Jeff Vorva's Extra Point -- High school football changes could be afoot

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



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Photo by Jeff Vorva

A proposal could be in the works that would allow football teams with two or more wins into the playoffs. That would help a team like Evergreen Park, pictured, which enters the final week of the season with a 3-5 mark and no shot at the playoffs. 



Food for thought for those who aren’t very hungry…

While it’s not official yet, word is that come November, the Illinois High School Association will listen to a proposal that would drastically changes the landscape of playoff football.

The idea is that there will be an eight-week regular season instead of nine and that any team with two wins or more gets in. Currently teams that win their conference, win six games or some teams who win five games and are subject to a tiebreaker (most opponents wins) get in.

Those 0-8 or 1-7 teams can optionally schedule each other in Week 9 for an extra game.


I can’t tell you how different that would be. We would be starting the playoffs this weekend and a bunch of 8-0 teams would be opening up with 2-6 opponents. There might be some intriguing 4-4 teams playing each other.

I don’t like it or hate it. But it would be a huge shock to the system.

Coaches and athletic directors are getting sick of the problems caused by non-conference scheduling and letting in almost everybody would alleviate some of those problems. Some of the powerhouses might actually find teams in Illinois to play instead of going to other states. Some teams might decide to play tougher non-conference teams rather than bakery pastries without fear of missing the playoffs.

If this proposal goes on the books next month, one expert doesn’t think it will be passed this year.

Tim O’Halloran, also known as Edgy Tim, who is a high school guru on his own website and Comcast, or NBC Sports Chicago or whatever the heck they call themselves these days, told WJOL radio that November might be too late for principals across the state to agree on this, but it could be in play for the 2019 season.

Stay tuned. A year two from now, we could be getting ready for the first round of the playoffs rather than the last week of the regular season.

 I told you so…

Looking back at my preseason baseball picks, I had the Cubs pulling off unlikely back-to-back titles and beating Houston in the World Series.

Heading into this week’s action, I am still able to brag about those picks.

Some of my other brilliant picks? Well…not so brilliant.

I had Boston winning the American League East (yaaaay) but Baltimore as a wild card (booo).

I had Detroit winning the Central (argh) with Cleveland as a wild card (ehhh). And I had Houston winning the West (yaaaaay again!).

In the National League, I had the Cubs winning the Central (yaaay some more) and St. Louis to take a wild card spot (Cubs fans are cheering I got that one wrong). I thought the New York Mets would win the East (yikes!) and the San Francisco Giants to win the West (double yikes!) and Los Angeles to nail the second wild card slot.

Oh, and did I tell you I had the Cubs and Houston in the World Series?

IHSA geography 101

It’s always easy to make fun of the way the IHSA divvies up its postseason tournaments and meets by geography but this one is a doozy. And I don’t even like the word “doozy.’’

Sandburg’s girls tennis team played at the Shepard Sectional and singles events were held at Moraine Valley Community College on Friday while doubles were held at Shepard. Most schools do that. They don’t have enough room to accommodate all the matches, so they go to two sites.

Andrew also held a sectional and split into two sites.  One was at the Andrew campus in Tinley Park. The other was at -- you guessed it – Sandburg.

So Sandburg players left the school for a sectional and while their bus passed the Sandburg court, there was another sectional being played right at their own digs.



Marist states case by routing previously unbeaten Nazareth

  • Written by Phil Arvia


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Photo by Jeff Vorva

From left, Aiden Hackett, Gavin McCabe and Delonte Harrell celebrate Harrell’s first quarter touchdown in Marist's 42-0 win over previously unbeaten Nazareth.



For weeks, Marist’s football players had heard the refrain:

“You haven’t played anybody,” junior defensive back Charlie Laurencell recited.

The RedHawks, outwardly, shrugged. But the argument had at least some merit. Only one of their first six foes had a winning record and the last four — victims by a combined 206-47 — had but four wins between them through six weeks.

“No disrespect to our opponents,” quarterback Mike Markett said. “We beat everybody they put in front of us.”

Friday, the schedule put a Somebody, fellow unbeaten and East Suburban Catholic co-leader Nazareth, in front of the Redhawks and Marist ran over the Roadrunners 42-0 in Chicago.

“To go up against a 6-0 team and beat them by 42, that’s one of the best feelings ever,” said Laurencell, who capped the RedHawks’ 28-point first half by diving into the end zone with a 27-yard interception return. “But we know we’ve got more work to do.”

Nazareth coach Tim Racki, for one, is convinced the RedHawks will be working deep into the postseason.

“They’re going to make a long run in the playoffs,” Racki, who coached Nazareth to the 6A state title in 2014, said. “I give all the credit to Marist. It got away from us because that’s a great 8A playoff team over there — they just keep coming at you with their speed and strength.”

Nazareth, with wins over De La Salle, Carmel of Mundelein and Benet Academy, sported a worthy resume and a stingy defense that had allowed an average of 9.6 points per game after starting the season with a forfeit win over Dunbar. But the Roadrunners were no match for the multi-pronged Marist attack.

After driving 72 yards to Marist's eight with their first possession -- and having nothing to show for it but a missed 25-yard field goal attempt -- the Roadrunners fumbled away their only other trip to the Marist red zone.

“They’ve got a powerful line, tremendous skill,” Racki said. “You stop something, they come at you with something else.”

“We like to take what they give us, move fast and step on their throats,” Market said.

Against Nazareth, the first step belonged to Delonte Harrell (20 carries, 102 yards, 3 touchdowns). Harrell scored the RedHawks’ first two touchdowns, a seven-yarder to cap a game-opening drive in which he carried seven times in 12 snaps, and a one-yarder to finish an eight-play drive in which he had five runs.

Markett (10 carries, 105 yards) didn’t find the end zone himself, but while going 9-of-14 for 156 yards he did manage touchdown passes to T.J. Ivy and Jadon Thompson.

Ivy, a West Virginia-bound tight end, bashed his way in from 13 yards out to make it 21-0 with 3:10 to play in the second quarter.

“We can be as good as we want to be,” Ivy, a 6-foot-5, 229-pound senior, said. “We have a lot of weapons. We create mismatches.

“Nobody is going to be able to stop us as long as we play like we can.”

Thompson, a sophomore, got his first touch of the night in the third quarter, when Markett hit him in stride on a deep route over the middle, and turned it into a 61-yard touchdown — his seventh score of the season.

The final Marist touchdown came on a one-yard Harrell run with 5:28 left in the third quarter. A running clock ended Nazareth’s misery quickly thereafter.

For the game, Marist outgunned Nazareth 416-253. The Roadrunners were forced to the air early, quarterback Bobby Grimes finishing 10-of-26 for 158 yards.

“Our guys, they’d heard all that stuff about not being challenged yet,” first year Marist coach Ron Dawczak said. “They were looking forward to this game all week. That was huge.” 

The RedHawks have another tough opponent as they visit Benet (5-2, 4-1) Friday. The RedHawks have not won in Lisle since a 17-14 triumph in 2011.



Jeff Vorva's Extra Point -- Florida volleyball team escapes serious wrath of Hurricane Irma

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Volleyball players from Berkeley Prep, here celebrating a Silver Division quarterfinal victory at the ASICS Tournament at Mother McAuley on Oct. 1, feel lucky that Hurricane Irma didn’t do much damage to them. 


Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria didn’t have an agenda.

They didn’t pick and choose who they were going to destroy and kill. They didn’t have a say in who was going to be lucky and who was going to be spared.

All they did was blow through Texas and Florida in the United States and messed up some other countries as well.

And they let the chips fall where they may.

Coaches and players of the Berkeley Prep volleyball team from Tampa, Fla., had their world turned upside down for a brief time in mid-September. They were bracing for a monster storm and feared for their lives and property on Sept. 10 when the storm was scheduled to hit.

Instead of a monster crushing them, they received the equivalent of a bully kicking them in the shins.

Sure it hurt.

But look at the TV.

Look what happened in Miami.

Look what happened in Houston.

Look what happened in Puerto Rico.

The team spent a weekend in the area and won the Silver Division championship of the ASICS Challenge at Mother McAuley on Sept.30-Oct. 1. For the coaches and players on this team, life has returned to normal.

“I feel so lucky,” Berkeley senior Anders Douglas said. “Compared to everyone else, I feel so fortunate. I have a friend in Puerto Rico and he was telling me how awful it is over there. His dad has an office building with a generator and he’s been living in the office all this time.’’

First-year coach Mackenzie Dagostino, who has come to the ASICS Challenge at McAuley  as a player, took over the program for her dad, Randy, who won 849 matches and 15 state championships. It’s likely her father had some crazy weeks in his time, but even Pop might not have gone through the strange type if week after Irma hit.

The school had a few busted shingles, but because of the damage throughout the area, there was no school for most of the following week. That meant there was no practice. And the team was hosting a tournament with national teams including Walton High of Georgia, which, at the time was ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps. The team was able to get one practice in before the tourney and eventually finished second, losing to Walton 25-16, 25-18.

Dagostino didn’t have power in her house for six days.

 “The first couple of days aren’t that bad – you have ice and you have food on ice and plenty of water,” she said. “But the longer people went without power, the more they panicked. You definitely saw that in the area. People were actually chasing after ice trucks.

“At the end of the day, we all made it through without power. There are ways to get around it. There were a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches consisting of our meals.’’

Players were encouraged to stay as fit as they could during the dramatic week.

“We still had to stay active, even in the house,” Douglas said. “I had to make sure I was still in shape when we came back. We were supposed to be off for two days but the closer the hurricane got, the track was supposed to come right over our campus, so it ended up being five days.

“I was able to run outside before the rain came. Once we had to stay inside, I did a lot of squats and jumps.’’

Tampa did get plenty of damage but it woulda-coulda-shoulda been worse.

The town is living a relatively charmed life. It has not suffered a direct hit from a hurricane that is Cartgory 3 or higher since 1921.

Hurricanes may not have an agenda, but they don’t seem to want to mess around with Tampa too much.


Marist wins ESCC, er, ASICS Classic

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Marist’s volleyball team was cheering all day Saturday after winning the ASICS Challenge.

The ASICS Challenge brings in 24 girls volleyball teams from across the country.

But this year, it could have been renamed the ESCC Challenge.

Three members of the East Suburban Catholic Conference gobbled up spots in the final four of the tournament along with Assumption of Kentucky, which was ranked first in the nation in a Sept. 20 poll by USA Today and second in its Sept. 27 poll.

When the smoke cleared, it was fourth-seeded Marist which won its first ASICS title after an 18-25, 25-13, 26-24 victory over ESCC rival Joliet Catholic Academy Saturday at Mother McAuley High School. The RedHawks, which improved to 23-1 with the victory, were down 24-20 in the final set and came back to score six straight against the 10th-seeded Angels for the title. The RedHawks also trailed 11-4 at one point in that deciding set.

The two powers were scheduled to face each other again Tuesday night in Joliet.

Top-seeded Assumption beat the ESCC’s Marian Catholic 25-21, 25-21 in the third-place game.

“You probably wouldn’t expect the conference having three teams in the final four ahead of time with all the teams that are here,” Marist coach Jordan Vidovic said. “This says a lot about our conference. That doesn’t even include a team like Benet and other big-time teams who are not in this tournament.

“The fact that we play each other throughout the season gives us the type of preparation for these kind of matches that maybe some of the other conferences don’t.’’

Savannah Thompson, who made the all-tournament team, had 15 kills and 18 digs against Marian while Maggie Meyer had 19 kills, Grace Green came up with 18 digs and Molly Murrihy had 42 assists and four blocks. Katie Canavan put on a serving show with well-timed aces in the final set.

The championship showdown was set up by an even more impressive accomplishment when the RedHawks stunned Assumption, 25-16, 25-20 in the semifinals. Assumption won the ASICS tournament 13 times.

Marist is the third team from Illinois to claim the title. McAuley won it five times including last year and Cary-Grove won it in 2010.

McAuley finished fifth after being upset by Joliet Catholic, 25-18, 25-22 in the quarterfinals. Charley

Niego was named to the all-tournament team.

Sandburg, which was seeded 21st, claimed a pool victory over 12th-seeded Downers Grove North and finished as the silver consolation champion – 13th.

Teams were represented from Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Wisconsin, Utah, California and Florida.  


Williams blooms in Flowers' absence

  • Written by Phil Arvia


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Richards’ sophomore Leshon Williams was able to do damage against Eisenhower in his first start on Friday.

It didn’t matter to senior inside linebacker Curtis Hale that Eisenhower was 5-0 overall and his Richards team was just 3-2 when the Bulldogs traveled to Blue Island on Friday.

Both teams were unbeaten in the South Suburban Red. Besides, he said, “To tell you the truth, the conference always runs through us.”

Except nobody was running through the Bulldogs in a 34-3 win that saw Richards do the trampling — even without junior leading rusher Derek Flowers. With Flowers sitting with what Richards Athletic Director Ken Styler said was for a code of conduct violation, sophomore running back Leshon Williams had the game of his young life, running for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries.

Meanwhile, Eisenhower’s Tim Baity, who entered the evening as one of the top rushers in the South Suburbs with 835 yards and 12 touchdowns on 78 carries, was limited to 84 yards on 17 tries. On the Cardinals’ first possession, Hale stopped Baity for no gain on third-and-one and fourth-and-one, setting the tone for the evening.

“Our coaches had a great plan,” Hale said. “Basically, my job was to run at the guards and fill the gaps. We knew (Baity) was a good back and we were going to have to step it up.”

The Bulldogs (4-2, 3-0) stepped up on both sides of the ball, limiting Eisenhower (5-1, 2-1) to 191 yards of total offense while rolling up 420 yards of their own — 341 on the ground.

“We said all week, ‘It’s just another game,’” Richards coach Tony Sheehan said. “They were 5-0 … but we were battle-tested. We’ve played a tough schedule, and it prepared us for this.

“We knew schematically they had some things we could exploit. We thought we could pound the ball at ‘em.”

Flowers, who has 611 yards and nine touchdowns on the season, helped Williams all week despite knowing he wouldn’t play.

“Derek motivated me,” Williams said. “He told me to treat it like a regular game, don’t let the hype get to me. — even though, with them being 5-0, this was basically for the conference.”

Williams had a 14-yard carry for Richards’ first score. A 28-yard field goal from Luis Torres made it 7-3 late in the first quarter, where the score remained until quarterback Sebastian Castro (9 carries, 79 yards) had a four-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, set up by a 55-yard Williams burst.

The Cardinals weren’t really out of it until Richards scored twice in 47 seconds early in the fourth quarter. First, Williams had a four-yard touchdown run to cap a 10-play, 97-yard drive. Then Hale forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Samuel Alvarado recovered and, after Castro ran for 17 yards on first down, Williams cruised to pay dirt from 12 yards out on second down.

Orrion Prater’s 9-yard run with 1:34 to play capped the scoring. By that time, Williams was celebrating on the sidelines with his teammates.

“He and Derek have been leaning on each other all year — ever since we moved him to the varsity this summer,” Sheehan said. “We told him tonight was going to be his coming-out party — and it was.”

A member of the freshman team a year ago and the Blue Island Untouchables before that, Williams said he’d never eclipsed 200 yards in a single game before.

“This might have been the best game I’ve ever had in my football career,” he said. “I believe in myself, and I put in the work to do it.”

As have the Bulldogs. Their 4-2 start included losses to Lemont and Phillips. Their 26 opponent wins heading into Eisenhower’s homecoming was the most in the conference and seven more than the Cardinals’ league-low 19.

Evergreen Park, Argo and Oak Lawn remain on the Bulldogs’ schedule. A seventh conference title in Sheehan’s 10 seasons is well within reach.

 “This is why we schedule the way we do,” Sheehan said. “We can only get better from here.”