A Hunni of an upset for SXU

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




Photo by Jeff Vorva

Quarterback Justin Hunniford runs in the end zone after tossing the ball to the officials after scoring the first touchdown in Thursday’s 32-27 upset win over Marian. Hunniford threw for 425 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores.


The first step in erasing last year’s rare sub .500 season for St. Xavier University’s football team came right away.

The Cougars were 5-6 last year – the first year without a winning season since 1999 – and still picked up a No. 24 ranking in the nation according to NAIA coaches. The Cougars opened their season on Thursday against the fifth-ranked team in the country, Marian, and dominated the first half, lost the lead in the second half but rallied for a 32-27 victory in front of 1,500 fans at Deaton Field. Marian beat SXU 56-10 to open the season in 2016.

The win not only started the healing process from last year, it may be the start of getting the Cougars back to elite status in the country and it also showed its new quarterback is going to be someone who might give future opponents on the schedule some fits.

Junior Justin Hunniford, a transfer from Division III North Central College, barely beat out sophomore Alex Martinez for the starting job in camp and his debut was legendary as he threw for 425 yards and a two touchdowns and ran for two more scores. His 54-yard scoring strike to Chris Simmons on a fourth-and-nine with 1 minute, 28 seconds left in the game, put the Cougars back in the lead for good after giving up 20 straight points in the second half to give up a 26-7 halftime lead.

“That was a good ball thrown by Justin Hunniford,” Simmons, a sophomore who attended Nazareth Academy said. “That man has shown in camp he earned that spot and throws like that are big-time plays and that’s the reason we won the game. I don’t know if I ran the right route, but I was open and he put it on me.’’

Hunniford, a former Providence Catholic standout, said he was excited but calm on the play that meant the difference between a win and loss. He hit Simmons at around the Marian 25 yard line and Simmons took it from there.

“It was a one-on-one matchup with my favorite receiver and I just knew he was going to win it,” Hunniford said. “Chris has a lot of talent and he was the go-to guy in that situation. The safety was coming in on him and I knew he was going to catch the ball and I thought a hit was going to come then and there. He made a move and hit speed took over after that.’’

Hunniford, who connected on 24 out of 36 passes, spread the wealth as Simmons had five catches for 96 yards, Drey Devereaux had five catches for 58 yards and a score, Nick Czeszewski added four catches for 131 yards and Harold Davis had four for 108 including a 78-yard grab in the first half to set up a score.

Abdul Mahdi, former star at Bogan, booted a pair of field goals including a 53-yarder with :21 left in the first half.

While the defense gave up 445 yards to Marian, it came through at a couple of clutch times.

Marian had the ball on a fourth-down play at the SXU 1 in the third quarter and Cougar linebacker Omar Salazar stuffed freshman running back Tristan Tonte for a two-yard loss. On Marian’s final drive, former Nazareth star Dmitri Joe sacked quarterback Luke Johnston and the ball popped loose and was recovered by Jeff Cesario to put the game on ice.

Originally, the Cougars were supposed to open the season against Western Illinois University but the Leathernecks pulled out of the contract and Marian was still available to play.

“We got a check from Western Illinois and got in a great game against a rival, so it couldn’t have worked out any better,’’ SXU coach Mike Feminis said.

SXU visits Missouri Baptist at noon Saturday in St. Louis. Missouri had six turnovers in a 28-7 road loss to Lyon (Ark.) to open the season.



Evergreen Park's Martin Malone back in the swing of Chicago Triathlon

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Evergreen Park’s Martin Malone has run in several triathlons in his career – including the first Chicago Triathlon in 1983 -- but stopped in 2009.

In the 35th year of the event, Malone returned.

See, his son, Lucas, a former Brother Rice football player who is now living in Chicago, wanted to try the tri for the first time and Martin, who turned 60 this year, decided to make his comeback after he took what he called his “sabbatical” from the big races.

“He said he was going to do it and I said ‘you know, something? I turned 60 this year and I hit a new bracket,” he said. “I’ll be one of the youngest guys in the bracket. So I trained for it so we could do it together.’’

Martin finished the .93-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike ride and 6.2-mile event along Chicago’s lake shore in 2 hours, 56 minutes and 34 seconds on Sunday. He was 1,156th out of 3,037 overall and 14th out of 53 in the 60-64 male age group. Lucas, 25, finished at 3:18:13 and was 2,078th.

Martin, a former St. Rita hockey player, started his long distance running career with a marathon in San Diego in 1980. In 1983, there was talk about a triathlon coming to Chicago and he and some friends were all for it.

He said that the race was organized for a first-time venture but before the race, no one knew for sure if it would go on because of permit issues. Everything was resolved at the 11th hour and the race was on.

 “The race was intriguing,” Malone said. “The running was 15K back then and the swimming was 2K. The run was 9.3 miles and the bike was 25 miles. I wanted to participate in it because I thought it would be fun.’’

He said the water was cold and people were fishing along the lake. He first thought the fishermen would be cleared when the race started but that didn’t happen.

“That was hilarious,” he said.

What wasn’t hilarious, however, was how he started the race.

“I got kicked in the face and my contact lens got dislodged,” he said. “I couldn’t stop. So I basically swam with one eye. I finished it and during the transition, I found it in my goggles and put it back in my eye for the rest of the event.’’

He said after the race, some of the top finishers ate and drank with members of the rest of the field.

“Obviously it’s not like that now,’’ Malone said. “It was a smaller group and it was pretty cool.’’

Another Evergreen Park athlete – Jeff Sabbath – continued his streak of participating in all 35 races. The 58-year-old is the only person to accomplish that. He finished with a 2:44.06, good for 617th.

Glenview’s Vachee Loughran won the race with a 2:01.12.


Basti boils as Fire loses to Minnesota

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


PAGE 2 BASTI 2 8 31

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Bastian Schweinsteiger argues with the officials after the Fire was upset, 2-1, by expansion team Minnesota on Saturday night in Bridgeview. 



WHEN: 6 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Stade Saputo, Montreal



NOTEWORTHY: The Fire’s last road game was in Montreal and the Impact pulled off a 3-0 on Aug. 16 victory to drop Chicago’s record on the road to 2-7-4.


The face of the Fire was not smiling much on Saturday night.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, the man with the million-watt and million-dollar smile, had a lot of frowns and scowls as the Fire dropped a 2-1 decision to Minnesota United FC in front of an announced crowd of 18,048 at Toyota Park. It’s the Fire’s fourth straight loss and sixth setback in its last seven games and second straight loss in Bridgeview. And it came to an expansion team that entered the night 6-14-4 and was tied with Colorado for the worst record in Major League Soccer.

The Fire still entered this week in relatively decent shape for a playoff appearance as it was in fourth place in the East Division with a 12-9-5 mark, but the downward spiral is getting to the players.

Schweinsteiger kicked the ball in disgust at halftime when the Fire was trailing 2-0 (thanks to two Abu Danladi goals) and gave the referees and earful. He was whistled for a yellow card at the 84th minute and after the game he appeared to give officials a sarcastic handshake before barking at them some more.

Despite his frustrations, he was named by the fans as the Man of the Match.

The German star did not talk to the media after the game and the gloomy locker room was only broken up by aggravation. Agitated Dax McCarty wants the team to get back on the same level it was when it was tied with Toronto with the MLS’s best record in July.

"We've always had a sense of urgency but clearly now, with the way things have gone in the last couple of games, I think that needs to be ramped up to another level,” he said. “The playoffs are certainly not a certainty right now so we need to make sure we stay positive and try to get back on the right track."

McCarty joined the U.S. Men’s National Team Monday and will miss Saturday’s action at Montreal.

The Fire outshot Minnesota 20-8 and had a 57-percent possession advantage but those two usually important stats did not produce a victory.

"I am worried, I'm actually not happy with the performance on defense,’’ Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We concede very easy goals, I think we can always go back and see the individual mistakes but also the collective mistakes and both are what kills us. However, we're working on that. Today the back line worked very well actually as a unit. But those individual mistakes we couldn't fix in those moments. We have to get back to where we have more clean sheets, especially at home. That's our goal, that's something that has to become the priority and were working on that." 

David Accam scored his 14th goal of the season (with an assist from Schweinsteiger) to stay hot. Nemanja Nikolic, however, is scoreless in eight straight games after opening up his Fire career with 16 goals in the first 18 games.



Wrestling legend Bill Weick dies at 85

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Stock in Mary Jane candy and a couple of cigar factories may have taken a dip.

Anyone who knew Brother Rice wrestling coach Bill Weick, who died Aug. 15 at age 85, loved his cigars and his Mary Jane candy. And he loved wrestling even more.

The Chicago Ridge resident loved the sport so much, he was willing to spend any time he could trying to teach it to various generations of grapplers.

Weick touched many lives during his career as a wrestler and coach, which also included stints with the U.S. Olympic team and Mount Carmel. Even in his eighth decade on earth, he was never too busy to teach.

“A few years ago, I was able to witness some of the magic of Bill Weick,’’ Robert Tipsword wrote on a USA Wrestling message board. “He had his Brother Rice team at a tournament at Buffalo Grove High School. The Buffalo Grove youth wrestling team happened to be practicing in an adjacent gym. During a break in the high school tournament, we found Bill working with the kids on the youth wrestling team.

“A great man, sharing some of his vast knowledge with the little guys.”

It’s likely impossible to figure out how many “little guys” he taught who grew up to be great wrestlers and great members of society, but there were a lot. USA Wrestling President Bruce Baumgartner, a two-time Olympic champion and three-time World champion, told the USA Wrestling website about how much Weick shaped his career.

“Bill Weick was my personal coach at the Olympic Games and World Championships many times. He was instrumental in developing the skills, work ethic and mental toughness that set the foundation for my success over the years,’’ he said. “I first met Bill in 1981, when he was coach of the World University Team. It was one of the toughest camps I had ever gone to. It was my second international experience, and I won. I owe a lot of my success to many coaches, and Bill was one of them who made a difference and set the groundwork for my success.’’

“He was known for old-school toughness and love,’’ added Lee Roy Smith, the executive directior of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “He would make you laugh and challenge you to do what was best for you to become a better wrestler. It was much more than you thought you could do. He helped wrestlers get their hands raised at all levels. He coached from youth to the juniors to high school and up to the Olympic level. There was nobody else like Bill. He had a way to get inside wrestlers and make a difference for them.”

His first coaching job was at Maquoketa High School in Iowa, before returning to Illinois to coach at Tilden Tech, where he had won a state title in 1949.

He coached 21 state champs at Mt.Carmel including Olympic star Joe Williams.  Weick took over the Brother Rice program in 2004 and nine years later, Rudy Yates became the school’s first state champion. Under his watch, the Crusaders had 41 state qualifiers.

The Rice wrestling room was dedicated to him in May 2015 and that ceremony featured an appearance from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Vistatation for Weick was Sunday at the Curley Funeral Home and the funeral mass was held at Most Holy Redeemer Church in Evergreen Park. 

High school season just started and history is made

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Supplied photo

Golfer Maddy Misicka became the first female to participate in an IHSA event for St. Laurence.


The new high school sports season is in its infant stages and there is already some history for the area to brag about.

The first came on Thursday when St. Laurence’s Maddy Misicka became the first female in the 56-year history of the former all-boys school to participate in an Illinois High School Association event when she shot a 93 at the St. Laurence Invitational at Lincoln Oaks Golf Course in Crete.

The senior from Burbank is a former Queen of Peace student who made it to sectional play last season.

Several other fall sports open play Monday and on Tuesday, Mother McAuley’s volleyball team will honor some history of its own.

The school will host the raising of the IHSA Class 4A state and national championship volleyball banners at 6 p.m. in the school’s gym (3737 W. 99th St., Chicago). The team won its 15th state title last year and was recognized by three organizations for winning the national championship.

Also, senior Charley Niego will be honored for winning the Gatorade Player of the Year while Jen DeJarld will be recognized for a national coach of the year honor.

The ceremony will take place between the junior varsity and varsity matches against Joliet Catholic Academy.

Guest Jim Cornelison will sing the “Star Spangled Banner’’ during the program. There will also be a performances by the McAuley a cappella choir and members of the Brother Rice/Mother McAuley marching band.