Thursday, October 19, 2017

When I first got serious...

Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar has never missed the playoffs. Never.
...about high school football back in the fall of 2011 I drove down to Bolingbrook to see the Raiders host a team called Lincoln-Way East. All I really knew was that both schools were undefeated in the Southwest Suburban Blue Conference (whatever that was); the names of their quarterbacks, Aaron Bailey* and Blake Winkler; and that it was a long, long way from my house.

It turned out to be a great game, though. The Griffins won, 20-14, despite two really exciting touchdown runs by Bailey. And it also ended up being the only loss on the year for Bolingbrook; the Raiders went on to defeat Loyola, 21-17, in the 8A championship.

But since that night, Lincoln-Way East has won four out of the last five meetings with Bolingbrook. Here's their entire history going back to 2005. (Home team in CAPS.)

2016: Lincoln-Way East 41, BOLINGBROOK 23
2015: Lincoln-Way East 28, BOLINGBROOK 0
2014: LINCOLN-WAY EAST 23, Bolingbrook 9
2013: BOLINGBROOK 12, Lincoln-Way East 3
2012: LINCOLN-WAY EAST 42, Bolingbrook 18
2011: Lincoln-Way East 20, BOLINGBROOK 14
2010: LINCOLN-WAY EAST 43, Bolingbrook 7
2009: BOLINGBROOK 46, Lincoln-Way East 24
2008: BOLINGBROOK 27, Lincoln-Way East 17
2007: BOLINGBROOK 19, Lincoln-Way East 7
2006: LINCOLN-WAY EAST 22, Bolingbrook 14
2005: LINCOLN-WAY EAST 38, Bolingbrook 15

Tomorrow night Bolingbrook (7-1) hosts Lincoln-Way East (8-0) in what will surely be the Game of the Week.

The visiting Griffins are ranked No. 1 in all three polls I follow. Wow. Below is their 2017 schedule so far. As you can see, they've defeated four teams with 7-1 records and one that's 6-2. Double wow.

LINCOLN-WAY EAST 27, Crete-Monee (7-1) 7
Lincoln-Way East 28, MAINE SOUTH (7-1) 26
Lincoln-Way East 42, ANDREW (6-2) 2
LINCOLN-WAY EAST 46, Sandburg (3-5) 7
Lincoln-Way East 28, LINCOLN-WAY CENTRAL (7-1) 14
Lincoln-Way East 29, HOMEWOOD-FLOSSMOOR (7-1) 7
LINCOLN-WAY EAST 49, Lockport (1-7) 6
LINCOLN-WAY EAST 49, Thornwood (0-8) 6

Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow. They both look like football coaches, don't they?
The Raiders, for their part, aren't ranked in the Sun-Times, but are rated No. 18 in the Tribune and No. 23 in MaxPreps. Bolingbrook split with the two teams it faced with 7-1 records but hasn't beaten another winning program all year.

Bolingbrook 35, DOWNERS GROVE SOUTH (4-4) 10
Bolingbrook 28, ST. CHARLES NORTH  (7-1) 20
Bolingbrook 52, SANDBURG (3-5) 7
HOMEWOOD-FLOSSMOOR (7-1) 20, BOLINGBROOK 48
BOLINGBROOK 48, Bradley-Bourbonnais (2-6) 24
BOLINGBROOK 42, Lockport (1-7) 21
BOLINGBROOK 45, Thornridge (3-5) 8
Bolingbrook 22, THORNTON  (4-4) 6

The key game for me was that 48-20 loss at Homewood-Flossmoor in Week Four. Lincoln-Way East also played the Vikings on the road two weeks later but defeated them, 29-7. If you're a bookmaker you have to make the Griffins a big favorite tomorrow night. But who knows? Maybe Raider coach John Ivlow can pull a rabbit out of his hat. Stranger things have happened.

* Bailey may still be the best high school football player I've ever seen.

Monday, October 16, 2017

There was no change...

...this week to Beth Long's top ten in the Sun-Times, while Mike Clark flipped Loyola and Phillips in his list.

I guess Loyola's 28-3 defeat of Providence (5-3) impressed Mr. Clark more than Phillips's 14-9 victory over Solorio (6-2). In any case, those two programs supplanted Rochester (8-0) and East St. Louis (7-1) in the MaxPreps top ten.

(I had incorrectly predicted that Providence would upset the traveling Ramblers. Sue me.)

Once again, the 2017 season plodded along in its characteristically boring way, saving all of the excitement (I hope!) for the playoffs.

We're going into Week Nine, and where are all the conference matchups between two undefeated teams that you usually see? The closest I can find is Lincoln-Way East (8-0) at Bolingbrook (7-1). That might be a good game, but the Raiders got clobbered by Homewood-Flossmoor (7-1), 48-20, who in turn lost convincingly to the Griffins, 29-7. So forgive me for not jumping in my car and barreling out to Bolingbrook this Friday. (Although it is a nice, large stadium with plenty of seating and ample parking.)

Any other good tilts this weekend? Well, there's Buffalo Grove (7-1) at Rolling Meadows (6-2), DeKalb (7-1) at Sterling (8-0) -- although that's two hours from my house! -- Antioch (8-0) at Grayslake North (6-2) and Batavia (8-0) at St. Charles North (7-1). I guess that's not a bad lineup.

In the meantime, here are the current rankings. (All teams undefeated unless otherwise noted.)

WEEK NINE

Tribune:

1. Lincoln-Way East
2. Maine South (7-1)
3. Prairie Ridge
4. Loyola (7-1)
5. Phillips
6. Glenbard West (7-1)
7. Marist
8. Homewood-Flossmoor (7-1)
9. Lake Zurich
10. Barrington

Sun-Times:

1. Lincoln-Way East
2. Prairie Ridge
3. Maine South (7-1)
4. Phillips
5. Loyola (7-1)
6. Marist
7. Glenbard West (7-1)
8. Lake Zurich
9. Homewood-Flossmoor (7-1)
10. Barrington

MaxPreps:

1. Lincoln-Way East
2. Prairie Ridge
3. Maine South (7-1)
4. Lake Zurich
5. Barrington
6. Marist
7. Homewood-Flossmoor (7-1)
8. Huntley (7-1)
9. Phillips
10. Loyola (7-1)

We had some relatives...

...over on Saturday for dinner and the first thing they wanted to talk about was -- yep, you guessed it -- Donald Trump.

Specifically, they were all convinced that the president's moves last week to weaken Obamacare would finally -- finally! -- be the thing that would make his voters turn against him.

I responded that Trump said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any support, and so far he's been right.

Their thinking, which would be perfectly reasonable for any other politician, was that if Trump's voters' health insurance premiums, deductibles, etc. went up, he'd be blamed, thus dashing any hopes for a second term. After all, presidents are usually held responsible for whatever happens on their watch. But I disagreed and said I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Trump gets reelected in 2020. In fact, I think he's the odds-on favorite.

How do I get there? Well, first of all, incumbency is a huge advantage. No sitting president has been defeated for reelection since George H. W. Bush in 1992. Even the hapless W. was able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Also, Trump remains the most popular Republican officeholder in America. I know, that's hard to believe, but last I checked around 90 percent of GOP voters approved of his performance. And that's much, much higher than either Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan. (Talk about hapless!)

When my nephew cited the president's low approval ratings I reminded him that Trump's numbers going into November, 2016 weren't that great either.

But Hillary won't be on the ballot this time, they all countered! True, I said, but no matter who gets the Democratic nomination -- Bernie Sanders? Elizabeth Warren? Joe Biden? -- Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart and the rest of the right-wing media will demonize* the Democratic standard bearer to the point where Republican voters will once again hold their noses and "come home" and vote for the GOP candidate. Why? Because, just like last time, Republicans generally vote for Republicans, Democrats vote for Democrats, and in an electorate that's essentially 50/50 Democrat/Republican Trump could just eke out a second term. In fact, I'd bet on it.

But back to the president's recent moves to weaken Obamacare. At first blush that would seem to be a bad move politically. As my relatives pointed out, shouldn't he get blamed if health care in this country gets worse on his watch? You would think so, wouldn't you? But what if Trump says, "See, Obamacare is failing just as I predicted. What's more, the do-nothing Republican Congress can't even repeal and replace it like they said they would so they are the ones to blame, not me." (Who do you think Trump's supporters would believe?) "So vote those clowns out of office and give me a Congress I can work with!"

And the Democrats? "They want single-payer, which is even more government! If Obamacare doesn't work, why would we want that?" (Never mind that Medicare works really well, better than the private sector. We're dealing with a demagogue here. And a good one.)

While I don't think Trump is the smartest guy in the world, he shouldn't be underestimated either. He may not know the first thing about policy or governance but he's pretty good at this politics stuff.

* Remember, Hillary actually had good numbers when she was Secretary of State. It wasn't until she announced for president that the scrutiny began taking its toll.

Although MaxPreps has...

...Thornton beating Bolingbrook (7-1) yesterday, 28-21, both the Tribune and the Herald-News have the Raiders victorious, 22-6. (The IHSA website has yet to update.) So what the heck is going on?

If we assume that Bolingbrook won (and I would be surprised if they didn't) then my Magnificent Seven is looking more and more like a Fab Five. Here are the results for Week Eight:

Buffalo Grove 27, Wheeling 20
Hersey 21, Rolling Meadows 20
Evanston 45, Glenbrook South 20
Bolingbrook 22, Thornton 6
Rochelle 38, LaSalle-Peru 0
Crystal Lake Central 42, Dundee-Crown 28
Lincoln Way West 38, Stagg 14

That makes both Buffalo Grove and Hersey 7-1, and Glenbrook South and Crystal Lake Central 5-3. Even if the Titans lose this week to New Trier (5-3) and the Tigers bow to Cary-Grove (5-3) they would probably be playoff eligible. LaSalle-Peru (4-4), meanwhile, hosts Yorkville (1-7) on Friday in what should also give them a postseason-worthy 5-4 finish.*

Now come my problem children. Thornton and Stagg are both 4-4 and have challenging matchups ahead for Week Nine. The Wildcats host Lincoln-Way Central (7-1) while the Chargers charge out to Moline (6-2). Barring a miracle (or two, actually), the Thornton and Stagg squads should be watching the playoffs from the stands.

So right now it looks like five of my Magnificent Seven programs are going to the postseason. I hope I'm wrong about Thornton and Stagg, but at least there will be a handful of schools that get to cheer on their teams in a tenth game for the first time in a while.

* I really hope the Cavaliers make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, when today's seniors were in fifth grade. I've always wanted to see a game in Howard Fellows Stadium, at top, and if L-P can get past the first round (they would presumably open up on the road) I just might have to drive the hour and a half -- a hundred miles! -- to see them play. Come on, Cavs!

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Egerton Swartwout, the architect of the Elks National Veterans Memorial in Lincoln Park.

Friday, October 13, 2017

While I'm on the subject...

...of walk-up songs, wouldn't this be a great tune to play right before a game? You gotta admit, it beats the hell out of "Sweet Caroline."

Speaking of "Shindig!"...

...and Jay and the Americans (and I never miss an opportunity to post this 1965 clip from Hullabaloo*), here's another great tune that I've always thought would be a good walk-up song for a Major League Baseball hitter or a presidential candidate. (Feel free to use it as I'm rapidly losing hope of ever becoming either.)

Seriously, though, how did Republicans get to "own" love for America? Can't Democrats be patriotic too?

*Hullabaloo, inspired by Shindig!, ran on NBC from January, 1965 through April, 1966.