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Growing pains: Youthful Astros absorb another hit

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Growing pains are called that for a reason.

Simply put, there’s nothing enjoyable about them, as Shepard players found out again Friday night. The Astros were hoping their season-opening trouncing at the hands of visiting Brother Rice had merely been an anomaly.

Instead, it was an indicator of things to come, at least for another week.

A trip to Chicago Heights for a confrontation with Marian Catholic did Shepard absolutely no good in the rebuilding-confidence department; in fact, it made things worse. The Astros did score their first points of 2013, and Edgar Madrigal’s 22-yard field goal actually staked them to a 3-0 lead.

However, it was all downhill from there. A special-teams mishap by Shepard laid the groundwork for the Spartans’ go-ahead score, and the tandem of Ki-Jana Carter and Emilio Garza proceeded to make life miserable for the Astros the rest of the night.

On target on the field: Mustangs sneak past Phillips in ‘opener’

  • Written by Ken Karrson

From the easy chair into the fire — that pretty much described Evergreen Park’s entrance into the 2013 football season.

The Mustangs didn’t just lounge around prior to Friday night’s meeting with Phillips, of course, but they also didn’t have any previous on-field experiences off which to build. Evergreen’s scheduled season-opener against Little Village the week before never got played, first because inclement weather forced a postponement, then because Phoenix coaches couldn’t agree on any suggested makeup time later in the weekend.

As a result, the Mustangs’ Week 1 win came via forfeit, which meant Phillips represented their first actual competition. And the Wildcats definitely offered a big-time challenge.

In fact, Phillips, which had pushed De La Salle to overtime one week earlier, very nearly left Evergreen with a victory in tow. Three things — or, rather, three people — kept the Wildcats from doing so.

When Mustangs quarterback Jonathan O’Brien hooked up with Jacquet McClendon on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 37.7 seconds remaining in regulation, Evergreen expunged a deficit and moved in front by three points. And then Tim Walsh came to the Mustangs’ defensive rescue.

Ram tough — again: Vikings’ strong second half does in Gordon Tech

  • Written by Ken Karrson

An American automaker describes one of its models as “Ram tough,” but it may want to reconsider that slogan.

Better yet, perhaps the company should think about introducing a Vikings brand. That’s because, for two weeks running, a group bearing that name has been tougher than sets of Rams.

One week after scoring an emotional victory over Burbank neighbor Reavis, St. Laurence drove past Gordon Tech. Like their namesakes before them, this latest collection of Rams was victimized by a third-quarter onslaught.

This time, the Vikings erupted for 23 points over that 12-minute stretch, an uprising that staked St. Laurence to an 18-point advantage at Kavanagh Field. That was enough to get the job done, as the Vikings posted a 36-12 triumph in their home opener Friday night.

While St. Laurence’s overall performance didn’t rate as high a grade as their display the week before, at least in head coach Harold Blackmon’s eyes, there was something to be said for the Vikings’ ability to win a game sandwiched between two higher-profile contests.

In addition to meeting Reavis for the first time ever on the football field, St. Laurence’s early schedule included an encounter with traditional Chicago Catholic League Blue power St. Rita. That game takes place Friday at Pat Cronin Field.

“We kind of warned them about the letdown game [in Week 2],” Blackmon said of his players. “You kind of tend to overlook Gordon Tech in that situation, but they’ve got some talented players over there and they’re a pretty tough team.

Volleyball roundup: Lady RedHawks earning new coach’s admiration

  • Written by Anthony Nasella

Even though Marist competed in just two varsity matches during the first two weeks of the 2013 season, Julie Popp-Hopkins hasn’t been idle.

  The Lady RedHawks’ first-year coach has been taking in the entire new experience and loves everything she is seeing within the program, especially from her own players.

And that love was particularly evident when she watched Marist play with resilience against defending Class 4A state champion Benet Academy. The Lady RedHawks (2-0) fought back from a first-game loss to defeat the Lady Redwings in three sets, 12-25, 25-19, 25-21, Friday night in Lisle.

Ann Marie Stifter put down 11 kills for Marist, while Colleen Riley and Lizzie Zaleski both delivered eight. Riley augmented her work with three blocks. Also lending a hand were Molly Mayo (31 assists, seven digs) and Carolyn Yerkes (11 digs).

“Playing on the road and defeating Benet was a great experience,” said Popp-Hopkins, a Queen of Peace graduate who also had a stellar collegiate volleyball career at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

“Benet is a great program. They’re in our [East Suburban Catholic] conference and they’re back-to-back state champions, so there was a lot preparation on our end to face them.

Refusing to be shorted: Chargers take care of business at homecoming

  • Written by Ken Karrson

 Photo by Jeff Vorva. Oak Lawn quarterback Konrad Lach is brought down by Stagg’s David Griffith during Friday night’s matchup in Palos Hills. Photo by Jeff Vorva. Oak Lawn quarterback Konrad Lach is brought down by Stagg’s David Griffith during Friday night’s matchup in Palos Hills.

A shortened week of preparation didn’t shortchange Stagg.

While the Chargers were glad to win their season-opener, regardless of when it finally took place, there was no denying that a weather-induced reshuffling of the schedule did them no favors. After beating Hillcrest on Labor Day, Stagg coaches had just three days to get their players ready for Oak Lawn’s visit on Friday.

Photo by Jeff Vorva. While the Stagg sidelines erupt, first-year head coach Mike Fahey (in hat) remains stoic after the Chargers score a second-half touchdown against Oak Lawn Friday Night. A 36-14 victory gave Stagg its best start to a season since 2005.Photo by Jeff Vorva. While the Stagg sidelines erupt, first-year head coach Mike Fahey (in hat) remains stoic after the Chargers score a second-half touchdown against Oak Lawn Friday Night. A 36-14 victory gave Stagg its best start to a season since 2005.As if that wasn’t a formidable enough task, it was further complicated by the fact that the Chargers’ home debut was also part of Stagg’s homecoming festivities. And the occasion would be heightened by the appearance of Amos Alonzo Stagg’s grandchildren, who were going to help celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary.

But Chargers head coach Mike Fahey never let his athletes forget there was a game to be played. Despite all the apparent obstacles it was forced to clear, Stagg did so nicely, as it collected a 36-14 triumph over the Spartans.

The Chargers opened a season with back-to-back wins for the first time since 2005, which, interestingly enough, was also the last time they qualified for the state tournament. Stagg hadn’t won consecutive games at any point of a campaign since 2009.

“Our kids were pumped and I’ve got to give them a lot of credit,” Fahey said. “To play two games in five days and execute a game plan as well as they did [on Friday] says a lot about them. Our seniors led the right way and everything just clicked.