CHICAGO - Check in around 6:45 p.m. for real-time updates from Gately Stadium.
October 2008 Archives
This Game of the Week preview incorrectly identified Naperville Central as the sixth seed in Friday night's playoff game against Mount Carmel. The No. 11 Redhawks will take on the sixth-seeded Caravan at Gately Stadium. And I'd be surprised if that's actually Clint Woods in the photo. Not sure what exactly happened, but both errors are inexcusable - I apologize. We'll make it up the rest of the playoffs.
At The Office, before the 2008 season began, we guessed the number of victories each program would finish with, and how the DuPage Valley Conference would play out. Those projections fall comfortably on the laughable-to-accurate range, though this weekend could change that assessment.
Let's start with "What Went Wrong":
Team: Neuqua Valley (4-5)
Staffer: Paul LaTour
Prediction: 6 wins
The quote: "(A) return to the playoffs should be in the offing for Neuqua."
The bright side: LaTour now has a new nugget for historical reference, such as: "The last time the Wildcats were eliminated from playoff consideration in a presidential election year after a game that ended with a combined final score less than the integer 21 was 2008."
Team: Benet (2-7)
Staffer: Sean Fuchs
Prediction: 5 wins
The quote: "With five teams on the schedule that won eight or more games last year, including Class 6A state champion Joliet Catholic, the Redwings will do well to get those five victories."
The bright side: Fuchs no longer covers Benet and has taken his demented sense of humor to Bolingbrook. Here's how he led a recent column on The Brook: "Going undefeated in the regular season is a great accomplishment. It also means nothing."
And continue with "What Might Go Wrong":
This morning Paul LaTour analyzes the Upstate Eight Conference and how it has historically struggled in the postseason. R.J. Gerber of The Courier News agrees, saying that undefeated Bartlett has something to prove in Class 8A.
The Naperville North program has already earned that respect, but if it is to repeat, then it may at some point have to lean more on its passing game. Its road back to Champaign could go through 9-0 Bolingbrook, which, as Bill Scheibe of The Herald News explains, has a strong secondary.
And finally Stephen Spiewak of MaxPreps shares his three games in 24 hours odyssey, which began at Harshbarger-Welzel Field last Friday.
Straight from the IHSA, a wide-angle view of the Class 8A field:
State Champions (any class)
10 Mt. Carmel
2 Naperville North
2 Maine South
1 Brother Rice
1 Downers Grove South
1 Frankfort Lincoln-Way East
1 Naperville Central
1 Lincoln-Way Central
1 Loyola Academy
Class by Record
9-0: 4 teams
8-1: 5 teams
7-2: 9 teams
6-3: 9 teams
5-4: 5 teams
Big & Small (Enrollment)
Big: Lane (6745)
Small: Schaumburg (2575)
Veteran & Rookie
25th playoff appearance for Mt. Carmel and Simeon
8th playoff appearance for Lincoln-Way East
Consecutive Appearances (min. 10)
23 Mt. Carmel
17 Maine South
14 Lincoln-Way Central
12 Downers Grove South
12 Naperville North
Tickets for Saturday's Simeon-Naperville North first-round Class 8A playoff game at Benedictine University will be available for purchase beginning Wednesday at North's principal's office from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It will keep the same hours on Thursday and Friday. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the gates will open 90 minutes prior. Tickets cost $4 and no passes will be accepted.
Here's what The Sun staff's saying about Naperville-area prep football this week:
The Internet revolution has forced media companies to use new metrics for its products, concepts like "unique readers" that go beyond traditional circulation numbers. "Unique" would be one way to describe those who comment on the Friday night Game of the Week Live Blog, but make no mistake their contributions are certainly appreciated.
To keep up interest, some - you know who you are - have suggested posting pictures of hot babes. We're not quite at that point yet, because the Live Blog continues to grow and last week's numbers from the Wheaton Warrenville South-Naperville North game were absolutely off the charts. But in the days leading up to the Game of the Week, we want to hear more from you on this blog. So commenters like Southside99, nnfan, X-Tiger, jeff and NNHS 06 - we'll be asking for your thoughts on 2008 playoff field. Please keep the comments coming and let's start with this talking point: Where should have No. 2 Naperville North been seeded in Class 8A?
Naperville North, a 9-0 No. 2 seed in Class 8A, opens the playoffs on Saturday at 5 p.m. against No. 15 Simeon (6-3) at Benedictine University in Lisle.
The slim chance Neuqua Valley had left to reach the playoffs was eliminated earlier this afternoon. Neuqua, which hadn't missed the postseason since 2001, finished 4-5. The Wildcats needed fewer than 256 teams to have at least five wins.
Check in around 7:15 p.m. for real-time updates from Harshbarger-Welzel Field.
Naperville North's first-round playoff game with be held at Benedictine University in Lisle, Huskies athletic director Doug Smith told The Sun on Friday afternoon before the showdown against Wheaton Warrenville South for the DuPage Valley Conference championship.
The coming installation of synthetic turf at Harshbarger-Welzel Field will displace the Huskies as they try to defend their Class 8A title.
First-round playoff games must be held on either Friday Oct. 31 or Saturday Nov. 1. North Central College is already booked for the state soccer finals that weekend, as well as Nov. 7-8.
The IHSA will announce the pairings on Saturday night.
-Today we catch up with Nick Mlady and wonder if Wheaton Warrenville South-Naperville North will be another Instant Classic.
-It's already drawing national attention. MaxPreps calls it the state's game of the year and embedded at the bottom of that preview story is links to videos of North and WW South.
-According to a the latest IHSA media release, Naperville Central (5-3) and Waubonsie Valley (5-3) are both in the playoffs with a win Friday night. A Neuqua Valley (4-4) win keeps it on the bubble but with 47 playoff points entering Friday the Wildcats should have some tiebreaker advantages.
-Random notes from the IHSA: If Providence Catholic beats Guerin, the entire five-team Chicago Catholic Blue will play in the postseason, making it the only league in the state to have all of its members qualify. ... The Upstate Eight Conference has a chance for six teams to qualify.
Weather concerns have moved Friday's Wheaton Warrenville South-Naperville North sophomore game to the practice field at 4:30 p.m. Gates for the varsity game will open at 5:30 p.m. Kickoff at Harshbarger-Welzel Field is still scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Eddie Burns is a contributing writer for The Sun who previously covered prep sports, college football and the Kansas City Chiefs for a daily newspaper in Missouri. He will be part of our coverage team tomorrow night at Harshbarger-Welzel Field and oh by the way he is a Naperville North graduate. Below he shares a snapshot of this rivalry:
I figure I'll throw in my two cents. I was not at last year's game, but I do actually remember going to the Sept.1993 contest when I was in eighth grade. Both schools were fresh off their 1992 state championships in 5 & 6A. The buildup was huge because (I think) it was the DVC opener.
It was a close game throughout and North held a 10-7 late. (The) Huskies had the Tigers backed up deep in their own territory when WW South then-coach John Thorne busted out the mother of all trick plays ... the hook-and-ladder.
(It) worked ... the incredible play covered 92-yards with 2:27 remaining. The Tigers went on to win the game 14-10.
You know as a sports writer there are certain games you don't forget attending (and) this is one for me. I know I was only in 8th grade, but I still remember watching that play unfold. The WW South QB at the time was Tim Lester. (He was NCC's defensive coordinator last year and is now Elmhurst's head coach.) The play went from Lester to Kasey Klaas on the sideline and he threw a lateral to Bobby Nelson, who outran the Huskies defense.
As it turns out, Eddie has a pretty good memory. This is the lead to Bill Stone's archived game story from the Sept. 18, 1993 edition of The Beacon-News:
Warrenville --This game will be talked about for a long time.
Most of the legends will center around the unpredictable hook-and-ladder
pass play with less than three minutes left that gave Wheaton-Warrenville
South a 14-10 victory over Naperville North in front of an estimated crowd
of more than 8,000 fans at Grange Field on Friday.
With the Tigers trailing 10-7 and stuck on their 9-yard line, quarterback
Tim Lester threw a routine 11-yard curl pass to Kasey Klaas, who then
turned toward the sideline and pitched the ball to running back Bobby
Nelson scampered the remaining 80 yards down the sideline for the winning
touchdown and an incredible finish to perhaps the greatest regular-season
game in the school's rich football tradition.
Not only were the Tigers (3-0) the defending Class 5A champions, and the
Huskies (2-1) the defending Class 6A champions but the Tigers and Huskies
are ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the latest Class 6A state poll.
The message boards have been lighting up for Wheaton Warrenville South at Naperville North. It's No. 2 versus No. 3 for the DuPage Valley Conference title. According to the IHSA's latest projections, the two programs will be separated into different classes for the postseason.
After icing his ankle Tuesday night - a routine procedure - North quarterback Matt Manade was thoughtful and relaxed in a nearly 20-minute interview. Today we look at what the senior captain went through to reach this point, and what he might see across the line of scrimmage Friday night. Manade said the Huskies didn't start preparing for WW South until Week 9.
"We're always a team where you got to focus on the game at hand," Manade said. "You can't look too far ahead. Obviously, it's always in the back of your mind."
Now that it's almost here, who wins this game and why?
Tickets for Friday's Wheaton Warrenville South at Naperville North game will be available for purchase beginning Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at North's main office, which will keep the same hours on Thursday and Friday.
Tickets are $4 for adults and $2 for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. No reserved seats will be sold. Gates will open Friday at 4 p.m., with the sophomore game to follow at 5 p.m. The varsity game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
According to the press release issued by North athletic director Doug Smith, no one will be allowed into the stadium prior to 4 p.m. Saving seats is prohibited - blankets placed on the bleachers will be removed, and there will be no passes to move in and out of the stadium.
Check in around 7:15 p.m. for real-time updates from Memorial Stadium.
Once he was done holding court/getting his ankles taped in the Naperville Central training room, senior H-back Antwon Harris talked X's and O's before Thursday's practice and explained his role in the spread offense.
The key for Harris Friday night will be beating Glenbard North's cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage. Beyond individual assignments, as a team Central is feeling confident. Harris believes the Redhawks are better prepared after absorbing losses in consecutive weeks to two of the state's best teams.
"Wheaton South, (they) whooped us, everybody knows but that wasn't (our) best," Harris said. "We just had a bad game...That game just pretty much taught us a lesson, (that) we have to come in (from) the get-go.
"If we play a good team like that, (you) got to come in firing right off the bat, cause that's what they did. They came in, scored the first three drives, 21-0 just like that.
"It just taught us a lesson (to) come in prepared for a game. Then that (Naperville) North game just taught us another lesson. (We) only put up 14 points on the board but we were moving the ball against them so we just need to put the ball in the end zone more."
Elsewhere Paul LaTour breaks down the other area matchups with these capsules.
In The Beacon News Jim Owczarski looks ahead to the postseason.
Check back Friday night for the Live Blog from Memorial Stadium.
Naperville Central defensive lineman Mike Kraft (ankle) has been practicing for Glenbard North this week but will be a game-time decision Friday night, according to Redhawks coach Mike Stine.
His presence would help Central (5-2) slow an offense averaging more than 216 rushing yards per game. Tyler Doll has run for 1,029 yards and 15 touchdowns for a Glenbard North (4-3) team headlined by Northwestern recruit Evan Watkins. The senior is completing only 48 percent of his passes and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 7:4. But the dual-threat quarterback is also averaging more than six yards per carry and has five rushing touchdowns.
A win would cement a playoff berth for either team - Glenbard North might have the toughest schedule in the state.
Last season Central hung on for a wild 35-28 win in Carol Stream, and the Panthers, then a 4-4 bubble team, responded a week later by clinching a postseason bid that took them all the way to the Class 8A final.
Rivals has an interesting story out of Florida: Naples 91, Estero 0.
"Hey," offered Estero defensive line coach Pat Hayes after the one-sided affair, "I didn't even know 91 was a multiple of seven."
We've seen several blowouts this season, though nothing quite like this. It speaks to a larger issue: What's the etiquette in these situations?
Waubonsie Valley's Perry Levin picked off Bloom Township four times Friday to help the Warriors win their fourth straight game.
Levin's four interceptions ties him for sixth all-time in the IHSA record books for most interceptions by an individual in one game.
"His interceptions were big, because it gave us field position and he played almost a receiver out there getting the tipped balls and the passes from the quarterback," Waubonsie coach Paul Murphy said.
Levin's fourth interception iced the game. The Warriors (4-3) started the season 0-3.
With two games remaining and a 3-4 record, Neuqua Valley knows it must run the table or face playoff extinction. That would end a six-year run of postseason appearances.
If the scenario sounds familiar, that's because the Wildcats faced the same deal last season.
Join me around 7 p.m. for the Sun's Game of the Week live blog. We should have a good one tonight with host Neuqua Valley taking on its long-time rival Bartlett. The Wildcats (3-3, 2-2 UEC) enter after back-to-back wins helped save their season, while the undefeated Hawks (6-0, 4-0) are considered one of the top Class 8A teams in the state.
One week after getting blown out by Wheaton Warrenville South, Naperville Central proved it could hang with one of the top teams in the state. The Redhawks entered the fourth quarter of the Wes Spencer Classic last week tied with Naperville North at 21, though the Huskies then struck for two big touchdowns.
Those scores came well after two Central defensive starters - tackle Mike Kraft and cornerback Kalen Petty - left the game with injuries. Petty, a special teams presence who has notched 40 total tackles, is expected to return Friday night at West Chicago while Central is being cautious with Kraft's ankle. The senior lineman with nine sacks and 47 total tackles is doubtful.
Central dropped hints about its potential coming off a 45-7 homecoming loss to WW South. As Central coach Mike Stine said Thursday: "You feel good about that because after you have a game like we did the week before, you never know how you're gonna come out emotionally. (That's) everybody - the coaches, the players, they don't know."
Central (4-2) should have more than enough offensive firepower Friday night against a West Chicago team (1-5) that's already been shut out twice and hasn't scored more than 20 points in a game this season. With a win over the Wildcats, Central could virtually clinch a playoff spot and begin positioning for seeding. The crosstown showed that perhaps the Redhawks aren't as far away as it seemed only one week earlier.
"Usually most games come down to five or six plays and you got to make plays when you get an opportunity. (That) was a game we put ourselves in a situation to have a chance to win," Stine said. "(We) just didn't execute, the ball didn't necessarily bounce our way."
Waubonsie Valley (3-3) has yet to earn a true road win. It lost at Prairie Ridge and St. Charles East and the win against Neuqua Valley - the night that might have turned its season around - came at neutral site North Central College.
That's the challenge facing Waubonsie Friday night at Bloom Trail High School. The Warriors go out of conference and on the road to face Bloom Township, a team consolidated from two schools - Bloom and Bloom Trail.
"You're going into a strange environment. We've never been there to play," Waubonsie coach Paul Murphy told The Sun's Paul LaTour this week. "We're 0-2 on the road...so we've got to (do) a better job of treating it like a business trip and not like a vacation. We've got to come off the bus ready to go.
"We've already talked to our team about it (Monday) and we talked again (Tuesday): 'Guys, we've got something to prove here. Yeah, we've gone on a nice roll here, but we've been playing at home and at North Central. ... Now we've got to prove that we can do this on the road.'"
After starting out 0-3, Waubonsie (3-1 Upstate Eight Conference) still has a lot to play for - a playoff berth and a share of the conference title. Last season wide receiver Alex Stokowski connected with quarterback Tyler Castro for three touchdown catches in a 34-0 homecoming win over Bloom in Aurora - and that was well before Waubonsie became the passing team it is now.
But beyond the numbers or opponent, the process could have an impact by Week 10.
"This is like a playoff trip. If you do make the playoffs, you don't know where the state's going to send you. We've got to learn how to travel. We've got to learn to come off the bus and be ready to play a football game. And I think it's a great challenge to see if we truly deserve to become a playoff team," Murphy said. "Can we go out on the road now and win a game in a hostile environment against a team that's got the same record as us? I've got to assume they're looking at (this as) a playoff game as well, so we've got to be ready for their best shot."
UPDATE: According to published reports Wheaton Warrenville South running back Peter Jarrett will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
That's what they're planning at Wheaton Warrenville South for Friday's crosstown game against Wheaton North (4-2). Fans are supposed to wear orange to Grange Field. Not sure how that concept worked out for the White Sox or Georgia Bulldogs but then again WW South (6-0) hasn't lost a DuPage Valley Conference or regular season game since 2004, so the Tigers probably don't need any gimmicks.
MaxPreps, a CBS Sports affiliate, is tracking both teams this week in conjunction with Nike. You can find related content here - videos are expected later in the week.
(Full disclosure: This reporter was interviewed by the Web site and is laughably described as an "expert." Once you finally suppress your giggles, Naperville North fans might be able to find a few nuggets - the Huskies (6-0) close their regular season with Wheaton North and WW South.)
Taylor Bell checks in with Naperville North coach Larry McKeon in this recruiting story. Within this piece, McKeon suggests that running back Nick Mlady could project as a Big Ten linebacker, and puts two more Huskies in historical perspective. Bell writes:
McKeon predicts that sophomore linebacker Nick Liska has the potential to be one of the best players he has produced in 35 years. Liska, a 6-2, 235-pounder, is his team's leading tackler. He missed last season with a broken arm but has emerged as a difference-maker this season.
The leading prospect on the Naperville North squad is offensive lineman Jake Baratz, a 6-5, 275-pounder who is committed to Arizona. He missed four games with a sprained knee last year but has gotten into superb condition this season -- he once weighed 290 -- by improving his quickness and agility. He ranks behind 1987 star Jim Hannon, who went to Indiana, as the best offensive lineman McKeon has produced.
Junior Nick Linne managed the game very well in his first four varsity starts at quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in his first 94 attempts. Naperville Central went 4-0 during that opening stretch, positioning itself for a likely playoff berth.
The Redhawks (4-2) still need that fifth win, but at least they have emerged from the other side of what has to be the two most brutal weeks in Illinois prep football. Against Wheaton Warrenville South and Naperville North, Central was outscored 80-28 and in those DuPage Valley Conference losses Linne threw seven interceptions.
But those numbers needs some context. There were several drops across the past two weeks, and one deflection led to an interception last week. In the WW South game, one interception came on a fourth-and-long situation - it basically functioned as a punt - and another was right near the end of the first half. And of course Central was forced to throw once it fell behind 21-0 against WW South and trailed North by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The point is that Linne has played better than the statistics suggest. Even accounting for the last two weeks, the junior is completing nearly 59 percent of his passes and still has thrown for 1,004 yards and eight touchdowns. The Redhawks like his makeup.
"He has that great quarterback demeanor. He never gets too high, doesn't get too low," Central coach Mike Stine said of Linne after a Week 2 victory over Lake Park. "He's cool, calm and collected, doesn't get rattled."
As the season's progressed, Antwon Harris has emerged as a go-to receiver with 20 receptions for 292 yards, though the 5-foot-9-inch senior hasn't yet caught a touchdown pass. Riley O'Toole was supposed to be the big-play receiver, but defenses have really started to key in on the 6-foot-4-inch senior.
O'Toole's numbers are still good - 16 catches for 286 yards and four touchdowns - and no one does more for Central than the wide receiver/safety/punter/return man. But WW South and North limited to O'Toole to three catches for 34 yards.
How Linne and O'Toole reconnect will be one way to track the rest of Central's season. But don't expect Linne to fade away. His teammates respect how he's already earned varsity letters in basketball and baseball.
"Being the athlete that (Linne) is, and going through all that adversity, all the sports that he's played, he's great at bouncing back," defensive lineman Mike Kraft said during Central's 4-0 start. "Even though he's a junior, he has more experience in varsity games than most of us."
Naperville North moved up to No. 2 in the Chicago Sun-Times rankings after Friday's 35-21 victory over Naperville Central, and from here the schedule is manageable.
Up next is West Aurora (3-3, 1-3), which is 0-11 against North since joining the DuPage Valley Conference in 1997.
The Huskies (6-0, 4-0) then travel to Wheaton North (4-2, 2-2) on Oct. 17. The question then will be which Falcons are available. Quarterback Taylor Graham reportedly broke his ankle and will miss the rest of the season. Running back Mike Trumpy, a Northwestern recruit, sat out last week's 24-21 win over Glenbard East with an injury - his status will be something to monitor as the Falcons prepare for No. 3 Wheaton Warrenville South on Friday.
By Week 9 the hype will be in overdrive for another DVC showdown. WW South might come into Naperville having won its previous 27 DVC games, as well as 35 consecutive regular season games. Meanwhile the Huskies could be defending a 13-game winning streak that includes a Class 8A championship. It would have started after a 42-41 triple-overtime loss to WW South last year in the regular-season finale.
After a 35-21 crosstown loss on Friday night, Naperville Central coach Mike Stine was asked to compare the 2007 Class 8A champion Naperville North team to the current edition. His response might as well be a warning to the rest of the DuPage Valley Conference and the 8A field.
"Their offense is I think equally as good. Obviously, they had the great quarterback last year - (Jordan) Tassio's special. (They) might have total more overall weapons this year than last year. (All) three of those backs can hurt you," Stine said. "Defensively, they don't get a lot of credit (but) they're physical, they run to the ball very well."
How would you assess North's potential?
Check in around 7 p.m. for crosstown updates from North Central College.
By wv2010, Waubonsie Valley High School student
In two short weeks, Waubonsie Valley has moved from the back half of the UEC standings to 3rd at 2-1 in conference play. That status will be seriously contested tonight, as a talented Lake Park team comes into Death Valley with both pride and playoff aspirations at stake. Lake Park posts an overall record of 1-4, but the Warriors must ignore this seemingly dismal mark. The Lancers beat Neuqua Valley 20-6, played Naperville Central to within eight points, and just last week took conference leading St. Charles East into double overtime, eventually losing a thriller 42-41. Simply put, Lake Park has been a squad that plays tough throughout, but fades out just before they can pull out a victory.
Three things to look for Friday night at North Central College: how much pressure Central's defense can generate against North's offensive line; the way two first-year starting quarterbacks respond in their Crosstown debut; which team makes game-changing plays on special teams.
Make your predictions here.
The Wildcats need a 3-1 finish if they hope to reach the postseason for a seventh year in a row. But it's a season that continues to see little go right for the team from south Naperville.