Brother Rice ready for 'Part 2'

  • Written by Phil Arvia


Photo by  Jeff Vorva 

Branden Houston had 10 catches and two touchdowns for Brother Rice, who lost in a shootout to Loyola on Friday night in a battle for the Catholic League Blue title.


There were no tears, no anguished cries, really no need for Brian Badke to say what the Brother Rice football players kneeling around him were clearly thinking.

“We just gave them a gift in October,” the coach said. “We’re going to take it back in November.”

He spoke a bit more, then crouched to meet the Crusaders’ gaze.

“Eyes on me,” he said. “You will be champions.”

It will have to be a Class 8A state championship now. The Catholic League Blue title went Friday to defending 8A champ Loyola, which captured a titanic tussle between unbeaten squads, 48-37, in Mt. Greenwood.

The Ramblers (9-0, 4-0) won for the 26th straight time and sewed up a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Brother Rice (8-1, 3-1) slipped to a No.8 seed and will host Fremd. Brother Rice and Loyola could face each other in the quarterfinals.

“We know Part 2 is coming soon,” Crusaders wide receiver Ricky Smalling (12 catches, 121 yards) said. “We know what we have to do and what we have to work on. We’re going to be so much better in the playoffs.”

Both teams were plenty good in the regular season finale. 

The lead changed hands nine times, the last when the Ramblers’ all but unstoppable tight end/wildcat quarterback, Duke recruit Jake Marwede, scored the fourth of his five touchdowns with 9:15 to play. He capped the scoring, and a 13-carry, 87-yard day, with a four-yard rumble with 2:15 left.

The former score came two snaps after Loyola gained 33 yards on a fourth-and-six from the Rice 43 with pass off a fake punt. The latter after the Ramblers took over on the Crusaders’ 37 following a fumbled punt snap.

Rice also had an extra point attempt blocked in the second quarter, ending a streak of 101 such kicks made by John Richardson over two seasons.

“Special teams have always been our strength,” Badke said. “They hurt us tonight.”

So did turnovers, of which Rice had three. The first came with less than a minute left in the first half, after a Loyola fumble forced by Michael Butler-Kindle and recovered by Iben King gave the Crusaders, leading 23-14, the ball at their own 31. 

Rather than taking that edge to the locker room, Rice tried to add to it. After being sacked on first down, quarterback Dino Borrelli (28-of-42, 407 yards, 3 TD) was hit again, fumbling away to the Ramblers, who scored one second before the half to cut the edge to 23-21.

Asked if he considered taking a knee, Badke said, “I never have. I probably should have in that situation.”

Branden Houston, who had touchdown catches of 46 and 37 yards among his 10 grabs for 213, led Rice’s offensive fireworks. Patrick Murphy (2 receptions, 42 yards) added a 33-yard touchdown catch while Wyoming recruit Xazavian Valladay (14 carries, 50 yards) had touchdown runs of seven and 27 yards.

Ramblers quarterback Tommy Herion was 17-of-32 for 205 yards. After Loyola’s starting tailback, Hamid Bullie, went down with a knee injury on his third carry of the day, Kyle Rock, who typically starts the Ramblers’ home games, stepped up for 110 yards, including a 20-yard score, on 17 carries.

The Crusaders got dinged up as well, notably the team’s leading tackler, linebacker Brian Olsen, who returned from a neck injury suffered on the opening play of the second half and was limping noticeably in the postgame handshake line. 

“It was tough, they’re a physical team,” Olsen said. “But it’s the second season now. We’re 0-0. We’ll see them in the quarterfinals."


McAuley No. 1 in the nation in volleyball

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 2 or 3 McAUley

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Mother McAuley’s volleyball team is ranked high in the in the nation in three polls, including No. 1 by

Volleyball regionals began this week and last week, Mother McAuley’s team picked up a nice surprise as the Mighty Macs were ranked No. 1 in the nation by

McAuley, 33-1 heading into this week’s regional action, is also ranked fifth by USA Today and 14th by Max Preps.

The postseason started Monday and regional title games will be decided tonight, Thursday.

Locally, McAuley is at the Class 3A Hinsdale Central Regional and was in line to face either Downers Grove South or Hinsdale Central at 6 p.m.

A possible showdown between Sandburg and Lyons Township could take place at the Argo Regional at 6 p.m.

At Stagg, a Marist-Downers Grove North battle could be on tap at 6 p.m.

Winners of these three regionals feed into the Marist Sectional Tuesday and Thursday.

In Class 2A, Queen of Peace is hosting a regional and eying a title battle with either Bogan or Goode STEM tonight, Thursday, at 6 p.m. The winner feeds into the Christo Rey Jesuit Sectional Tuesday and Thursday.

Chicago Christian is at the Agricultural Science Regional and could face either Marian Catholic or Rich South at 6 p.m. The winner heads to the Chicago Christian Sectional Tuesday and Thursday.



These clinches were cinches for Richards and Marist

  • Written by By Jeff Vorva and Phil Arvia


PAGE 1 RICHARDS 3 and 11 10 20

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Agony and ecstasy – Richards quarterback Jake Moran, right, congratulates receiver Noah Petrusevski after the two combined on a touchdown against Reavis. The receiver was in pain and holding his stomach after the score. 



It’s party time.

For the first time.

After Richards easily beat Reavis, 54-22 Friday night in Burbank to clinch the South Suburban Conference Red title, Bulldogs coach Tony Sheehan announced to his troops that for the first time in school history, the players are invited to a playoff pairings party at the Oak Lawn school on Saturday night.

Richards (6-2, 6-0) hosts Tinley Park in a non-conference game Friday and hopes for a good seed and a first-round home game when the Illinois High School Association announces the 256-team field. It’s the eighth SSC Red title (seventh outright) for the Bulldogs in the 11-year history of the conference.

The Bulldogs were already a dangerous team with quarterback Jake Moran and running backs Pat Doyle and Anthony Quinn providing big yards. But just in time for the playoffs, sophomore Derek Flowers is starting to showcase his abilities. Flowers ran for 171 yards and found the end zone twice against the Rams.

The 5-foot-7, 215-pound Flowers has power and moves to chomp up a lot of yards and his cannonball-like frame has earned him a lot of nicknames from his peers and coaches including “Big Skinny,” “Little Bro,” “Doughboy” and “Big boy.”

“They can all me anything,” Flowers said. “Anything to do with big, plump, round…I don’t mind.’’

People are also comparing his running style to former NFL star Natrone Means, Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis.

“I think I play like my idol, Walter Payton,” Flowers said. “I got moves. Jerome Bettis didn’t have moves.’’

Reavis (6-2, 4-1) opened the scoring when Marc McClinton lined up at halfback and heaved a pass to BranTrell Seymore for 59 yards.

“I was very surprised and we weren’t expecting that,” Quinn said. “It shocks you and we had to get our heads back in the game.’’

It was all Richards after that with Quinn running in a pair of touchdowns and Flowers adding a third to take a 20-7 halftime lead and led by as much as 34-7. Richards has beaten the Rams 16 straight times by a combined score of 647-137.



Sophomore quarterback Michael Markett could have started feeling sorry for himself Friday, when his first varsity start at Marist began to go a little sideways.

With the RedHawks up 17-7 in their battle for first place in the East Suburban Catholic with Benet Academy, Markett, after completing 10 of his first 13 passes, turned the ball over on three straight possessions. The last, an errant lateral pass, led to the touchdown that brought the Redwings within 17-14 not quite midway through the third quarter.

“I got down on myself,” Markett, who took over this week as Morgan Taylor comes back from a sprained ankle, conceded. “But our running back, Delonte Harrell, kept telling me, ‘You got this.’”

Besides, Markett knew that whatever he didn’t have, Marist’s defense would take care of.

“They definitely challenge you,” he said. “I’m glad I’m not the other quarterback. But (in practice) it gets you ready for the game — going up against one of the best defenses in the state.”

Marist outlasted Benet 31-14 to guarantee, at the very least, their third shared ESCC title, the previous two coming in 2011 and ’12. If the RedHawks (7-1, 6-0) beat Joliet Catholic (1-7, 1-5) Friday at Joliet Memorial Stadium, they’ll wrap up their first outright league title ever.

Benet (6-2, 5-1) could salvage a share of the crown with a Week 9 win over Carmel of Mundelein and a Marist loss.

The Redwings, however, might still be recovering from the pounding put on them by the Marist defense. The RedHawks stopped Benet quarterbacks behind the line 10 times — eight sacks and twice on designed runs — and threw in five other tackles for loss, plus linebacker Micah Awodiran’s 20-yard fumble return for the clinching score.

“We needed a score right there,” Awodiran said, seemingly unaware that expecting a defensive score is not a typical strategy for most teams.

“With the guys we’ve got,” he added, “it’s something we know we’re capable of.”

Against Benet, lineman Gavin McCabe, a 6-foot-3, 250-pounder, had 3 1/2 sacks and two tackles for loss. Luke Bullington and Awodiran had a pair of sacks each while Elijah Teague had one sack, four tackles for loss and a deflected pass. All told, Benet ended up losing 33 yards on the ground on 24 attempts and had to switch quarterbacks after starter Jack Sznajder came up woozy after a hard hit late in the first half.

“It’s fun — it’s really fun,” Teague, a 6-2, 295-pounder, said. “There’s nothing else you can really say.”

“They’re double-teaming him all day,” McCabe said of Teague, a fellow junior. “He’s opening up holes for me.”

Marist coach Pat Dunne celebrated his 36th birthday by declaring this defense “the best” he’s had in his eight years heading the program, adding, “every week, it’s getting better.”

Marist forced punts on Benet’s first four possessions, grabbing a 10-0 lead on Tom Gillen’s 30-yard field goal and a 26-yard scoring pass from Markett (13-of-20, 171 yards) to Billy Skalitzy (3 receptions, 78 yards).

Midway through the second quarter, Benet got on the board with a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by a nine-yard Sznajder-to-Alec McEachern pass. Marist got that back immediately, Harrell (18 carries, 112 yards) taking the ensuing kickoff back 83 yards for the score.

It was 17-14 when Markett opened the fourth quarter with a 48-yard bomb to Skalitzky to the Benet one-yard line, setting up a keeper for his first varsity touchdown. On the second snap after the ensuing kick, Awodiran scooped up a Benet fumble to all but ice the contest with 10:52 left.

“I saw the ball on the found and I tried to pop it up,” he said. “I bobbled it, then I saw that Sunday hop come up so I just went with it.”







Fire analysis: All was right in the Fire's words for a couple of hours

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Photo by Jeff Vorva

Chicago Fire players and coaches gathered around in a circle after Sunday’s win – the season finale at Toyota Park.


On a dreary day toward the end of a drearier season, Chicago Fire fans had some fun for a couple of hours on Sunday.

David Accam did a little dance after scoring what turned out to be the winning goal in the 80th minute of a 2-1 victory over New England in the final game of the season at Toyota Park in Bridgeview. After the game, the players gathered in a circle while Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” played on the stadium’s speakers. Then the team broke the circle and walked around close to the stands while fans cheered.

Few would have guessed that the announced crowd of 18,976 at Toyota Park would have had more fun on Sunday than 61,054 fans at Soldier Field (who watched the Bears piddle away a 13-0 lead in the third quarter to lose 17-16 to Jacksonville) and 42,384 fans at Wrigley Field (who watched the Cubs offense throw up nine zeros on the boards against Los Angeles in the National League Championship Series).

The Fire improved to 7-16-10 and has 31 points in Major League Soccer play. Chicago has the worst record in the league but could escape that fate if it beats Toronto in in a 3 p.m. road game Sunday in the season finale and Houston (7-14-12, 33 points) either ties or loses to Colorado.

“It was a great game and very important for us to win the game…our last game at home in front of our fans,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “I know it was a hard season for everyone but at least we could grant them this, a good win. I also want to say thanks to our fans who are, during the whole year, with us and supporting team and we look forward to improving and get better for the next season." 

"I think it means a lot,’’ Accam added. “For me, the fans deserve much more than what we have given them this season. Today, it was all about the fans, about us giving everything we had in the pitch for the fans. That's what we showed today, we went in to win it for the fans, and we did it." 

Michael de Leeuw opened the scoring in the ninth minute of the game for his sixth goal of the campaign. The game ended with both clubs playing with 10 players after Chicago’s Luis Solignac and Revolution goalie Brad Knighton were kicked out after receiving red cards. The loss hurt New England’s shot at the playoffs.

The win for the Fire  helped erase a miserable showing at Toyota Park three days prior. The Fire allowed an 80th-minute goal to Columbus in a 2-2 tie.

"Yes, we failed,” Paunovic said after the game. “We failed to close, to win the game. Disappointed? Well, yes.’’

CAPTION – Photo by Jeff Vorva

Chicago Fire players and coaches gathered around in a circle after Sunday’s win – the season finale at Toyota Park.


Sensational soccer season for Spartans

  • Written by Aaron FitzPatrick


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Jose Lopez and Oak Lawn’s soccer team have enjoyed a historic season. Here, they celebrate winning the Windy City Classic tournament at Toyota Park in September.


The Oak Lawn Community High School soccer team is having one of the best seasons in school history.

The Spartans aren’t just winning; they’re absolutely rolling over the competition. They outscored their competition, 70-9 through their first 15 games. They posted seven shutouts, including back-to-back 7-0 scores. They won 11 of their 15 contests by more than a goal which is a sizeable advantage in the world of soccer.

After recently forging a 3-3 tie with Lemont and beating Argo, 3-1 Tuesday night to win the South Suburban Conference Red title, the Spartans head into the postseason with a 19-0-1 mark. Regional play in Class 2A and Class 3A opens Friday. Oak Lawn is seeded second behind Bradley Bourbonnais in the Class 3A Lincoln-Way Central Sectional.  

They’ve already passed a school record in wins. In 2008, the Spartans went 15-5-1 in the final year of former head coach Kevin Stowe.

 “The kids have just grown up,” said Oak Lawn coach, Nate Joiner. “We’ve got almost all seniors this year. Six or seven have been with me since their sophomore year and some have been with us since they were freshman.”

One of those seniors who has grown up is Michal Szaflarski. Szaflarski has been a team captain since his sophomore year. As a junior, Szaflarski was at the forefront of a high powered offense. This year, he’s anchoring one of the stingiest defenses in the state.

How is he adjusting the role change?

“He’s a team player,” said Joiner. “He’s just happy we’re winning. He’s still one of the most important guys on the team. He’s playing the same leadership role; he’s just not scoring as many goals. We want him back in this formation. We have enough firepower.”

That firepower is coming in the tandem of Giovanni Barragan and Mohammad Farraj. Barragan and Farraj are helping the Spartan offense average nearly five goals a game and are having a blast doing it.

“This has been the dream season so far,” said Barragan. “We want to keep it going and be undefeated the whole season. Since we’re seniors that’s why we’re playing every game as if it’s our last. Me and Mo (Farraj) -- I like our combinations.”

“We practice together, we play together and we play like a family,” said Farraj.

With ball rolling their way and the Spartans in the middle of a dream season, it might be easy for a group of teenagers to lose focus on the big picture. Not this group, according to Joiner.

“The boys are focused,” said Joiner. “I think that they do a go job of not letting their heads get big. We’re definitely trying to keep them humble and keep them working. They police themselves.”