'He is ridiculous'

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Page 1 ricky 1


 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.


Moraine Valley soccer flying high

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Sports photo 1


Photo by Glenn Carpenter/MVCC

Erick Carrasco flies high for a kick against the College of Lake County while he and his teammates are flying high winning their first seven games.



Chuck Bales has spent more than 25 years a soccer player and coach.

Al Palar is 25 years old.

The experienced Bales and the youthful Palar are both enjoying perfection so far.

Bales has coached the Moraine Valley Community College men’s soccer team for 21 years and this year the Cyclones started with a 7-0 mark including a 3-1 victory over Malcolm X on Saturday. The Cyclones outscored their opponents, 35-8 in the first seven games.

Palar is in his first year as the Cyclones women’s coach, and they have gone 10-0, including a 16-0 victory over Truman on Saturday. It was Truman’s first women’s game since 2011. The Cyclones outscored their first 10 opponents 50-1.

One of the happiest people for the success of both programs is Palar, who was an assistant coach with Bales for the past two seasons.

“I’m so excited for those guys,” Palar said. “It’s great to see them having the season they are having and we’re doing well, too. We’re getting a lot of support from the men’s team and we are supporting them whenever we can. We’re also getting support from the volleyball team and players from the basketball teams. It’s been fun.’’

It’s hard to build a dynasty in junior college sports because players come and go so frequently. There is either a one- or two-year window with athletes. So far, the stars have aligned for both teams.

“This isn’t a joke team, this is serious,” said men’s soccer player Przemyslaw Tylka, a sophomore from Sandburg, who was an all-Region IV player last year. “We thought we had a pretty good team last year, but we had some injuries and didn’t do as well as we wanted. This year, we have a good combination of returning players and newcomers and we have worked well together.’’

A signature victory in the streak was a 4-3 overtime victory over Morton College on Sept. 22. The Cyclones were down 3-0 at halftime and turned things around as freshman Stefan Mijatovic (York High School) had two goals including the overtime score. Tylka and Alex Alvaraz (Kennedy) added goals and goalie Alan Garcia (Sandburg) kept Morton off the board in the second half and OT.

“We’ve had teams that have gone undefeated in the regular season before, but this group is special,”  Bales said. “There is a lot of talent on this team and we are hoping to get even better to prepare for the postseason.’’

Other sophomore members of the team are Christian Czaja (Lockport), Jose Estrada (Reavis),  Gabriel Martinez (Kennedy), Thomas Nie (Sandburg), Giovanni Sanchez (Eisenhower), Jesus Sandoval (Curie), Rafal Slomba (Reavis), Danny Vallejo (Reavis) and Ivan Velazquez (Reavis).

Other freshmen on the team are Erick Carrasco (Washington), Michell Corona (a Hickory Hills resident who attended Garcia Charter), Tawfik Dayem (from Syria), Byron Duran (Oak Lawn), Rafael Herrera (Morton), Gregorio Illner (from Brazil), Elias Leyva (Addison Trail), Maurizio Mancuso (Sandburg), Jose Martinez (Washington),  Daniel Navar (Morton), John Nowobilski  (a Burbank native who attended St. Rita and UIC) Miguel Ruiz (Kelly), Ryan Temple (Lyons) and Evangelous Vouris (Sandburg).

The women’s team’s signature victory in its streak was a 2-1 victory over Waubonsee Community College Sept. 16. Freshmen Bella Rodriguez (Kelly) and Sintia Salas (Curie) scored the goals in that game. Freshman Kaylyn Egyarto (Sandburg) was the winning goalie.

“We’re playing so much fundamentally better this year,” sophomore Kristina Cysper of Shepard High School said. “And it seems like we’re faster. Waubonsee seemed so much faster last year than this year.’’

Other sophomores on the squad are Liliana Cabrera (Hubbard), Alex Delgado (Reavis), Cecia Esquivel (Eisenhower), Maggie Hacker (Sandburg) and Xitlaly Mandujano (Hubbard),

Other freshmen on the roster are Alex Abed (Stagg), Dalila Alcala (Eisenhower), Francis Corona (Curie), Kourtnie Hanold (Shepard), Alejandra Hernandez (Reavis), Ewelina Kmin (Reavis), Diana Lang (an Orland Park native who attended Marist), Karina Lopez (Reavis), Victoria Paczkowska (Reavis), Lauren Regan (an Oak Lawn resident who attended Mother McAuley), and Paulina Stafira (Stagg)





Yes, Michigan, right away, Michigan

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Sports photo 2


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Lexi Voss, posing in front of the charging horse inside Stagg High School, has already made a verbal commitment to Michigan even though she is a freshman and hasn’t played an inning of high school softball yet.

By Jeff Vorva

Sports Editor

Palos Park’s Lexi Voss has it all figured out.

She will attend the University of Michigan on a softball scholarship and major in kinesiology.

Now that she has that out of the way, she can turn to more immediate matters…such as finishing the rest of her three years and eight months at Stagg High School.

Before she takes her first swing of the bat in a high school game or plays her first varsity inning, the freshman already verbally accepted an offer from a program that finished second in the nation in softball in the spring. She won’t be able to officially sign until her senior year, but right now there is a spot waiting for her in 2019-2020.

Thanks to Voss’s play with the Beverly Bandits travel team and getting invited to elite camps, Michigan saw the right-handed outfielder.  Coaches made her an offer during a Sept. 21 visit to the Ann Arbor campus, which included taking in Michigan’s 28-7 football victory over UNLV.  It didn’t take long for her to make her decision.

“I called them that Monday to take the offer,” she said. “I was astonished to be offered by Michigan. I knew that I had a chance to play college softball somewhere. I just didn’t know what level I would be playing at. As I got older, I knew I wanted to go to a Division I college, but I never expected Michigan.’’

Now comes the hard part.

Every time she makes an error or doesn’t reach base, there will be some whispers and pointing from the stands. That’s the girl going to Michigan? Really?

Voss said she knows that is a part of the deal and accepts it.

“I know there is going to be stuff said but I don’t take that seriously,” she said. “I am just going to go out and work hard and if I make an error I’ll just shake it off. I don’t care what anyone else has to say.’’

Voss said she is one of 32 softball players from the class of 2019 that she is aware of who committed to a Division I college.

She was coached on the Bandits last year by Ramsey Harkness and Laura Harms and Harkness has concerns about players who sign this early but thinks all will turn out well in Voss’s case.

“There are so many things that can happen in four years,” Harkness said. “It’s a gamble for some players. There is nothing binding from either side. But Michigan liked Alexis’s size and hitting ability and she’s such a well-grounded kid that I think this will work out well.  Just the other day, I called her about her decision and she was out working on her game. She is dedicated.’’

Voss comes from an athletic family. Her father, Keith, played football at Chicago Christian while her mother, Becky was a cheerleader at Oak Lawn High School.

Lexi got into the sport five years ago when her friend Allison Van Nieuwenhuyse coaxed her to try it out. After a few years with rec ball and travel ball, Voss joined the Bandits two years ago and “that’s when everything blew up,” she said.

On the field, her ultimate goal is to play softball beyond college – possibly the Olympics. Off the field, her ultimate goal is to become a neurosurgeon.

For now, she is going to try to enjoy her next four years at Stagg and with the Bandits.

“I love this sport so much and I really like the challenge of hitting,” she said. “I love stepping into the box and eyeing the pitcher. I love that feeling.’’


Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: You think we have some wild scores? Well...

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Each week, it seems like my eyes almost pop out of my head when I see St. Laurence ring up 70 points or Marist and its opponents go toe to toe in 45-28 and 49-42 shootouts.

We’ve had some wild games, to be sure, this season but this area isn’t alone in cornering the market in unbelievable scores.

In our own state, Rockford Lutheran beat Winnebago 49-6 on Sept. 18. That was known as the nailbiter out of its first four games.

The Crusaders opened the season with a 62-7 over Quincy Notre Dame. They followed it up with a 76-7 triumph over Rockford Christian.

Then on Sept. 11, the Crusaders allowed Dixon to rack up 28 points on them! They scored 95.

Meanwhile, they have this stud running back, James Robinson, who rushed for 202 yards in a little over two quarters against Winnebago. He stood 647 yards away from 8,477, which is the state record for career rushing yards set by Westville’s Caleb Pratt. Robinson already has the touchdown mark after scoring his 116th against Quincy.

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, DuBois scored 90 points in a game but couldn’t be accused of running the score up because it LOST by more than two touchdowns.

Visiting Meadville beat DuBois 107-90 and this wasn’t some 7-on-7 game. Meadville ran a Wing-T. Dubois ran a spread offense.

“I’ll tell you what, the fans that paid their $5 to come see this game certainly got their money’s worth,” Meadville coach Ray Collins told the Meadville Tribune. What you had was two very good offenses teeing up on each other. But neither team brought their defense.’’

DuBois sophomore quarterback Matt Miller threw for 785 yards – a national high school record --and 10 touchdowns.

It was also a long journey for Meadville running back Journey Brown who had 30 carries for 722 yards and 10 touchdowns but missed the national mark of 754 yafds. Two other Meadville backs ran for 91 or more yards.

The game lasted 3 ½ hours, which doesn’t seem all that long compared to some games that we’ve had here in the area. There were 1,827 yards of offense and unofficially 8,743 curse words from the defensive coordinators.

The wildest game I ever covered was the 2011 Class 5A state championship game in which Montini beat Joliet Catholic 70-45 in Champaign. Ty Isaac, who is now making big runs at Michigan, ran for 515 yards and six touchdowns in a losing effort.

The winning quarterback threw for 587 yards and his name is familiar around this area – current SXU quarterback John Rhode, who won back-to-back Offensive Player of the Week honors from the Mid-States Football Association.

That is one game I will never forget.

But its peanuts compared to some of the things going on in Rockford and DuBois.

Wouldn’t the first thing you do…?

You may have noticed a new name in our sports section covering football games.

Phil Arvia, an award-winning columnist and former sports editor of the Southtown-Star, will be on board working for us and it should be an interesting ride.

We have competed against each other in the past. We worked together in the past. We cussed each other and have hurled out some pretty hurtful insults in the past. And for a short time, he was actually my boss and I was hoping he didn’t remember some of the hurtful insults I had hurled at him.

Now I am his boss and the first thing he did after I gave him my cell phone number was send a hurtful text to me. And I laughed myself silly.

Anyway, one of the things he used to do as a know-it-all columnist was scold the hard-working beat writers with a “Wouldn’t the first thing you do…?’’ crack at us when he didn’t think we were doing our job. Whenever he got too wound up over something when he was a columnist – which was usually any day that ended in a “y,” I would tell him “Just have fun with it.’’

In 2011, he and Steve McMichael had their hands in writing “Amazing Tales from the Chicago Bears Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Bears Stories Ever Told.’’  As of this writing, this amazing book ranked 652,978 on Amazon and there were some used copies available for 8 cents.

I’ll break character here for a second and say this: Arvia is perfect for what we are trying to do here. He will give you great insight on a game or team. He’s entertaining and offbeat and a hell of a writer. I am lucky to have him on my staff and I believe that our readers are lucky is on the staff.

Now I hope he listens to me and has fun with it…