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STOKED LAWN -- Spartans and Richards come up with big wins

  • Written by By Jeff Vorva and Phil Arvia

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 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Oak Lawn running back Lewis Radosevich said he felt a huge weight off his chest as he reacts after scoring the game-winning TD with 10 seconds left in a 28-21 victory over Evergreen Park Friday night in Oak Lawn.

When Lewis Radosevich transferred from football power Mt. Carmel to Oak Lawn in 2015, he was hoping for big things his junior year.

But after the fourth game of the season, he was done.

“It was after the Eisenhower game and I had too many concussions so I had to sit out the rest of the season,” he said. “That was tough.’’

He watched on the sidelines as the losses mounted in a 1-8 season and the Spartans were outscored 333-73. It was their worst record since going 0-9 in 2001.

So when the Spartans opened this season 1-2, lost to Argo (which had a 12-game losing streak) and were down 21-7 in the closing minutes of the third quarter to Evergreen Park Friday night, some fans were leaving the game early, figuring they just witnessed another Spartans setback.

But quarterback Kyle McNamara tore off a 36-yard run and followed it up with a 3-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left in the third. Jabari Clark added a 63-yard run with 3:35 left in the game and when the team was scrambling to convert and third-and-two with no timeouts as time was ticking down, Radosevich burst through the line for a 30-yard touchdown run and the Spartans came up with a thrilling 28-21 victory at Napleton Field in Oak Lawn.

“I felt like that was a huge weight off my chest,” Radosevich said.

The Spartans improved to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the South Suburban Conference Red division. The Spartans host co-league leading Richards Friday and follow up with games against T.F. North, Eisenhower, Shepard and Reavis.

Conventional wisdom says the Spartans will likely not earn a playoffs spot after tacking that part of the schedule. But conventional wisdom wasn’t in play under the full moon Friday night when the Spartans were down 14 points.

“I expect nothing less from this team but to win,” Radosevich said. “We have the tools, we have the tenacity and we have the coaching. Last year was a shock to the system. We had new coaches and we had to weed out some people but this year, we’re getting the job done and our team is stepping up.’’

The Spartans had 353 yards on the night including 300 on the ground. Clark had 14 carries for 161 yards and two touchdowns. The defense, which stiffened in the fourth quarter to keep the Mustangs (2-2, 0-2) off the board, was led by Dan Lillard’s six solo tackles and five assists.

“We told the kids after the Argo game to keep fighting,” Spartans coach Nick Novak said. “As long as they believe in each other and trust each other, good things will happen.’’

Added Radosevich: “At halftime in our locker room, you would expect everyone to be mad and swearing. But everyone banded together. I didn’t have a doubt in my mind we would win this game.’’

Richards wins 'put up or shut up' game, hands Shepard first loss

In Richards’ closing scoring drive in a 38-10 South Suburban Conference Red win over Shepard,  running back Anthony Quinn finished things off with a 39-yard dash that started up the middle and bounced to the left sideline — after teammate Pat Doyle opened the series with three carries for 23 yards.

“I’m alright with that,” Doyle said. “It’s family.”

A family that didn’t feud through two opening losses to Lemont and Phillips this season, and certainly isn’t feuding now.

“We found a way to learn from our mistakes,” Bulldogs quarterback Jack Moran said. “It was put up or shut up time.”

From Shepard coach Dominic Passolano’s vantage point, Richards’ dismantling of his previously unbeaten Shepard football team Friday at Korhonen Field in Oak Lawn was pretty simple.

“They came out, they ran the ball, they won the battle up front on both sides of the ball,” he said. “They didn’t do anything special, but they hung their hats on the two kids in the backfield.”

Richards coach Tony Sheehan all but shrugged his agreement, saying, “Those are the two best players on the field. 

“That’s what we needed — we told those guys they had to take control. We needed one of those games where we kind of imposed our will and took care of business.”

Doyle (21 carries, 154 yards) and Quinn (5 carries, 104 yards, 3 touchdowns) helped the Bulldogs (2-2, 2-0 in the South Suburban Red) beat the Astros (3-1, 1-1) for the eighth straight time in a Sheehan/Passolano face-off. However, the pair of three-year starters were hardly Shepard’s only problems.

Andrew Shorts blocked one punt, nearly blocked another and clearly influenced a third. Linebacker Jack Moran forced a fumble — recovered by defensive back Anthony Thompson — and had an interception. Even punter/placekicker Andrew Calderon was impressively physical, lowering his shoulder to drive back a tackler and get first-down yardage on a fake punt.

“If we’re all just being physical, flying around, it’s fun,” Jake Moran said. “It’s fun when it’s physical and it’s easy when it’s fun.”

The Bulldogs certainly have had things easier since hitting the conference portion of their schedule.

“We schedule those teams for a reason,” Sheehan said of powers Lemont and Phillips. “Hopefully, it pays off in the long run.”

It appears to have in the short run. Richards totaled 27 points in opening with back-to-back losses. They’ve scored 38 points in each of their next two contests.

“I thought we played really well those first two weeks,” Quinn said. “It was a test. It made us better.”

The Bulldogs never trailed, going 83 yards in three plays after forcing Shepard to punt away the game’s first possession. Quinn scored from 40 yards out, running the same play Doyle hit for 31 yards the snap before.

“That’s our counter play,” Doyle said. “Our guards’ (Joe Carpenter and Vidal Wilson) pulls are just nasty. We just have to hit the hole.”

After the teams traded field goals — a 41-yarder for Shepard’s Mike Iturbe and and 22-yarder for Calderon — Shorts’ punt block set up Quinn’s second scoring run, from one yard out to make it 17-3.

Shorts nearly got Iturbe’s first punt, then easily batted down the second.

“You’ve got to get in your track stance,” Shorts said. “When you see the ball move, fire out like Usain Bolt.”

The Astros answered quickly, pulling within 17-10 on a 78-yard bomb from Jack Carberry to Rishard Blake, but that touchdown at 6:10 of the second quarter ended their scoring.

Quarterback Jake Moran — Jack’s twin brother — used a spin move to score from five yards out with 1:36 left in the second quarter, allowing Richards to take a 24-10 lead into halftime.

After throwing an interception on the opening drive of the second half, Jake Moran got the ball back courtesy of his brother’s big hit on Demetrius Harrison. 

“They had a lot of stuff going on that play — a fake (end around),” Jack Moran said. “I just hit him. I saw a body so I flew in there.”

Ten plays later — after Calderon’s nine-yard burst on a fake punt kept the drive alive — Jake Moran found Noah Petrusevski alone down the right sideline for a 42-yard touchdown pass. He was able to do so because his favorite target of the night, 6-foot-1 Nate Gimza (5 catches, 38 yards) was jumping up and down in the flat, screaming for the ball, while the 5-9 Petrusevski streaked behind him down the sideline.

St. Laurence wows St. Rita

  • Written by Aaron FitzPatrick

Century marks

A look at St. Laurence/St. Rita battles in the 2000s

2000—St. Rita 55, St. Laurence 33

2001—St. Rita 36, St. Laurence 8

2002—St. Rita 43, St. Laurence 0

2005—St. Rita 45, St. Laurence 0

2013—St. Rita 55, St. Laurence 14

2016—St. Laurence 45, St. Rita 42

 

Only one word can describe this football game.

Wow.

Last Friday’s non-conference contest between St. Laurence and St. Rita more than lived up to the hype and anyone’s expectation.

With both teams entering the contest at 2-1 and averaging over 40 points a game, the 45-42 last-minute win for the visiting Vikings had a lot of folks buzzing about the rivalry that once was between these two schools, who have met just twice in the previous 13 years. Throw in the fact that St. Rita scheduled the Vikings for its homecoming celebration and you have the seeds planted for a rivalry renewed.

The game had everything a rivalry needs starting with heroes.

And there were plenty of them.

St. Laurence receiver Levy Hamer made two fourth-down receptions on what turned out to be the winning drive including the final miraculous play on fourth-and-10 from the Mustang 44 with less than 30 seconds remaining. The ball was intended for slot receiver, Nick Garbie. The ball went through Garbie’s hands and into the waiting arms of Hamer who took it to the house to for the game winning score.

 The one-two punch of running back Fayezon Smart and quarterback Romello Washington also starred. The pair combined for nearly 600 yards of offense and four touchdowns. Smart had most of his 251 rushing yards in the first three quarters and when he began to cramp up in the fourth paving the way for Washington lead the team down the field with his arm.

“We’ve been playing together since second grade,” said Smart. “We’re best friends.”

“We’ve got each other’s back,” said Washington.

For St. Rita, quarterback Jake Zylman helped keep his team in the game throwing for 218 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 131. Shaun Rule made the most of his 37 yards rushing by scoring four touchdowns including the score that put the Mustangs ahead late in the fourth.

Adding spice to the renewed rivalry was the Mustang and Viking student sections battling each other all night as hard as the players on the field. Every chant from the St. Rita section was met with a chant of “We can’t hear you,” from the St. Laurence side or “Scoreboard, scoreboard, scoreboard,” as the Vikings had control of the game for nearly three and a half quarters.

Like any good rivalry game, it had plenty of lead changes and momentum shifts. It had both teams on the ropes looking like they might fold during the game only to get their second wind and make the game memorable. St. Rita had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds but couldn’t convert a field goal attempt.

While the St. Laurence players and fans went delirious and the St. Rita faithful sat stunned trying to figure out how this game got away from them, Viking head coach, Harold Blackmon said it came down to just one word --  luck.

“We got lucky,” said Blackmon. “It’s as simple as that. They’re a great team (St. Rita) but we let them back in the game and that’s just unacceptable.”

Blackmon let his team know of his displeasure in the postgame huddle. Anyone who didn’t see the game and walked by the Viking huddle would have thought they had just gotten blown out between Blackmon’s booming voice and the expression on the player’s faces. But, like any good coach, he let them know how he felt but not too much to dampen their excitement for what had just taken place. And it’s the second Class 8A team the Vikings beat this year after knocking off Benet in the first week of action. St. Laurence (3-1) could end up in Class 5A or 6A come playoff time.

Earlier in the night, one of the chants from the St. Rita student section was, “Go home Laurence.” The Laurence faithful obliged and went home with the “W” intact.

Fire could sure use these seven points

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

While the Chicago Fire’s wafer-thin chances for the playoffs continue to evaporate, the players can look back at a handful of wasted opportunities – including Friday night’s 2-2 tie against D.C. United at Toyota Park in Bridgeview – in which they played well but left points on the table.

An announced crowd of 13,807 seemed to enjoy itself when David Accam’s goal at the 29th minute gave the team a 2-1 lead. That lead held up for most of the night until D.C.’s Bobby Boswell scored in extra-time – the 92nd minute – to cost the Fire two points.

Couple that with previous late-game meltdowns:

 --On April 16, Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti scored in extra time of a 2-1 victory over the Fire, costing Chicago a point.

--On May 11, Vancouver’s Blaz Perez scored in the 88thminute of a 2-1 victory over Chicago, costing the team another point.

 --On June 18, Colorado’s Marco Pappa scored in the 89th minute for a 2-1 victory, costing the Fire another point.

--On July 31, the New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright Phillips score in the 90th minute for forge a 2-2 tie, costing the Fire two more points

Add Friday’s lost two points and that’s seven points that the Fire (6-13-9, 27 points) could have dearly used as they open this week’s action nine points behind sixth-place New England for the final playoff spot in the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference with  six more matches (18 potential points). The problem is that it needs to leap five teams to get there.

"I think, there is always a reason but we are not looking for excuses,’’ first-year Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said Friday after another lost opportunity. “Like I said, we never give excuses. There is no reason to fail even when you have the result today.

“It's tough for us but small defeats lead to great victories. That's how we look at this game -- something that we learn from because that will make us better in the future if we have that approach and that's something that I just can't wait to happen. I'm just going to continue working hard, encourage these guys who are committed 100 percent and doing their best and I really enjoy working with them. Until we get there, we'll push hard we will continue fighting." 

Recently acquired David Arshakyan made his first start for the Fire and thought the team should have pocketed three points.

"I feel good that I got my first starting game here but unfortunately we played a draw,’’ he said. “I thought we deserved to win this game and in the last seconds unfortunately we concede a goal so we'll keep pounding and I hope next game we'll win. I think everything's going to be okay." 

Razvan Cocis scored the Fire’s first goal in the first half.

The Fire visits New York City FC at 7 p.m. Friday at Yankee Stadium.

Look out for the December draft

Major League Soccer announced details for the Expansion Draft as Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC prepare for their inaugural MLS seasons in 2017.                 

The Expansion Draft will be held on 1 p.m. Dec.13 at and consists of five rounds, allowing Atlanta and Minnesota to select up to five players each from the list of eligible MLS players. 

The 20 current MLS clubs will have the ability to protect 11 players from their rosters. These 11 protected players, in addition to Generation adidas players who do not graduate from the program at the end of the season and Homegrown Players on a club's Supplemental or Reserve roster, will not be eligible for selection in the Expansion Draft. All remaining MLS players will be available for selection by the two expansion clubs. 

Each MLS club may lose a maximum of one player in the draft. Once a player is selected from a club's unprotected roster, that club is removed from the draft process and may not lose any further players. 

 

Fan-tastic match for Niego, Mighty Macs

  • Written by Phil Arvia

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Photos by Jeff Vorva

Marist fans heckle Mother McAuley’s Charley Niego as she waits for the ball to drop for a pass Tuesday night. The junior was a target all night but her 12 kills helped lead the Macs to a two-set victory over their neighborhood rival.

 

Charley Niego may be committed to Notre Dame, and she may be descended from Mother McAuley volleyball royalty, but when she’s in the Marist gym, the Mighty Macs junior is simply a target.

Or maybe, because of all the aforementioned, she’s the main target.

That’s why, though she’d already put down five kills midway through Tuesday’s first set, the fans in the Marist student section leaped at the chance presented by her first miss, a cannonading blast that went long to pull the RedHawks within 16-14.

“Overrated! Overrated!” they chanted.

Niego, daughter of McAuley legend Therese Boyle, whose number was brought out of retirement so Niego could wear it, heard. 

"Yeah, it was funny,” she said.

Of course, that was easy to say once Niego had the last laugh.  She responded with a team-high 12 kills as the Macs, extending a streak dating to 2012, won their sixth straight over their neighborhood rivals, 25-19, 25-18, in front of a standing-room crowd estimated at 1,800.

“Great players block that stuff out,” Niego said. “Then they prove (the hecklers) wrong. It’s awesome to play in front of this big of a crowd."

Though Central Michigan-bound junior Savannah Thompson had four kills in a six-point span immediately after Niego’s miss to tie the opening set at 18, Niego had kills for the final three points — knocking a Marist defender off her feet with the first swing, blasting through a block for the second and going soft down the line to close it out.

McAuley’s power — Kaitlyn O’Connell, another 6-footer and heavy hitter, finished with eight kills — was the difference in a match where the hitting errors were few and digs plentiful.

O'Connell had 45 kills in five matches at last weekend's Louisville (Ky.) Invitational, where the Macs went 4-1.

“I think I was able to kick it up to another gear,” O’Connell said. “The team got on me early because I wasn’t doing so good.”

In the second set, O’Connell had two solo blocks and a kill in a 7-0 McAuley run to put the Macs up 12-10. They never trailed again.

“There was a lot of good defense being played on both sides,” McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said. “It makes for an exciting match.”

And a tight one.

McAuley’s biggest lead of the night came on match point, in a set in which Marist managed its biggest advantage, at 10-5.

“We just didn’t finish the points,” first-year Marist coach Jordan Vidovic said. “It’s frustrating. If we could finish off some of that defensive effort with kills …

"We couldn't get out points in big enough bunches, like we're used to doing."

Thompson finished with six kills, all in the first set, and added 13 digs. Maggie Meyer led the RedHawks (9-3) with eight kills and six service points, while Grace Green had 16 digs and Molly Murrihy had 23 assists.

Libero Emma Reilly and Niego led McAuley (10-1) with 12 digs each, while sophomore setter Nancy Kane had 27 assists and matched O’Connell with seven digs.

“We were a little tentative tonight playing in front of the neighborhood crowd,” DeJarld said. “Big matches in full gyms like this will prepare us for state. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Tell it to the Marist student section — last heard chanting, “Let’s play football …” 

 

A WILD and CRAZY night of football with Brother Rice and St. Laurence

  • Written by By Phil Arvia and Jeff Vorva

 

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Brother Rice’s Xavian Valladay breaks Crete-Monee’s Dabion Couch’s tackle attempt en route to a 55-yard touchdown run in a 61-44 victory Friday night in Chicago. It was the first of his five TDs on the night.

 

 

 

Crusaders make Warriors cry uncle

 

A year ago,a unique family dynamic factored in as Brother Rice running back Xavian Valladay played a secondary role, frequently blocking as a lead back for Clifton Taylor — who just happens to be his uncle.

“Nepheeeew,” Crusaders coach Brian Badke said with a smile, mimicking the way Taylor addressed Valladay last season. “He’s just a great kid. But we knew Xavian would step right in this year.

“(Valladay) did the work. He put on about 15 pounds this spring. He knows how to read in our zone scheme. He’s not a dancer — he’s just always moving forward.”

Friday, Valladay carried 36 times for 277 yards and five touchdowns in a 61-44 win over Crete-Monee that set a Rice record for combined scoring.

“He’s a big-time player,” Badke said. “He really showed it tonight — he’s like the Kansas Comet (ex-Bears great Gale Sayers). He’s a playmaker who really wants the ball in crucial situations.”

In the afterglow of his performance, one of the first people to come to Valladay’s mind was Taylor.

“I do miss that kid,” he said of his father’s brother. “I miss being around him. We’ve been growing up together since we were around six or seven years old.”

After his name-making performance, Valladay anticipated a chat with Taylor.

“The first thing I’ll tell him is we had a big start. We scored on the third play of the game. Like he’d always say, ‘Whatever you decide to do, depend on your offensive line.’”

After being stopped for no gain on the first play from scrimmage, then an encroachment foul against the Warriors, Valladay scampered 55 yards to the touchdown he insisted was his favorite of the night — though he later added scores 56, 8, 1 and 5 yards.

“Those were big blocks John Farano and Kyle (Mehok-)Doherty made for that cutback to just open up on the right side. I just flew through there,” the running back said.

Once Valladay got off and running, it seemed everyone was.

Combined, the teams racked up 1,008 total yards. The first quarter ended with Rice (2-0) up 35-19, and after the Warriors (1-1) closed to within 35-32 at the half, a pair of rushing touchdowns in the third left the Crusaders ahead 49-32 heading into the final 12 minutes.

Crete-Monee, ranked third in Class 6A by the Associated Press, got within 52-44 with 1:58 left, but Valladay set up his own 5-yard run for the final touchdown with a 46-yard burst on the preceding snap. The scoring wasn’t complete until Rice’s John Richardson kicked his second field goal of the evening, a 41-yarder, with 18.3 seconds left.

Crusaders quarterback Dino Borelli was 14-of-27 for 20 yards and two touchdowns, both to Branden Houston (6 catches, 84 yards). Crete-Monee’s Isaiah Rucker completed 29-of-51 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns, both to Kevin Pate (11 catches, 195 yards), who also had rushing touchdowns of 1, 3 and 2 yards.

“That could’ve been the longest football game ever,” Badke said. “Crete-Monee is a very good football team, and they came ready to play. Obviously, we gave up a few big plays, but that team has big-play ability. What do they have, six Division I prospects over there?”

One of those is cornerback Juawan Treadwell, the brother of Minnesota Vikings rookie Laquon Treadwell. The younger brother was largely responsible for limiting Brother Rice wideout Ricky Smalling, an Illinois recruit, to 57 yards on four catches.

Valladay, too, has a D-I offer, from Western Illinois. Before the season began, Badke predicted more would come as Valladay moved into the feature back role.

“After tonight,” Badke said, noting scouts from the University of Wyoming were in the stands Friday, “it looks like I might be right.”

 

 

Columnsig924

Muskrat love for Rowell and Knights in slugfest win over Vikings

There’s a lot of David and Goliath stuff going on in high school football so far.

In Week 1 of the season, St. Laurence, who could either be a Class 5A or 6A team come playoff time, beat a traditionally strong Class 8A team, Benet, on the road.

On Friday night however, the Associated Press’s No. 1 Class 3A team in the state, Immaculate Conception, came to Burbank and beat the Vikings (which was ranked ninth in Class 6A)) by a this-is-not-a-misprint score of 62-49.

As the disappointed Vikings left the field and went into the school to talk about the train that hit them, the Knights players and coaches were screaming “We shocked the world – we shocked the world!!!!”

Well, I’m sure that there are a few pockets of the world where a non-conference high school game in Illinois would not generate a second thought, but I was sure impressed.

The way this chain of events is going, IC better look over its shoulder because there might be a Class 1A team that is licking its chops, looking for an upset.

As the score indicated, this was a goofy game, maybe even goofier than that game at Brother Rice (a 61-44 victory over Crete-Monee) on the same night. There were fireworks shot off every time the Vikings scored and converted an extra point or two-point conversion. It was a good thing they didn’t shoot them off for both teams or the school would be in such a debt that only Donald Trump can get it out of with the snap of his smallish fingers.

Jordan Rowell, who ran for 207 yards and four touchdowns in the Knights’ 38-0 season opening win over defending Class 3A champ Bishop McNamara, rushed 19 times for 260 yards and four TDs against St. Laurence and caught five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.

The pass reception for the score came in the third quarter after the ball was expertly tossed into his mitts from Luke Ricobene, who escaped on defender and was being wrestled to the ground by another.

“Our quarterback is a muskrat, you know?” Rowell said.

I’m not sure what that meant, but it sounded funny and the quarterback laughed when he heard it. The muskrat said he was happy with the TD.

“I don’t know quite what happened but I threw the ball toward Jordan when the guy was getting close to me,” Ricobene said. “I hit the ground and I got up and we said ‘we don’t know what happened, but it’s a touchdown.’ ’’

The Knights had 667 yards on the night. St. Laurence (1-1) had 447, including 167 yards and three touchdowns from Fayezon Smart. Quarterback Romello Washington ran for 78 yards and threw for 174.

To make things even more miserable for the Vikings, the heart and soul of their defense, Jimmy Burnette, had to be carted off the field with an apparent knee injury. He was a leading tackler last year that nabbed nine interceptions in 2015.

It was an entertaining night but not a good one for St. Laurence.

“Obviously IC has a very special team,” Vikings coach Harold Blackmon said. “But we made too many mistakes – too many mistakes all the way around. It’s not just the defense. We gave up an onside kick and we worked on that this week. They executed and we didn’t.’’

The Vikings host the aforementioned Bishop McNamara Friday night in their first Catholic League White conference game. Last year, St. Laurence beat the Kankakee team, 70-40.

Bishop McNamara, by the way, came close to pulling off a David/Goliath upset of its own during Week 2, dropping a 20-14 overtime decision to traditional Class 8A power Bolingbrook.

McNamara was missing Western Michigan receiving recruit Chris Bell, who injured his thumb and likely won’t play against the Vikings.

I guess the only thing I can advise it to not be surprised by anything that happens in this game.