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Life in the fast lane

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Speed kills as Bulldogs race past Spartans

  In automotive parlance it was like pitting a pickup truck against a Ferrari — and letting the Ferrari have a head-start.
  Friday night’s South Suburban Conference Red matchup between cross-town rivals Oak Lawn and Richards pretty much rated that comparison. Here’s how Spartans coach Sean Lucas described his team’s foe:
  “They’re not the big Richards teams of the past, but they are fast,” he said. “Our kids battled them and a few times we had kids in position to make a play, but their feet moved faster than ours.”
  Keeping up with the Bulldogs while competing on a level playing field would have been tough enough for Oak Lawn; making things worse was that it spotted Richards a lead.
  The Bulldogs scored on each of their first three possessions to shove the Spartans into a 19-0 hole. It was 33-7 at halftime and despite Oak Lawn’s best efforts to fight back in the final two quarters it couldn’t avoid a 46-21 setback.
  “I’m proud of our kids, but we knew we’d have to play near-perfect to beat them,” Lucas said. “I wish they had seen a better shot [from us], but I flat-out told our kids after the game this [Richards] team was better than us. There are greater tragedies in life than losing to someone who’s better than you.”
  Just as in their 2012 meeting with the Bulldogs, the Spartans (1-3, 0-2) refused to succumb quietly after falling behind. Two years ago while suffering an 18-7 loss they shut out Richards in the second half.

Doing it by the numbers

  • Written by Tim Cronin

Local grad Vander Laan is a statistics-generating machine at Ferris State

Perhaps it’s fitting that Jason Vander Laan is majoring in actuarial sciences at Ferris State.
He definitely has a way with numbers. And when he's not busy calculating them in the classroom he's piling them up on the football field.
“I really, really enjoy working with numbers,” Vander Laan, a Chicago Christian grad, said last week.
There's little question coaches, players and fans of Ferris State football are really enjoying the numbers he has amassed since becoming the Bulldogs' starting quarterback in 2012. The redshirt junior has thrown for 3,851 yards and 38 touchdowns while guiding Ferris State to 15 wins in its last 21 games.
But wait there's more. Just in case opposing defenses think that stopping the Bulldogs' aerial attack is the answer, Vander Laan will then attempt to run foes ragged. He definitely can, as evidenced by his 3,278 rushing yards and 39 scoring dashes.

Earning their stripes

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Tigers deal Eagles heavy blow

Like Siegfried and Roy, Dave Wierzal has had a knack for handling Tigers.
In the Sandburg coach’s case, the cats in question suit up for Joliet West. While the Tigers haven’t always been an easy capture — last year’s game pretty much went down to the wire — the Eagles have always found a way to prevail during Wierzal's tenure.
Until Friday night, that is.
Racking up 140 more yards than its hosts, Joliet West never trailed in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue contest. Sandburg was within four points of the Tigers at the start of the fourth quarter, but another Joliet West touchdown sealed the deal as it bagged a 21-10 win at Seliga Field that put the Eagles in a somewhat precarious position playoff-wise.
While the postseason is still over a month away, Sandburg (2-2, 1-1) now must beat at least one of the conference’s acknowledged power players — Bolingbrook, Lincoln-Way East and Homewood-Flossmoor — in the weeks ahead in order to have a chance at qualifying. Potentially dangerous, too, is fellow District 230 member Stagg.

It’s a Smalling world

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Sophomore wideout keeps Crusaders moving ahead

The sophomore jinxed Wheaton-St. Francis Friday night.
As a freshman in 2013 Ricky Smalling drew little attention as a football player. That’s not surprising, seeing as how lower-level teams tend to operate with more anonymity than their varsity counterparts.
But Brother Rice coaches knew what they had in the 6-foot-1, 185-pound wideout, and Crusaders boss Brian Badke didn’t hesitate to elevate Smalling to the varsity this season. Undoubtedly the Spartans wished he hadn’t.
Smalling was a big man in the Chicago Catholic League crossover as he caught 11 passes for 150 yards, one of the better performances by a Rice receiver in a while. Two of his grabs went for touchdowns, including a 70-yard play that put the visiting Crusaders ahead for keeps in the third quarter.
“Ricky Smalling really stepped up,” Badke said after Rice ruined St. Francis’ homecoming by pinning a 35-29 setback on the hosts. “We didn’t have a deep threat [last year] after Chris [Rozell] went down with an injury.

Bartosh

These ‘sportsmen’ grin and beer it

 (Reprinted from July 1, 2010) 

  Beer and sports will be forever linked.
  Whether or not you personally choose to imbibe in the malt-and-hops mixture is irrelevant. The fact is that more than enough people do so while attending athletic events to render the small number of non-drinkers meaningless.
  If that weren’t true, why would beer manufacturers be regular sponsors of sports broadcasts? It’s all but impossible to watch a football game on TV, for example, and not see a plethora of beer ads, most of which are juvenile in their sales approach.
  Unlike the famed Miller Lite commercials of the 1970s and ’80s that featured retired jocks spouting genuinely clever and humorous dialogue, today’s TV spots tend to embrace a frat-house mentality and lack any memorable moments, save for the lingering camera shot of whatever scantily-clad coed du jour is being used in the ad. The one thing that does make me laugh is how the goofy, beer-holding — notice how no one is actually shown drinking the product on those commercials — guys think they’ve got a chance to become involved with Ms. Hot Number, who, in real life, would either mock or completely ignore them.
  There’s proof positive of how alcohol can impair both judgment and sensibilities.