelly said with a bit of a laugh that, given the circumstances, sounded a bit nervous.

No matter how confident Notre Dame players and coaches are in Studstill, there’s still that unknown part of leaning on a safety who will play his first college football game in front of an exected sellout crowd of about 100,000 people in primetime at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin. 

Kelly described Studstill as a “natural” as the Florida native took first-team reps away from Redfield during spring practice. Linebacker and captain James Onwualu said Studstill’s transition back into the first-team defense has “gone smoothly” with only a handful of practices left until Notre Dame heads to Austin. 

“He was here in the spring, which helped a lot,” Onwualu. “He came in ready to work from Day 1 and you gotta respect that. He’s been working his craft, working his game and there’s not much of a drop-off. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s still young, obviously, so (we) try to push some knowledge on him and continue to talk the game and show him as many looks (as possible).”

Kelly used “talented” and “confident” to describe Studstill this time around. But it won’t be just him at free safety, Kelly cautioned. 

“I think we’ll have to play a few guys at that position,” Kelly said. “I don’t think he’s going to go out there and take every snap.”

At the top of that list: sixth-year graduate student Avery Sebastian, who broke a bone in his foot in Week 1 against Texas last year and missed the rest of the season. The 5-foot-10, 200 pound Cal transfer, who also missed nearly all of the 2013 season with an injury, started six games for the Golden Bears from 2011-2014. 

In exchange for the experience Sebastian brings to the position, Notre Dame would slide a guy who’s more of an in-the-box strong safety over to free safety. The other options at free safety are freshman Jalen Elliott, a former four-star recruit, and sophomore Nicco Fertitta, who saw action on special teams last year. 

Kelly said there haven’t been any conversations about moving an offensive player to free safety to manufacture more depth.

“We feel like we’ve got enough back there that we’ll be solid,” Kelly said. 

Notre Dame’s defense is peppered with first-time starters, which creates plenty of unknowns heading into the 2016 season. In losing Redfield, a player who Kelly said was starting to put everything together after a few inconsistent seasons, another question mark was added to VanGorder’s defense. 

That doesn’t mean that Studstill and whoever else is back at free safety are destined to fail. Maybe Studstill and/or Elliott clears their first-year hurdles and is a solid player and Sebastian winds up being a reliable option there, too. 

But Notre Dame’s defense very likely was going to be better off with Redfield as a starting safety. 

“Max was an outstanding player, and he was having a great, great camp,” Kelly said. “He had a great spring. He’s athletic, he’s fast. So you’re taking a really good player off your defense. But we’ll be able to plug in a guy there that I think will get the job done for us.” 

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 1 Loyola Academy

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 1 Loyola Academy

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26. View Edgy Tim's other football previews here.

School: Loyola Academy

Head coach: John Holecek

How they fared in 2015: 14-0 (4-0) Chicago Catholic League Blue Conference. Loyola Academy made the Class 8A state playoff field. The Ramblers defeated West Aurora, Stevenson, Homewood-Flossmoor, Palatine and Marist to capture the 8A IHSA state football title. 

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Ramblers repeat in Class 8A?

Names to watch this season: TE Jake Marwede, DB Ian Swenson

​​​​​[PREPS: Edgy Tim's Countdown to Kickoff series]

Biggest holes to fill: Loyola will need to find answers at a handful of key spots including quarterback and running back.

EDGY's early take: Despite having to replace 14 starters from last year's title team, look for Loyola to reload once again. Holecek has some headliner names in place, along with a very talented and deep roster this season. If Loyola can find some answers early on offense, the defense usually plays at a very high level and can help the offense. 

Ramblers schedule:

Aug. 26 at Milwaukee Marquette (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 3 vs. Maine South (1:30 p.m.)

Sept. 9 vs. Mount Carmel *at Gately* (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 17 vs. St. Francis (1:30 p.m.)

Sept. 23 vs. Fenwick *at Triton College* (7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 1 vs. St. Rita (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 7 vs. Leo (7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 15 vs. Providence Catholic (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 21 at Brother Rice (7:30 p.m.)

Fire fail to hold another lead at home, but reason why was different

Fire fail to hold another lead at home, but reason why was different

Holding onto leads at home has not been a strong suit for the Fire this season.

Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy was the fifth time this season the Fire have been unable to get a win at home in a match they led. In four of those, including Wednesday, the Fire had leads in the second half.

In the previous cases, the Fire dropped deep defensively and tried to simply hold onto the lead or hope David Accam could score on a one-man counter.

“I think once we’re up in the result I think we have to make sure that we kill the game off because there’s been too many times where it’s that 1-0 or that 2-1 and we’re kind of holding there and the next thing you know they’re tying the game at the end of the game,” midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. “We got to keep pushing for that third goal to make sure that we kill things off.”

The game against LA was different. The Fire had multiple quality chances to score a third goal and take a two-goal lead. One opportunity featuring Accam, Luis Solignac and an open net seemed like a sure goal as it was developing.

However, the Fire didn’t find that two-goal lead and LA managed to come back.

“I think we created a lot of chances,” Alvarez said. “We went up 2-1 and unfortunately that third goal didn’t want to go in at the right time and then LA got that bounce.”

[SHOP: Get your own Fire jersey here]

Even though the result didn’t show it, the Fire may have actually turned a corner in terms of how to play with a lead. In the win at Montreal on Saturday, the Fire scored that extra goal to take a two-goal lead, something the team hadn’t done all season in an MLS game.

Against the Galaxy, the Fire actually had more possession in the second half (56 percent) than the first half (46 percent). LA’s only shot on goal in the second half was the tying goal while the Fire put three shots on target in the second 45 minutes.

The Fire did fail to close out another match at home that they had a lead in, but the way it happened was different and maybe that’s a positive sign going forward.

“I think it’s starts from the offense,” Accam said. “If we could have scored then we could have killed the game. The defense did really well. We just need to keep finishing chances and then opponents won’t have the chance to attack us.

“I think we played one of the best games we played this season, but we need to take our chances and today I would say we are disappointed that we dropped two points at home. For me also we created so many chances that on another day we could have taken it. It’s kind of a mixed feeling for me.”