Archive for August 2012
High School Game of the Week August 28 2012
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Stevenson rallies past LT in season opener
By Rob Valentin
Football is a game of adjustments.
And Stevenson did a better job of adjusting Friday night as they played host to Lyons Township in the season opener.
The Patriots gave up three first-half touchdowns and trailed by seven points at halftime. But Stevenson owned the second half, scoring 21 straight points en route to a 35-28 victory in Lincolnshire.
“We made some changes on defense,” said Stevenson wide receiver/defensive back Matt Morrissey. “They beat us up pretty bad in the first half. But we came though and held them to seven points. That was big in the second half.”
LT struck first on a 53-yard touchdown from Zachary Mahoney to Jemari Burks with 10:16 to play in the first quarter.
After both teams turned the ball over with interceptions, Stevenson was able to answer as Willie Bourban connected with Alan Velev on an 18-yard touchdown pass.
The Lions took the lead right back as Mahoney hooked up with Burks again, this time on a 32-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
Stevenson continued to fight and Bourban connected with Matt Morrissey on a 35-yard TD score but LT responded with Mahoney’s third touchdown strike to Burks, this one coming from 17 yards out with just 2:25 to play in the first half.
Burks isn’t the Lions top receiver. But with Stevenson concentrating on star wide-out Matthew Harris, Burks made the most of the opportunity.
“Matthew really opened the door for me,” Burks said. “They were so focused on him that they gave me wide-open passes to get the touchdowns.”
When they did throw to Harris, Morrissey was there to make a big play, including a first half interception.
“We knew who No. 11 (Harris) was coming in,” Morrissey said. “He’s a great player so we had to change up our defense and double him up on the back side. That (interception) was easy for me.”
Stevenson went into the break down 21-14 but the second half was a different story. Morrissey hauled in a 62-yard touchdown pass from Bourban, a sophomore who plays with a lot of confidence.
“Not really,” replied Bourban when asked if he was nervous making his first career start. “I came in the game against Maine South last year. The nerves all came out after the first play. It felt good. It felt really good.”
The Stevenson ground game started to pound away at a tiring LT defense in the second half as well. Danny Nowak scored from four yards out to give Stevenson its first lead of the game at 28-21.
Then Ryan Mass found paydirt from one-yard out with 7:12 to play in the fourth quarter for a 35-21 Patriots’ advantage.
“The second half I feel like we ran the ball well,” Bourban said. “Our line really stepped up and Danny Nowak started getting those runs. It was a great team win.”
The Lions pulled within 35-28 after a 33-yard TD pass from Mahoney to Kevin Pikul. LT got the ball back with 2:35 but Stevenson forced a four-and-out and kneeled on it for the win.
“Willie did a great job tonight,” Morrissey said. “I’m just excited and ready to get on to next week. It’s big momentum for us, but we had a lot of mistakes still. So we’re going back to film tomorrow and fix those up.”
Stevenson will head south as they take on Homewood-Flossmoor Friday night. The Vikings cruised to a 35-7 victory against Marian Catholic in Week 1.
Things won’t get much easier for LT as they travel to Downers Grove South on Friday night. The Mustangs reached the state quarterfinals last season but lost its season opener to South Elgin 48-35.
“Basically we have to work in practice, work, work, work,” Burks said. “Condition and take care of ourselves. You see a lot of injuries out here, cramps and stuff. Once we get that together, we’ll be good for (this) week.”
High School Game of the Week - Aug 26 2012
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Montini aiming for historic 4-peat
By Rob Valentin
FOOTBALL—The loss of a player like Jordan Westerkamp would have a pretty big effect on most high school football teams.
The former Montini wide receiver, who holds the all-time state records for receptions (235), receiving yards (4,618) and receiving touchdowns (68), will be playing his football in Lincoln, Nebraska for the Cornhuskers this fall.
But the Broncos should be just fine. The Lombard school is loaded once again and is aiming for its fourth straight state championship.
“He’s irreplaceable,” Montini head coach Chris Andriano said. “He’s a terrific receiver, best Illinois has ever seen. All of the things you want to see in a great player. But we do have quality kids back. If we execute our offense the way we think we should, the way we can, we’ll be fine.”
Montini will have a hard-time topping its performance in the Class 5A state championship game last season. In one of the most memorable state title games ever, the Broncos beat Joliet Catholic 70-45 as Westerkamp had 12 catches for 353 yards and five touchdowns. JCA’s Ty Isaac ran for 515 yards and six touchdowns in the loss.
“I’ve never seen a game like that before and I don’t think you’ll ever see another championship game with that kind of offense,” Andriano said. “Both teams were unbelievable. It was the culmination of a great year for us and it was with an exclamation point.”
But that’s the past. Andriano and his team are focused on 2012. And so far he’s liked what he’s seen.
“We had a great summer, camp went well,” Andriano said. “We think that we’ve found some pieces to the puzzle and we’re right in position to make a good run at it.”
Wide receiver and return man Joey Borsellino takes over as the big play guy. Andriano says he is “terrific catching the ball. He’s a special player and brings a winning attitude.”
“This is our senior year and we have big expectations,” Borsellino said. “We’ve won three in a row and we’re hoping to get a fourth. If we do, we’d be the only class ever to come through Montini and always win a state championship.”
Mark Gorogianis is another weapon at wide receiver. He actually played quarterback for six games last season after an injury to the Broncos’ starter.
“This year is very exciting,” Gorogianis said. “Just working hard to get better and get that four-peat. The team has got to come together because we lost some key guys. But as a team I think we can do some great things this year.”
Throwing to Gorogianis and Borsellino will be quarterback Alex Wills.
“Quarterback was contested all summer long between Alex Wills and Jimmy Barron,” Andriano said. “We named Alex the starter. Both of those did a good job and came a long way.”
Senior running back Dimitri Taylor had some big games last year and is expected to be an even bigger weapon this season.
Tate Briggs will lead the offensive line. The 6-foot 5-inch 300-pound senior has offers from Western Michigan, Ball State and Central Michigan. He injured his ankle last year so with some good film in the first three games, he may be able to get some offers from Big Ten schools. But he’s more worried about not being on the team that ends Montini’s streak of state championships.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” Briggs said. “There’s always a target on our back. Every team we play it’s basically their championship game. Every game is a big game.”
Senior David Sarkan will be another key contributor on the line.
On defense, the Broncos will be led by defensive end Fred Beaugard (6-3, 255), who is getting interest from several Division I schools.
Junior defensive tackle Edgar Ruano, senior free safety Tucker Mucha, junior linebacker Michael Maduko, senior linebackers Charlie Long and Joe Nitti all started last season and bring plenty of experience to the table. Junior cornerback Matt Diedrick is another player to watch out for.
One position that doesn’t get mentioned much in previews is kicker. But most teams don’t have a kicker like Montini’s Andrew Harte. The senior has a high percentage of his kickoffs end up as touchbacks and Andriano is comfortable with him kicking field goals of 45 to 50 yards.
“It’s huge to be able to have the other team start on the 20,” Harte said. “It’s another first down they have to get and the percentage (of them being able to score) changes a ton. My punting has really come along and hopefully I’ll be able to pin them in the 20. Hit big field goals when we need them and never miss an extra point.”
Montini opens the season tonight against a very tough opponent when they travel to Palatine for a nonconference game with the Pirates.
“I think (playing a good team) helps a lot,” Borsellino said. “It shows, on our team, who is actually ready to play. And when it comes down to the big part of the game in a big game, when there’s a ton of people there, who is going to show up and who is not.”
High School Game of the Week - Aug 20 2012
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Roadrunners hoping to repeat 2011 success
By Rob Valentin
Nazareth had a dream season in 2011.
The Roadrunners, who were once considered an easy win in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, took a big leap forward having their best season in school history.
Nazareth went 8-1 in the regular season, winning the ESCC title and then advanced to the Class 6A state quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Prairie Ridge.
With success comes great expectations. But Nazareth head coach Tim Racki isn’t worried about that. He has his team looking forward not back as they get ready for the 2012 season.
“When you have success the season before, the preseason picks and polls don’t really mean that much,” Racki said. “Every year is a completely different team. We’ve definitely addressed that.
“So we talk about the pressure and if you focus on the process and do your job and work hard that’s the easy part. We just take it a day at a time. Get through camp healthy and in shape.”
Nazareth notched wins over Deerfield (35-6) and Cary-Grove (24-0) before bowing out of the playoffs last season.
One of the benefits for a team that makes a deep run in the state playoffs is extra practice time for the underclassmen and the opportunity to bring up some sophomores who may contribute the following season.
“That is an invaluable experience,” Racki said. “You can’t coach it so for these young kids, and we had a lot of them that practiced with us, it’s invaluable. It’s like another spring football where we can develop them and they can see the varsity speed.”
But leading the way for the Roadrunners will be plenty of players who were key in last year’s success.
It all starts with Tommy Gray, who was elected captain at last year’s award banquet and hasn’t looked back.
“We have a captain’s chair that the outgoing seniors give to the top junior and he was a unanimous decision to get that,” Racki said. “Ever since the day he received that, he’s been leading by example and leading vocally.”
“Coming off a great season last year, we all want to get back at it,” Gray said. “We’re all excited. Obviously we’re in doubles right now working hard and trying to get better.”
Gray can definitely notice a difference with the Roadrunners coming off the best season in school history.
“With the expectations, obviously we all have them and coach is pushing us harder,” Gray said. “He’s making sure the seniors are leading out there and working hard.”
On offense Josh Moore and Rudy Romagnano will provide the Roadrunners with a solid 1-2 punch and Aeneas White is dangerous at the wing-back spot.
“We’re trying to get as good as we were last year and we’re working hard,” said Romagnano, who missed the second half of last year after getting injured. “It was tough last year getting hurt, but I’ve been working hard this offseason to get back and I’m ready to go, 100 percent.”
But one area that will need to be watched early on is the offensive line. With no returning starters from last season the o-line is a young group and will need to get experience quickly. Junior center Danny Lockie and sophomore tackle Mike Owens look to lead the way with senior Mike Straface and Michael Perry being solid as well
Jake Bartels will take the snaps behind center. He saw some action in the quarterfinals last year and has looked good in the summer so far.
Tyler Van Dahm and Pat Vitek (ESCC co-defensive lineman of the year) will be key leaders on defense. Romagnano will go both ways playing safety as will White, who plays outside linebacker and safety.
“As far as my strong suits, I think I play pretty fast and I know when things are coming,” White said. “I can see things before a lot of people do, so I can communicate that to the rest of the defense or offense, depending what side of the ball I’m on.”
Nazareth opens the season on Saturday night, playing host to Proviso East in a nonconference match-up and the Roadrunners are excited to show they weren’t a one-hit wonder.
“We look just as good as last year so I’m expecting to go just as far if not farther,” Romagnano said.
“It definitely takes teamwork, commitment, communication, all the things a good team has,” White said. “We definitely had it last year and that’s carrying over into this season too.”
Hawks hoping to soar high in 2012
By Rob Valentin
Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti became the full-time starting quarterback in the third game of the 2010 season and reeled off 10 straight wins as the Hawks captured the Class 8A state championship.
The four-star quarterback, who is committed to Northwestern, had a perfect regular season last year and the Hawks opened the playoffs with a win over Curie.
Then the unthinkable happened. Maine South’s string of 20 straight wins and three consecutive state championships came to a sudden end, with a 24-22 loss to Stevenson in the second round of the playoffs.
Alviti isn’t about to let his senior season end in similar fashion.
“After winning three state championships in a row and then losing in the second round of the playoffs, it definitely was a bad feeling, a bad taste in our mouth,” Alviti said. “We just have to come back and prepare even harder than what we did last year and just come out with a chip on our shoulder every game. We’ve been working hard all offseason.”
Alviti and his teammates have had a busy summer. They competed against some of the best high schools in the country in a 7-on-7 tournament in Alabama. Now the season is just two short weeks away.
“It’s exciting to be back,” Alviti said on Wednesday, the first day of practice. “Things went well all summer, in summer camps and through our 7-on-7’s. Now we’re just looking to get better and better every day.”
“You put in so much time during the offseason,” head coach Dave Inserra said. “Coming in on the first day, it just a continuation of that. We start with high expectations.”
There’s no doubt that the offense will be Maine South’s strong suit. Alviti may have the best arm in the state and his legs aren’t bad either. His ability to scramble extends plays and he can throw on the run with the best of them or tuck it and run for big yards.
“Our offense looks great, we’ve looked great all summer,” Alviti said. “All around our receivers look great. Coming out of the backfield, Anthony Mitchell looks great. And we have our whole offensive line coming back, which is quite fortunate for us.”
Two or the workhorses on the offensive line will be Pat Maloney and Dan Poulos.
“I think the line should be a strong point in our offense this year,” Maloney said. “We have four returning starters and if we give time for Matt to throw the ball, good things usually happen because he’s a great quarterback.”
“All five of use got significant time last year so we’re pretty comfortable together,” Poulos said. “It’s been really nice coming back, knowing the guys you’re next to. I feel like we’ve kind of gotten a head start this year.”
Donny Nordstrom, Griffen Schaefer and Mike Rubino join Poulos and Maloney on the line.
Of course, for Alviti and his offensive line to be successful, the wide receivers will need to do their part.
John Solari returns as a big play threat. Mike Bosco and Frank Perrone will also be key contributors.
Linebackers Noah Meyer and Clay Burdelik, safety John Cerniglia and defensive end Mike Klein will be key players on the defensive side of the football. Nordstrom and Maloney will also play defense.
Last year’s disappointment definitely helped shape the offseason. It let the Hawks know that they need to bring their ‘A’ game every week.
“Obviously last year didn’t pan out how we wanted it to,” Maloney said. “But it’s a new season and every game, every week you go in knowing that an opponent can beat you. That’s what we’re focusing on right now.”
Maine South’s quest of a title in 2012 begins in Gurnee on Aug. 24 as the Hawks square off against Warren. Their annual game against Class 7A perennial powerhouse Wheaton Warrenville South occurs one week later in Wheaton.
High School Game of the Week - Aug 1 2012
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By Rob Valentin
BASEBALL—Lyons Township’s Max Larsen did just about everything he could to ensure the Lions captured the 2012 Phil Lawler Summer Classic last Thursday, which is considered the unofficial summer state championship.
Larsen was solid on the mound against Joliet Catholic Academy as he allowed three runs on five fits over six innings of work. The 5-foot 7-inch left-hander also drove in three runs, which helped propel Lyons Township to a 7-3 victory at Benedictine University in Lisle.
“Coming into this season I hadn’t pitched much,” Larsen said. “It was probably the funnest night of my life.”
“(Hitting) is really my strong point. Coming in, I was struggling a little bit but I just tried to keep it on the ground and get through holes.”
LT started strong by loading the bases in the top of the first. Tom Prescott pushed the first run across on a fielders choice and Larsen followed with an RBI single to center to give the Lions a 2-0 lead.
Joliet Catholic was able to get it back in the second inning as they scored three runs, one on a sacrifice fly and the other two on a single by Brock Pluth, who went 1-for-2 with two walks.
“Between games I went and hit with my dad and got locked in,” Pluth said. “I was seeing it just fine. Every ball I swung at I crushed.”
But Larsen was able to tie the game in the third and Sam Cybulski put the team ahead for good with a groundout. The Lions scored one more run on a fielders choice and added two insurance runs in the seventh with RBI coming from Prescott and Larsen.
Larsen was lights out on the mound from the third inning on. All it took was a little adjustment.
“I talked to Coach (Andy) Miller and he told me my speed was kind of off on the mound,” Larsen said. “I had to work faster. Then I just started throwing strikes and I got zoned in.
“I just wanted to mix speeds, throw strikes. I don’t overpower people a lot so I was just trying to hit spots. I stuck with the fastball mostly. Then I’d throw a curveball occasionally and that just fooled them.”
The Lions’ Keith Lehmann pitched the final inning to seal the win.
LT’s Mike Lorenz was named tournament MVP after batting over .500 during the series.
“I was just trying to hit the ball hard, put it in play and get on base,” Lorenz said. “It feels great (to win the title). It’s way up there with all those (other accomplishments). It’s a special thing and I’m really happy.”
Lorenz is hoping the team’s hot summer carries over into next spring’s season. LT is a perennial power and there’s no reason to think they wont be dangerous in 2013.
“It will definitely carry over into next season,” said Lorenz, who will be taking some time off before school starts. “I’m just going to relax and enjoy it. Baseball is over now.”
For JCA, it was a bittersweet day. They made it to the title game but didn’t have enough to bring home the big trophy.
“It just didn’t fall our way today,” Pluth said. “It’s horrible because back to last year with Lincoln-Way North, going up 12-0 and losing and then (losing to) Lincoln-Way West (this spring) and now this. I thought we had the edge to win it all. We have a great team and an extreme amount of depth.”