Ain't that a kick in the head

  • Written by Phil Arvia




Photo by Jeff Vorva

Richards and Eisenhower players keep their eye on the ball as Andrew Calderon’s first-quarter kick from 29 yards out was good to give Richards a 3-0 lead Friday night. Calderon nailed a 51-yarder late in the game to give Richards momentum but the Bulldogs lost, 33-27 in Blue Island.



It’s not often that Gary Korhonen sees something he’s never seen before on a football field.

The 75-year-old coach, who gave up the Richards reins in 2008 after 36 seasons and 306 wins, toils now as the linebackers coach at Dist. 218 rival Eisenhower. Friday in Blue Island, he watched as Bulldogs kicker Andrew Calderon booted a 51-yard field goal.

Asked if he believed it to be a school record, Korhonen said, “I’m sure it is. We barely kicked extra points.”

Later, he added, “That’s the longest one I’ve ever seen kicked against me — the longest one I’ve ever seen standing on a sideline. The longest one we ever made was probably about 40 yards back in 1997 — I can’t remember the kid’s name. He was Swedish. We called him Sven.”

Calderon’s kick brought a flicker of hope to the Richards sideline, as it brought the Bulldogs within a touchdown with 6:26 to play. However, two snaps after the ensuing kick, Eisenhower’s Rayshawn Graham sprinted 79 yards around the left end for a backbreaking touchdown in what became a 33-27 Cardinals win. It was just the second time in 20 meetings Ike beat Richards.

The decision left Eisenhower (6-1, 4-0) in the South Suburban Red driver’s seat, though the Cardinals must go to Reavis (6-1, 4-1) this week. Richards (4-3, 3-1) needs at least one win over its final two contests with Evergreen Park (3-4, 2-2) and Oak Lawn (1-6, 1-4) to have a shot at a seventh state qualifier in coach Tony Sheehan’s eight seasons.

Calderon’s kick, said Richards linebackers coach Rick Pratl, “put us right where we needed to be. But we couldn’t get over the hump.”

Calderon got Richards off on the right foot, kicking a 29-yard field goal at the 8:00 mark of the first quarter to give his team a 3-0 lead.

“Coach Sheehan has a lot of confidence in him,” Pratl said. “(Calderon) is a soccer and baseball player, he came to us after spending his freshman year at St. Rita. He was up on the varsity all season last year, and as the season went on his kicking got better and better and better.

“He’s just a tough kid. He got hurt last year making a tackle. He’s working out this year with the safeties. But I’m sure he’d rather have a win than the record.”

Calderon, a junior, concurred.

“Richards is a special school,” he said. “I’d do anything for this school. But this is a loss.”

The record-breaker, which was kicked into a steady breeze coming out of the north, cleared the crossbar with room to spare. Calderon had never made one of that distance even in practice.

“Fifty was my best,” he said. “I’ve tried a couple of 55-yarders but didn’t make them.

“This one, I saw the snap was perfect, the hold was perfect. I knew I had it all the way.” 

Calderon’s mark won’t crack the IHSA record books, which show 28 field goals of 52 yards or longer in state history. Tucker McCann of O’Fallon set the state mark of 60 yards in October of 2014.

Neither could the Bulldogs crack Eisenhower, which scored three straight touchdowns to grab 20-3 lead with 3:20 to play in the second quarter then held on.

Graham led the way, scoring three touchdowns and carrying 21 times for 109 yards. Eisenhower quarterback Cortez Jackson had a pair of one-yard touchdown runs and added 183 on 8-of-12 passing.

Running back Pat Doyle provided the bulk of Richards’ offense, carrying 30 times for 151 yards. He had a three-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter and an 11-yarder in the third, while Jake Moran threw a seven-yarder to Noah Petro in the game’s final minute.



Kilbane lifts Eagles to third straight state appearance

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


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Supplied photo

Freshman Hannah Kilbane is lifted by her teammates after she led the team with a 73 in sectional play on Monday.




In 2013, Hannah Kilbane was a seventh grader at St. Michael School in Orland Park when Sandburg’s girls golf team qualified for the Illinois High School Association State Tournament for the first time in school history.

The Eagles finished 11th in class 3A that year.

“I sort of heard about them,” she said.

Kilbane was an eighth grader when the Eagles qualified again and finished fifth in the state.

“I heard a lot about them when they made it last year.’’ she said.

Now that she is a freshman at Sandburg, people are hearing about Kilbane. She had not only been in the middle of a successful season, she has been a leader.

Kilbane’s 73 led the Eagles to a runnerup finish in sectional play Monday and the team advanced to the state tournament Friday and Saturday at Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur.  Chicago Christian’s boys team is the only other area team to make it down state as the Knights won by two strokes to finish third in the Class 1A Byron Sectional. They will play over the weekend at the Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington.

Sandburg’s girls finished second in the Neuqua Valley Sectional with a 312, 17 shots behind defending state champion Hinsdale Central and nine shots ahead of Downers Grove North. Mother McAuley finished 12th in the 12-team sectional with a 371.

Senior Emily Cosler added a 74, junior Emilyee McGiles had a 79 and senior Erin Cronin had an 86.

Kilbane won the SouthWest Suburban Conference championship to help lead the Eagles and finished second on the team in regional play before taking the lead in the sectional.

“It’s been a really fun year because my team is awesome,’’ Kilbane said. “They have been really kind and understanding with me. No one is putting pressure on me except me because I want to do really well.’’

Chicago Christian shot a 337 at the Byron Sectional, edging out Aurora Christian by two strokes for the final state-qualifying slot. Junior Pete Vos led the Knights with an 80, junior Nate Kamp had an 82, senior Bobby Schaaf fired an 85 and senior Sean Ozinga carded a 90.

The Knights have qualified for state twice in school history finishing 13th in the state in Class 1A in 2005 and ninth in the state in Class 2A.

The area also is sending three individual golfers to state.

In Class 3A Brother Rice junior Liam Sweeney advanced individually with a 79 at the Alton Sectional.

In Class 2A, St. Laurence junior Angel Sandoval qualified with an 81 t the Nazareth Sectional.

In Class A girls, Evergreen Park’s Liz Stalla qualified at the Nazareth Sectional with an 84.

On Sept. 6, Sandburg, Brother Rice and Marist’s boys advanced to the sectional thanks to their play at the Class 3A Stagg Regional at Silver Lake North in Orland Park.

Sandburg was the regional champion with a 311, one shot better than Brother Rice. Sweeney was the medalist with a 72.

For Sandburg, Brett Katalinic and Brett Been each carded 76s while Andrew Barvinek had a 78 and Brad Vetter 81.

Things didn’t go as well for the area teams in the Alton Sectional as Sandburg finished 10th, one shot ahead of Brother Rice and Marist took 12th in the 12-team event.

In Class 1A, Chicago Christian was the Seneca Regional champion at Nettle Creek in Morris with a 315, 12 shots ahead of IC Prep. Ozinga fired a 76, Kamp a 77, Pete Vos a 78 and Lautenbach an 84.

In Class 2A, Evergreen Park advanced to sectional as a team with a third-place finish at the U-High Regional at the Brian Ridge Country Club in Schererville, Ind. Danny Smith led the way with an 85.

Sandburg’s girls dominated the Marian Catholic Regional with a 302 on Sept. 7. McGiles shot a 68, Kilbane fired a 72, including a 32 on the back nine, Cosler rang up a 75 and Jenna Perdue had an 87.


It's a Fun 'N' Dunne Era at Marist

  • Written by Jeff Vorva





Photo by Jeff Vorva

Marist coach Pat Dunne has brought an exciting offense to the school foe more than seven years.

It's a good thing that Friday’s homecoming treat of shooting off fireworks after every touchdown is not a regular occurrence.

Otherwise tuition at the school to pay for all of that could reach six figures a year, the way the RedHawks offense operates.

Since Pat Dunne returned to his alma mater to coach football, his teams have gone 58-26 -- including Friday night’s 45-21 victory over St. Patrick in an East Suburban Catholic Conference showdown -- in 7 1/2 seasons. Prior to that, Marist was 31-43 in the previous eight years.

And while winning is fun, the coach brought in a spread offense to make things even more enjoyable for the team’s followers.

Call it Fun N’ Dunne.

In his tenure, the team has scored 2,711 points in 84 games for a 32-point-per-game average. The previous eight years, the RedHawks scored 1,436 points in 74 games for a 19-point average.

In October, 2011, the RedHawks scored 64 points against Carmel and 56 against Joliet Catholic Academy in back-to-back games for 120 points. In 2006, the team scored 118 points total for a nine-game season.

Dunne, a Palos Heights native who graduated from Marist in 1998 and was a kicker on the team his senior year after injuries robbed him of a chance to play receiver, said offenses are different than when he played.

“Back then, the spread offense wasn’t as big in high school,” he said. “It was just coming about in college. We had close games but not by any means with we have 45 or plus-50 games. As the game has evolved, there are more opportunities. Athletes have gotten better with time, too.’’

In Friday’s triumph, Marist racked up more than 500 yards and quarterback Brendan Skalitzky threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns while running back Darshon McCullough had two rushing touchdowns and a reception for another score.

Skalitzky is the latest in a series of Fun N’ Dunne quarterbacks who has the luxury of throwing or handing off to a ton of talented skill players.

“For four years, it’s been a great experience,” the quarterback said. “We come in as freshmen and it’s a little tough to learn. Now that we’re all seniors, we are experienced and it’s fun to use it to the full potential.’’

On the other end of the coin…

Dunne’s clubs have also experienced some defensive breakdowns over the years, causing some wild scores.

Those back-to-back games in 2011 with Carmel and JCA? The RedHawks won the Carmel game 64-63 in double overtime in Mundelein and came home the next week to beat the Hilltoppers 56-51.

“Some of those games, I aged a little quicker than I hoped to,” Dunne said. “But at the end of the day, they were great games and they created great memories for the kids that they won’t forget.’’

This year, the tradition continues. The team beat St. Viator 45-28 on Sept. 11 and Niles Notre Dame 49-42 the following week.

All is well when the team wins, but the defensive players are not fond of giving up an average of a touchdown or more per quarter.

“I personally think we should play four quarters and not two,” linebacker Dennis Dickman said. “As a defense, we get bummed out but we’re a family so we can enjoy winning. It’s not just about us.

 “They [offensive players] always have our backs,” he said. “They have been backing us up and we need to get a little better and back them up.’’

Skalitzky has fun with some of the shootout games.

“As long as we win the game, I’m fine with it,” he said. “The defense had our back against Notre Dame when we struggled in the first half. We had their back the second half. I get drained after a game like that but during the game, it gets more exciting as the game goes on, especially when you are scoring points.”

Dunne said it’s all a part of teaching.

 “Honestly, I view it as winning and still learning,” Dunne said. “Obviously, you love the offense but there is still a lot to work on and teach. My no means are these perfect games but it’s great when you can win them. The exciting thing is that we know the potential is there and we can keep increasing it by eliminating those mistakes.’’



'He is ridiculous'

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Brother Rice’s Ricky Smalling stiff-arms Mt. Carmel defender Avery Saffold during a touchdown reception. 


Brother Rice junior receiver Ricky Smalling has already dazzled some college scouts and local media in recent weeks.

He’s not a local secret any more.

His performance on Friday night showed a little more of the world what he is all about with more Chicago reporters present and Comcast SportsNet Chicago rolling its cameras.

Playing against favored Mt. Carmel, he caught 14 passes from the right arm of Cam Miller for 169 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-14 home win in the Catholic League Blue. Heading into the game, Mt. Carmel (5-1, 2-1 and ranked second in the state in Class 7A according to the Associated Press) gave up a league-low 28 points in its first five games.

But Smalling used his speed and some power (stiff arming a defender and juking two others) en route to a 17-yard score in the fourth quarter to impress spectators in the stands, watching from home or even on the field.

“He is ridiculous,’’ Miller said. “The kid is out of this world.’’

The same could be said for Brother Rice on this night.

The Crusaders (5-1, 1-1) have been strong this year, but had their flaws. They will likely get a generous seed in the postseason but the defense gave up 28 points in a 28-0 loss to Loyola, 33 points in a win over Wheaton St. Francis and 35 more in a win over St. Laurence heading into the Mt. Carmel game.

That was a problem.

But that’s a concern that seemed to be addressed by holding the Caravan (which averaged 36 points a game) to just two touchdowns and the first came after the Caravan recovered the ball at the Crusader 12 for a very short field.

“Everybody stepped up and played as a team,” Smalling said. “It was a wonderful thing just playing our game. It’s a great rivalry against Mt. Carmel, we just had to prove that we can also play with the big dogs.’’

Smalling, fellow receiver Julian Blain and running back Zavian Valladay picked up some defensive action in the game as well as the Crusaders nursed some defensive injuries.

“You put your best athletes on the field and defensively we had a pretty good scheme and guys stepped up,” Crusaders coach Brian Badtke said. “They had their responsibilities and they did their job. That all we ask them. Do your job. Don’t do anyone else’s job, just do your job.’’

Sophomore Brian Olsen led the Crusaders with nine tackles and Tahj Silas added eight. Aarion Lacy had an interception.

Rice had a 355-307 yardage advantage. Miller threw for 257 yards and the coach is wondering why his senior signalcaller is not getting as much love from colleges.  Miller is 134-of-196 for 1,510 yards with 19 touchdowns in six games.

“Why are people waiting on Cam Miller?” the coach asked. “Dartmouth and Ivy League schools are looking at him but there should be more. I told people at the beginning of the year he’s the best quarterback in this league.’’

The Crusaders have a week off as their next scheduled opponent, Legal Prep Charter, will forfeit Friday night’s game and finish the regular season off hosting Providence (the defending Class 7A champions who are 2-4) on Oct. 16 and visiting traditional Catholic League Blue power St.  Rita (which is also 2-4) on Oct. 23.

Mt. Carmel was led by A.J. Reis, who had 95 yards. Quarterback Anthony Thompson left the game late in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury.

The Caravan host Leo on Friday, will have a forfeit victory over Hales Franciscan on Oct. 16 and will have a showdown with unbeaten Loyola Academy Oct. 24 in Wilmette.


Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: I smell a state championship coming

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Area high school golf regionals were slated to start on Tuesday and from now until we’re burping up leftover turkey a few days after Thanksgiving, the postseason for fall sports should be exciting.

In this area, it wouldn’t be out of the question if we get a state champion or two. At the very least, there are going to be some fun moments, dramatic moments and some downright awful moments for various teams in the area.

The state championships start on Oct. 16 and 17 with golf in Decatur and Bloomington and Sandburg’s girls, who finished fifth in the state in Class AA last year, are led by an Emily (Cosler) and an Emilyee (McGiles) to go with Erin Cronin and freshman Hannah Kilbane as some of the top performers.

Will the Eagles land a state championship trophy? They have to be considered in the team picture.

The Sandburg boys golf team is a good bet – with a couple of Bretts – to make some noise. Will Schieber, Brett Katalinic and Brett Been have been leading the way during the season for the Eagles.

The following week, Oct. 22-24, the girls state tennis final takes place at all types of schools in the northwest suburbs and traditionally, our area doesn’t have a lot of team firepower to compete with the north and west suburbs. But individually Sandburg freshman Anna Loureiro could be a player to watch. The way she has been playing, she has a shot at being seeded in the top 32.  

On Nov. 6-7, the Class 2A and 3A soccer finals are in Hoffman Estates and that reminds me of something. A few years ago, the soccer finals were held at Lincoln-Way North. North , which is scheduled to close after this school year because of budget woes in its district, opened in 2008.

That has to be the only school in state history to close in less than 10 years and host a state tournament.

But I digress.

Area soccer is goofy this year and even some of the powerhouses are not much above the .500 mark. The seedings came out last week and at the Class 3A sectional, Sandburg earned a No. 2 seed (behind Bradley Bourbonnais) and Stagg was seeded fourth.

Not bad.

The problem is that hours after that announcement was made last Thursday, fifth-seeded Lockport knocked off Sandburg, 1-0, in a SouthWest Suburban Blue contest while Stagg was beaten by 10th-seeded Homewood Flossmoor the same day.

So in a few weeks, things can get crazier.

That weekend also features the boys and girls cross country championships on Nov. 7 in Peoria.

Sandburg, which just picked up the No. 1 ranking in the country by MileSplit USA earlier in the week, looks like it could be the real deal and bring a Class 3A state championship trophy to Orland Park. No one is going to make it easy on the Eagles. At the beginning of the season, Sandburg was only able to beat Lyons Township by one point in a meet so anything can happen.

On the girls side, it will be interesting to see how high Marist can finish after being moved from Class 3A to 2A.

On Nov. 13-14, the girls volleyball championships take place in Normal. Will we have an area team make it to the final four? It depends on how things shake out a week prior.

Benet, the Class 4A champ three of the last four years, happens to be in the Lyons Sectional mix with the area’s strong squads Mother McAuley, Marist, Sandburg, Shepard and Richards. If one of the area teams breaks out of that loaded sectional, the sky is the limit.

On Nov. 20-21 is the girls swimming and diving finals in Winnetka.

The area should be able to get a few relay teams to state. Individually, Sandburg’s Claire Lawler (who finished seventh in the 50-meter freestyle and seventh in the 100) and Stagg diver Stagg diver Claire Van Dame hope to qualify for state again.

Finally, there is football on Nov. 27-28 – right after Thanksgiving. For the second time in three years, the state championships are in DeKalb. Two years ago, Richards was in the Class 6A championship. Will they return? The road will be tough but not many schools in the state will relish playing them in the early rounds.

Brother Rice, Marist, Sandburg and St. Laurence also could be in the playoffs but do any of these four have the muscle to make it past the second round?

So that’s a month or so of some fun times ahead.