Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The cartoon of the day:

Here's my favorite scene...

...from the 1971 movie, "The Last Picture Show." I showed it to my wife once and she said she knew why I liked it so much. "That's you talking about me," she smiled.

We celebrated our 25th anniversary last week.

Daniel Sinclair is a...

...mixed martial artist (MMA) from South Africa. You would be forgiven if you had him confused with the Richwoods punter/ placekicker by the same name (below).

You see, in the third quarter of the 6A championship game between Prairie Ridge and Richwoods, which the Wolves won, 35-14, Daniel Sinclair (the football player) kicked off to the Wolves following a Knight touchdown. PR's kick returner, Sean Folliard, weaved his way along the sideline to about the 35-yard line where he was met by Sinclair -- rudely -- with a tackle that could only be described as "unorthodox." It was so unusual, in fact, that the television announcers replayed it several times, commenting on it each time. I guess the best way to describe it is that Sinclair, essentially, put a head lock on the unsuspecting Folliard and then threw both feet up into the air. Sinclair was then upside down and perpendicular to the ground. Folliard -- who must have been stunned -- followed suit, turning upside down himself and hitting the turf head first. Ouch! Sinclair then jumped up and celebrated the feat with his teammates on the sideline.

The announcers, however, had a little difficulty processing what they had just seen.

"That was a heckuva tackle! Let's see that one again."

While they were waiting for the replay, the announcers reminded the listeners -- again -- that Sinclair was actually a goalie on the soccer team who was recruited by coach Roland Brown to kick for the football squad.

"There's that tackle again. In case you were wondering, this is how not to make a tackle."

"Looks like an MMA move!"

"Or a pile-driver from the WWF. Do they still have the WWF?"

"Let's look at that again. Remember, Sinclair was brought on from the soccer team. He is definitely not a football guy..."

It made me wonder about the conversation coach Brown had when he first approached Sinclair to kick for the football team.

"I've never played football; I guess I'm more of a soccer player, coach."

"That's okay; we just need someone who can kick the ball."

"Will I ever have to tackle anyone?"

"Hardly ever."

(Which is a nice segue into one of my rants opinions about kicking in high school football today. It's gotten much better, and the kickers need to kick off from the 30, or at least the 35-yard line. Too many kickoffs land in the end zone for an automatic touchback. There; got that out of the way.)

As for the game itself (oh, yeah -- that), it was a typical example of Prairie Ridge football: a ground game that wouldn't quit and a stingy defense that I've underestimated all year. To give you an idea of the kind of offense head coach Chris Shremp runs at PR, the Wolves gained 357 yards on the ground and only 13 -- yes, thirteen -- in the air. Quarterback Nick Nissen attempted just four passes all day, completing one and throwing one for an interception. (Woody Hayes must be smiling somewhere.) Contrast that with the 5A game (and I'll get to that eventually) which took place just prior to the 6A contest. John Rhode, the quarterback for Montini, threw for an astonishing 587 yards, a new 5A postseason record. Rhode threw 46 passes on the day, completing 29 with one interception. (Can't wait to see that game.)

But back to PR. Their offense, which consists of quarterback Nick Nissen and running backs Connor Greenwald and Jordan Getzelman, runs the option and Shremp has them Execute, Execute, Execute. It's a beautiful thing to behold. (I'm just glad Getzelman will be back next year.)

The defense was led by linebacker Collin Corcoran, with nine tackles, and defensive back Brett Covers, whose interception with four minutes remaining sealed Richwoods' fate. (And you gotta love a D back with a name like Covers.)

As for Peoria Richwoods, well, no team that has ever started the season 0-3 has gone on to win the state title, and that remains true after this weekend. But the Knights are a good team, from quarterback Wes McCormack to running back Jeremye Johnson to wide receiver Clayton Glasper, who the announcers kept saying "has a scholarship offer from West Point." (I wanted to tell them that everyone who attends West Point is on scholarship.) On defense the Knights were led by linebacker Michael McElrath and their two monster defensive lineman, Derrick Thomas (6'2", 255) and Malik Young (6'1", 333). Richwoods is a fairly young team and will return a lot of starters next year. I may have to drive down to Peoria and check them out some time.

But I can't wait to see the team Schremp fields next year at Prairie Ridge.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lana Peters, the daughter...

...of Josef Stalin, died last week in -- of all places -- Richland Center, Wisconsin. If you enjoy the Irish sports page obituaries half as much as I do (and no one does), then you have to read hers in the Times today. It involves endless globe-trotting, fortunes gained and lost, religious conversions, and multiple marriages, including one to the former son-in-law of Frank Lloyd Wright. But I think my favorite tidbit is this:

In her teenage years, her father was consumed by the war with Germany and grew distant and sometimes abusive. One of her brothers, Yakov, was captured by the Nazis, who offered to exchange him for a German general. Stalin refused, and Yakov was killed.

How would you like to be...

...a sophomore in high school and have your first start ever as a varsity quarterback against a team with a 27-game winning streak, in the championship game, on television, in Champaign?

Here's the ball, kid.

That's what happened to Jordan Davis (above), of Wheaton Warrenville South, and he performed admirably Saturday in a losing effort to Rockford Boylan.

Oh, and on Boylan's first play from scrimmage, Titan quarterback Lamont Toney ran 72 yards for a touchdown, a 7A postseason record.

Here's the ball again, kid.

And then in the fourth quarter, Toney completed a 79-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaxson Meister, another 7A record.

Here's the ball again, kid. Do you think you can pull this one out for us?

Boylan also kicked a couple of field goals (no record-breakers, as far as I know), Northwestern-bound (gotta put that in there) running back Matt Vitale scored a touchdown (of course), and linebacker Adam Dansdill stripped the ball from Toney on a freak play (why didn't the refs blow the whistle?) and scored another one for the Tigers. (Dansdill also blocked another field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, making him my Wheaton South Player of the Game.)

But time ran out for the Tigers as the rain came down at Memorial Stadium. Boylan won its 28th game in a row, 21-14, and the 7A championship -- a year after the Titans took the 6A crown. What's next, 8A? (These guys are starting to look like a 7A version of Maine South. I'll have to go see them next year.)

Which reminds me: Hey Montini, you just won the 5A title for the third year in a row, by the lopsided score of 70-45. How about stepping up to 6A next year?

Finally, a word about Wheaton South coach Ron Muhitch. If it sounded like I was taunting him in a previous post, I apologize. I actually sat next to Muhitch at a Loyola game a few years ago (I think he was scouting St. Rita) and struck up a conversation with him at the half. Muhitch was an absolute gentleman -- soft-spoken and modest. He impressed me as exactly the kind of guy we should want teaching and coaching in the high schools.

I look forward to seeing Muhitch's team next year also. (Will it be Davis, or Ryan Graham, at quarterback?)

Urban Meyer was hired...

...yesterday to be Ohio State's next head football coach. From the Times (my emphasis):

[Meyer's] contract includes $4 million in base salary, bonuses — for everything from players’ graduation rates to playing in a national championship, up to $700,000 annually — and lump payments in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The deal is worth more than three times the $1.32 million that the university’s president, E. Gordon Gee, made in 2010, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Contracts for college football coaches have increased at a similarly rapid pace. If Mr. Meyer reaches his benchmarks for bonuses, he will be among — and may even surpass — the upper echelon of college football coaches: Mack Brown at Texas, Nick Saban at Alabama, Bob Stoops at Oklahoma and Les Miles at Louisiana State.

An analysis this month by USA Today found the average salary for a major college head coach jumped nearly 55 percent in the past six seasons, to $1.47 million this year from $950,000 in 2006. This season, according to the analysis, 64 coaches made at least $1 million, with three over $4 million and Mr. Brown of Texas over $5 million, making him the highest-compensated coach.

The article doesn't say, but I assume the players' salaries will all remain the same: zero.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A few thoughts...

...on the 8A championship game between Bolingbrook and Loyola Saturday night, which the Raiders won, 21-17:

* First of all, as the picture above shows, it was a rainy, wet night in Champaign. (Glad I didn't go this year.) The game itself was full of turnovers (3 for Loyola, 5 for Bolingbrook), mistakes, questionable calls by the refs, and questionable calls by the coaches (e. g., why did Bolingbrook pass with less than five minutes remaining and the lead?).

* Who would have ever thought that Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey would pass for more yardage (140) than his counterpart, Malcolm Weaver, of Loyola (99)? (Bailey also ran for his 29th and 30th touchdowns of the season.)

* Which brings me to Bolingbrook's defense. I think I've underrated these guys all year. (It's easy to do when you are being dazzled by Bailey on offense.) The Raiders are fast and held Loyola to just ten yards of offense in the second half and 182 total yards for the game. And that was without star middle linebacker and Florida-bound Antonio Morrison! Defenders Andre Allen, Tevin Teamer, Anthony Harris, Emile Wisdom, Parrker Westphal, Phil Wilson, Austin Van Meter, and Diaron Rhodes (who shut down Loyola receiver Charlie Dowdle and sealed the deal with an interception at 3:39 in the fourth quarter) really stepped up in the playoffs.

* And how about a shout-out to Loyola's D, especially Luke Ford (Rambler Defensive Player of the Game), Eric Bielinski, Daveed Carter, Lars Lopatka, and Eric Hauser?

* While I'm at it, receiver Peter Pujols (and quarterback for the last series of downs) was my Rambler Offensive Player of the Game.

* And what was up with pulling Weaver for his last series of downs as a senior in the 8A championship? Was he injured? Because that would be the only explanation that would make sense to me. (Pujols is expected to start as signal-caller for the Ramblers next year.)

* I was impressed with the television coverage of the game. Jack McInerney, the color guy, did an especially good job, although I disagreed with his assessment that Loyola contained Bailey in the first half. My guess is that Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow thought to himself, "Everybody knows we run Bailey on first, second, third, and sometimes fourth downs. Let's come out with something different and try passing on these guys." (Bailey did run for a first down on a fake punt on Bolingbrook's opening possession.)

* Both Ivlow and Loyola coach John Holecek played in the NFL.

* Here's something scary for Bolingbrook's opponents to ponder in the off-season: Jaden Huff, Emile Wisdom, Parrker Westphal, Omar Stover, Chandler Piekarski and Aaron Bailey will all be back next year.

* Loyola set two 8A championship records: Dylan Brennan punted for 66 yards and Will Cushwa kicked a 40-yard field goal.

* Finally, both teams deserved to win. (The stats at half-time were almost identical.) These were two well-coached, evenly-matched teams. Unfortunately for Loyola, they will be graduating a lot of seniors. This was their year. As for Bolingbrook, I just can't wait to see Bailey and the Raiders next year!

Don't look now, but...

...for the first time that I'm aware, Newt Gingrich is leading Mitt Romney on Intrade to win the Iowa Caucus.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Bolingbrook captured the 8A title...

...last night by defeating Loyola, 21-17.

I'll have a lot more to say about all the games when I'm finished watching them. In the meantime, here are some other results:

7A: Rockford Boylan 21, Wheaton Warrenville South 14
6A: Prairie Ridge 35, Peoria Richwoods 14
5A: Montini 70, Joliet Catholic 45
4A (Yes, 4A): Rochester 42, Richmond-Burton 39

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The "Presentation of the Victory Wreath"... a relief sculpture on the outside of Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois. There will be no such presentation tonight, but an 8A champion will be crowned after the game between Bolingbrook (12-1) and Loyola (13-0).

(I've written about Bolingbrook here, here, here, and here; and Loyola here, here, here, and here.)

To review, the Raiders beat Neuqua Valley, Mount Carmel, Downers Grove South and Naperville Central in the playoffs. The Ramblers, meanwhile, defeated Evanston, Dunbar, Lyons and Glenbard North.

Bolingbrook amassed 6,001 yards on the season, 4,245 of them on the ground. Junior quarterback Aaron Bailey rushed for 1,834 yards and 28 touchdowns. Running back Omar Stover carried the ball for 846 yards, and sophomore Jaden Huff scored 15 touchdowns. Bailey threw only 118 times for 899 yards and 10 touchdowns with 7 interceptions. Chandler Piekarski and Xavier Perkins were his two favorite receivers.

(Loyola coach John Holecek spent his last year in the NFL, 2002, with the Atlanta Falcons. That just happened to be the year quarterback Michael Vick rushed for almost 800 yards. Since Bailey is similar to Vick, Holecek may wish he had payed more attention when he was on the sidelines.)

The Raider defense allowed 174 points on 3840 total yards and intercepted the ball 9 times. With the exception of sophomore defensive back Parrker Westphal (and that's no misprint; his first name has two "R"s), the defense is made up almost entirely of seniors. Florida-bound linebacker Antonio Morrison led the team in solo tackles but was out with an injury against Naperville Central and is questionable tonight.

The Ramblers rely much more on the passing game than Bolingbrook. While Loyola accumulated 4,721 yards in all, Malcolm Weaver passed for 2,266 of those. The senior quarterback completed 180 passes on 301 attempts for 26 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, only one more than Bailey. His favorite receivers were Charlie Dowdle (12 touchdowns), Marquese Martin-Hayes and junior Peter Pujals. Running back William Palivos gained 936 yards and scored 8 touchdowns.

The defense allowed only 2,212 total yards and intercepted the ball 15 times. Junior safety Luke Ford and linebackers Lars Lopatka and Daveed Carter led the team in tackles.

Unlike Bolingbrook, Loyola's starting team is almost all seniors. This is their year.

The only common opponent for these two teams was Mount Carmel. I happened to see both games and the Caravan really should have beaten the Ramblers in Week 6 in Wilmette. (The South Siders had two touchdowns called back for penalties.) The game against Bolingbrook was in the second round of the playoffs and Mount Carmel was never really in the game. Is this significant? Not necessarily.

In all, I've seen Bolingbrook four times this year and Loyola twice. (I've also seen several of their opponents: Mount Carmel four times, St. Rita, Lincoln-Way East and Naperville Central twice, and Homewood-Flossmoor once.) And although the Ramblers may be the more balanced team, I just don't think they've seen anyone like Bailey or played anyone as good as the Raiders. I expect a close game, but look for Bolingbrook to emerge victorious.

BOWG prediction: Bolingbrook 28, Loyola 24.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"I know things are tight, but I'm sure we can afford to keep more than one bee."

Here's a phony issue...

...if there ever was one. Catholic bishops are objecting to new HHS rules:

...that include contraceptives for women in the package of preventive health care services that all insurers must cover without a deductible or co-payment beginning next year.

The policy follows the recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. It will help drive down the rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion by making birth control more accessible.

Michael Gerson, writing in the Washington Post, calls it a "War on Catholicism."


According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute (my emphasis):

Most sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant—whether unmarried, currently married or previously married—practice contraception. The large majority use highly effective methods. This is true for women of all religious denominations, including Catholics, despite the Church’s formal opposition to contraceptive methods other than natural family planning.

Among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same, 98%, among sexually experienced Catholic women.

When the vast majority of your adherents disregard a particular position, it may be time to rethink that position.

There's a front page article... the Times today about Mitt Romney's hair. (Slow news day.) Among other nuggets, it says:

Mr. Romney does not color his hair.

That's not what my brother told me. He did business with Romney when he was at Bain Capital about ten years ago. And he said that his hair was "all white" at the time.

Come on; the guy is 64!

Okay, Coach Ron Muhitch, as...

...Izzy Mandelbaum would say, "It's go time!"

I'm going to pick Wheaton Warrenville South to fall to Rockford Boylan in the state 7A final tomorrow. Why? Because I've been wrong about the Tigers all along, and I've got to be right sooner or later. (I've been wrong here, here, here, and here.)

To be fair, I didn't even mention Boylan when I made my 7A forecast last month. I guess teams outside the Chicago area just don't hit my radar. But the Titans (13-0) defeated only two winning teams during the regular season, Hononegah and Harlem Machesney, in Weeks 1 and 2. In the playoffs, Boylan has beaten Wheaton North, Crystal Lake South and Lake Zurich. Their combined score over all five was 152-70.

(One of the losing teams Boylan beat was Freeport, whose nickname is the Pretzels. Honest.)

But Wheaton North tied Wheaton South for first place in the DuPage Valley Conference, Crystal Lake South tied Prairie Ridge for first in the Fox Valley-Valley, and Lake Zurich knocked off previously undefeated Glenbard West. The Titans have beaten three really good teams in a row.

Boylan Catholic High School is coached by Dan Appino and plays in the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC-10). Running back Tyreis Thomas leads the team in scoring with 26 touchdowns on the year. Lamont Toney is the quarterback and has thrown for 1,408 yards and 22 touchdowns, mostly to Adonis Brown and Jaxson Meister (six each). Linebackers D. J. Zimmerman and Austin Smith lead the defense in tackles.

The Titans defeated Marmion last year, 48-19, to capture the 6A title. (I was there.)

Here's Boylan's complete 2011 schedule with the last game first and home teams in CAPS:

BOYLAN 16, Lake Zurich 10
BOYLAN 30, Crystal Lake South 13
BOYLAN 37, Wheaton North 20
BOYLAN 40, Libertyville 0
Boylan 56, AUBURN 0
BOYLAN 42, Belvidere 7
BOYLAN 38, Jefferson 8
BOYLAN 48, Rockford East 8
Boylan 59, FREEPORT 0
BOYLAN 49, Guilford 0
BOYLAN 41, Harlem 27
Boylan 28, HONONEGAH 0

BOWG prediction: Boylan 14, Wheaton Warrenville South 7.

What's up with guys like this...

...who wear a scarf with no jacket? (This picture was in the Times yesterday.) Could a scarf possibly be preferable to a coat? What thought process, do you suppose, led this guy to put on this scarf?

What's it like outside? Is is chilly enough for a jacket, or just a scarf?

Or did he walk outside and say to himself,

Whoa! My throat is really cold. I'd better go back inside and put on a scarf!

Or did he walk outside, decide it was too warm for a coat, go back in and hang it up, and walk back out with just the scarf?

Is that even a good look?

I think I'll just walk around in a scarf with no jacket today.

Or did the Times reporter ask him to pose for this picture?

Hang on, let me go back in and put on a scarf!

Maybe he had a spot on his shirt from eating soup at lunch.

Do you have a scarf you could put on, or something?

Just put on a coat.

Andrea True, who wrote...

...and recorded the 1976 disco classic, "More, More, More," died at age 68.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving...

...everyone. (That's what my table will look like.)

According to an editorial... the Times today, "An Earlier November in the New World," over half of the Mayflower's 101 passengers had died in the year after the ship dropped anchor near Cape Cod.

Also, the voyage across the Atlantic took nine weeks. Imagine being at sea in a rickety boat since September 22!

How about a little more...

...civility in our culture? Michele Bachmann was on Jimmy Fallon the other night and the band played "Lyin' Ass Bitch" as she walked on to the set. Now, I've never heard of this song before (surprised?), and I think Ms. Bachmann is a liar, or at least completely deluded. (And while I'm at it, I never thought Fallon was funny, either.) But that was really bad manners on his part.

Next, I hear Rush Limbaugh used the word "uppity" to describe the First Lady:

Uppity. Is there any doubt that this guy just doesn't like black people?

Aaron Schock, at age 30, is...

...the youngest member of the U. S. House of Representatives and the first member of Congress born in the 1980s. Schock is also one of those annoying obstructionist Republicans, and the less said about him, the better.

I only bring him up because he's probably the most famous graduate of Richwoods High School in Peoria. (Looks like he still goes there, doesn't he?) And the Knights of Richwoods will be facing the Wolves of Prairie Ridge in the 6A final in Champaign on Saturday.

Now, I've written about P. R. ad nauseum (click here, here, here, here, here, and here), but who the heck is Richwoods?

According to Wikipedia, Richwoods High School is "the most northern of the three regular public high schools in Peoria." Does that matter? Founded in 1957, Richwoods enrolls 1,487 souls and competes in the Mid-State Six conference. The Mid-State Six is notable for two things: it has only five regular members and two of them are called Notre Dame.

The football team is coached by Roland Brown and is led on offense by quarterback Wes McCormack. Junior Kendrick Foster appears to be the stud running back, with 2,362 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns on the year. On defense, linebacker Michael McElrath leads the squad with 110 solo tackles.

The Knights began the 2011 season 0-3, losing to Pekin, Washington and Joliet Catholic. They then went on to win ten straight, including victories over such winning teams as Peoria, Notre Dame (Quincy), Normal, Crete-Monee (their only loss of the year), Danville, and Lemont (again, their only loss). Richwoods' combined score over those six teams was 222-123.

Here's a closer look at their schedule, with the last game first and home teams in CAPS:

RICHWOODS 34, Lemont 31
RICHWOODS 20, Danville 19
RICHWOODS 51, Crete-Monee 36
RICHWOODS 45, Normal 10
RICHWOODS 38, Galesburg 8
RICHWOODS 28, Notre Dame (Quincy) 14
Richwoods 44, PEORIA 13
Richwoods 45, MANUAL 16
RICHWOODS 58, Notre Dame (Peoria) 30
JOLIET CATHOLIC 63, Richwoods 34
WASHINGTON 35, Richwoods 32
Pekin 29, RICHWOODS 28

Now these guys must have a lot of heart to come back from an 0-3 start and make the finals in Champaign. And to hand both Crete-Monee and Lemont their first losses of the season makes them giant-killers. But I still think Prairie Ridge is one of the very best teams in the state of Illinois. (Heck, MaxPreps has them ranked No. 1 over all!) I don't know if they're in the same league as Loyola or Bolingbrook, but I do think they'll win the 6A title.

BOWG prediction: Prairie Ridge 31, Richwoods 24.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Trivia question: Which team...

...scored the most points on undefeated Loyola Academy this year? Mount Carmel? St. Rita? Glenbard North? No, no, and no.

Answer: Montini.

The Broncos scored 24 points against the Ramblers in Week 2 -- without quarterback John Rhode, above. Since recovering from a broken thumb, the Marian Catholic transfer has thrown 35 touchdowns and led Montini to eight consecutive victories.

Montini is coached by Chris Andriano and finished second in the Suburban Christian Blue conference behind Marian Central. Rhode's favorite receivers are Anthony Taylor and Nebraska-bound Jordan Westerkamp (1342 yards receiving and 26 touchdowns). His running backs are Joe Borsellino (18 touchdowns) and Dimitri Taylor (11). The kicker is Andrew Harte, who booted a 41-yard field goal against Marian Central.

The Lombard squad defeated seven winning teams en route to the 5A final: Palatine, Aurora Christian (who is in the 3A final), St. Francis, Woodstock North, Sterling, Marian Central and Kaneland, by a combined score of 264-104.

Besides Loyola, the Broncos lost to Marian Central by one point, 21-20, in Week 4.

Here's a look at Montini's schedule, with the last game first and home team in CAPS:

Montini 35, KANELAND 31
MONTINI 52, Marian Central 7
MONTINI 14, Sterling 3
MONTINI 49, Woodstock North 14
MONTINI 54, Wheaton Academy 6
Montini 59, ST. EDWARD 14
MONTINI 33, St. Francis 14
MONTINI 55, Aurora Christian 14
MARIAN CENTRAL 21, Montini 20
MONTINI 13, Marmion 6
LOYOLA 41, Montini 24
MONTINI 26, Palatine 21

Montini's 5A opponent Saturday is Joliet Catholic Academy, which beat six winning teams this year: Carmel, Richwoods (the Knights are in the 6A final), Lincoln-Way West, Morris, Washington and Sacred Heart-Griffin, by a combined score of 289-100. In the playoffs, they've outscored their opponents by an astounding 194-35, the last two with a running clock. Wow!

The Hilltoppers lost narrowly to Nazareth, 24-21, and Marist, 56-51.

JCA is coached by Dan Sharp and finished third in the East Suburban Catholic conference, behind Nazareth and Marist. Running back Ty Isaac, above, who broke the school record for most touchdowns in a season this year (45), shares rushing duties with Malin Jones (28 touchdowns). On the rare occasions when one of them is not carrying the ball, quarterback Craig Slowik has been known to pass to either Zach Rezin or Isaac Grashoff. (These guys are big on the name Isaac, aren't they?)

Here's a more detailed look at JCA's schedule:

JOLIET CATHOLIC 49, Sacred Heart-Griffin 7
JOLIET CATHOLIC 56, Washington 7
JOLIET CATHOLIC 48, Lincoln-Way West 14
MARIST 56, Joliet Catholic 51
Joliet Catholic 56, ST. PATRICK 7
JOLIET CATHOLIC 64, Marian Catholic 13
Nazareth 24, JOLIET CATHOLIC 21
Joliet Catholic 35, BENET 0
JOLIET CATHOLIC 63, St. Viator 3
JOLIET CATHOLIC 63, Richwoods 34
Joliet Catholic 42, NOTRE DAME 0

Both teams are obviously first-rate, but JCA is on such a roll that I can't see them losing. Either way, look for a high-scoring game.

BOWG prediction: Joliet Catholic 41, Montini 38.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

There was an article in the Times...

...yesterday, "For the Rich, Cargo Vans on Steroids," that I just can't seem to get out of my mind. Apparently, some of New York's wealthier residents have taken to customizing large vans, like the one above:

Steve Kantor admits that he likes to travel in style. He is an affable investment banker, concerned about flaunting his wealth, but he drives around Manhattan in what looks like a simple black delivery van.

Of course, most vans do not have chauffeurs, as Mr. Kantor’s has. Or a built-in office, custom installed.

“I have two big-screen televisions; I have a couch in the back that goes into a bed,” Mr. Kantor said. “I have four chairs that go back and massage you. It has a desk, a table and an intercom so you can have meetings in there if you want to.”

Some owners use them as mobile offices, outfitted with fine leather chairs and Persian rugs; vans may also double as a child’s playroom on wheels, complete with a built-in vacuum to clean what the children dirty.

And while some owners say they are drawn to the vehicles’ vanilla exteriors, their outsize profiles cannot help but draw attention: at more than 22 feet long and nearly 9 feet tall, they look like cargo vans on steroids, their high roof lines dwarfing nearly all that surrounds them on the streets of New York. And that’s before the satellite dishes are raised.

Jill Kargman, a writer and mother of three who lives on the Upper East Side, said that play dates adhered to a certain pecking order: those that start in one of these ultra-luxury vans are preferable because they can “just bop into a souped-up bulletproof living room on wheels,” she said.

The most popular model is made by Mercedes: a stripped-down, basic version of the van, the Sprinter, starts at $41,315; Mr. Kantor’s version, which Mercedes-Benz Manhattan arranged to have customized, is fitted with satellite television, a Wi-Fi network and flat-screen monitors, and sells for $189,000. Even that is not quite enough for some New Yorkers, who employ designers to install even pricier custom details that easily drive up the total cost to $500,000.

$500,000! For a car! Some people pay less than that for a house. And some of those people are having those houses foreclosed upon.

Now, my nephew thinks I'm a Marxist. I'm not. I'm actually a capitalist. Heck, I'm a hedge fund manager. So I don't think these people should have their vans taken away from them. I don't think they should be illegal, and I certainly don't think they're immoral.

But ... I do think that in a time when the unemployment rate is over 9 percent and many people are really, really hurting, they are at least ... in bad taste. Especially when you consider that one of the major political parties in this country is almost solely focused on cutting taxes on the rich while slashing programs for the most vulnerable among us.

That egg belongs...

...on my face after Wheaton Warrenville South defeated St. Rita, 21-14, Saturday night to advance to the 7A finals in Champaign.

After barely mentioning the Tigers in my forecast for the postseason, I picked them to lose to Lincoln-Way East in the second round, East St. Louis in the third, and St. Rita in the fourth.

How could a team, I figured, that started out 1-3 get very far in the playoffs? (I forgot about Maine South last year.) Okay, so the Tigers beat Providence, 23-16, in the first round. But how could they hope to compete the following week with undefeated Lincoln-Way East, a team that defeated Bolingbrook on the road? South shut out the Griffins -- in Frankfort. On to speedy East St. Louis, with an offense that could only manage one score in the previous game and a running back, Dan Vitale, who rushed for only 22 yards and didn't "dazzle" me. The Wheaton squad bested the Flyers, 10-7, again on the road. But how could a team, with its two starting quarterbacks injured possibly defeat St. Rita on the South Side? Coach Ron Muhitch, I mused, would have to be a magician to pull this one off.

Well, get the man a top hat and a cape.

I left the Bolingbrook-Naperville Central game a little after three o'clock on Saturday and headed east on 75th Street. After a quick stop at a Denny's in Darien -- or Willowbrook, the waiter didn't know which -- for a darned respectable bacon cheeseburger, it was only a short hop on I-55 to 79th Street for the final leg to my final game of the season. (I think I topped twenty this year; I'll have a more exact count later.)

I found a great parking spot on a side street (stay out of that Rita lot; it takes forever to get out of there after a game) and made my way into Pat Cronin Field at Doyle Stadium. (What's next with these naming rights, Francis X. McGuire Bleachers? How about the Terence Aloysius Mahoney Men's Room?)

The first thing I noticed was that St. Rita had new uniforms for the game. Instead of the traditional red jerseys and white pants, the Mustangs sported red pants and blue jerseys. Or, as the public address announcer called them, blue "tops." Tops? What is this, a fashion show?

After the National Anthem and the St. Rita fight song, which ends with the crowd chanting, "HIT 'EM HIGH, HIT 'EM LOW; GO, RITA, GO!," it was time for the kickoff. Wheaton South had a strong wind at their backs and the opening boot went well into the Mustangs' end zone. Even though the temperature was mild and the rain held off until after the game, the wind was a factor. And it worked against St. Rita from the get-go.

On their first possession, the Mustangs punted into a stiff wind and Dan Vitale (whose first name seems to be "Northwestern bound") scored a few plays later. After another kick that sailed clear out of the end zone, St. Rita quarterback Scott Thomas threw into a gale -- and into the waiting arms -- of Tiger defensive back Zach Kyllonen. (I remember that guy from the Lincoln-Way East game; he gave quarterback Blake Winkler fits.) In the blink of an eye, Vitale scored again for South and, suddenly, the score was 14-0. (It didn't help matters that Charles Elmore, Rita's star defensive back, left the game early with an injured left arm.)

Did I drive all this way for a blow-out?

It seemed like it, especially after Vitale scored his third touchdown of the night in the second quarter and South looked like it was going to score a fourth. (By the way, if Vitale didn't "dazzle" me against Lincoln-Way East, he sure did against St. Rita. I'll be interested to see how he does next year -- wherever that is.)

If it's 28-0 at the half, do I really want to stick around?

But the Tigers' drive stalled out and -- miraculously -- the Mustangs mounted one. But it was painful to watch, and they almost didn't make it in before the half. But they did, and the guys around me and I all agreed, "Hey, it's only 21-7. It's a game!"

Yeah, right.

Which reminds me; I found my group of guys to sit with and talk to. The two in front of me, who wore St. Rita caps and were surely alums, had come from the Illinois game in Champaign. And the two to my right (who looked and sounded vaguely Eastern European) had been at the Glenbard North-Loyola game before fortifying themselves at one of the bars on Western Avenue.

I initiated the conversation with the two alums by pointing out that Rita's offensive tackle, Nick Dachota (of St. John Fisher), was huge -- 6'8" and 305 pounds!

"Yeah? Tell him to block somebody."

Fish on the line!

I then held forth on the Bolingbrook-Naperville Central contest and impressed them with my detailed knowledge of the game.

"Aaron Bailey is my Player of the Year!"

"Oh, yeah? Well you should have seen Loyola today!," one of the two Wild and Crazy Guys said.

It went on in that vein well into the third quarter, which seemed to go by fast. Jordan Davis, a sophomore, came in at quarterback for South, Vitale quieted down, and Mustang running back Mike Zunica had a big half. (Where was Tim Lombard, the star of the Mount Carmel game?) Rita scored one more time in the fourth quarter to make the final, 21-14, closer than it really was.

The rain, which had been forecast all week, finally began shortly after I got in my car for the ride home. As I drove up Western Avenue, right on Archer, a short jog on the Stevenson again, and north on the Kennedy, I reflected on what a great season it was. I won't be making the trek down to Champaign this year; I'll be watching the games on TV in my family room instead (with a fire in the fireplace).

Beginning tomorrow, I'll have my picks for the finals.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Norries Wilson, head football coach...

...of the Columbia University Lions, was fired yesterday after finishing the season 1-9. According to the Times (my emphasis):

Wilson was the 10th head coach at Columbia since Charles F. Crowley coached the team from 1925 to 1929. None of the 10 head coaches had a winning record at Columbia, and only Lou Little, the coach from 1930 to 1956, had a winning percentage higher than .315.

Naperville looked very charming...

...on Saturday as I wound my way down Chicago Avenue, past North Central College (they had a game, too), through the downtown, left on Washington Street and right on Aurora Avenue to Naperville Central High School. The Moser Tower, above, is located just beyond the school on the river and is visible from the football stadium. The rain held off, the sun actually poked through the clouds for a minute or two at one point, and the game was great. It's just a shame that one team had to lose.

I could have gone to the Glenbard North-Loyola game only two miles from my house, but I went to the Bolingbrook-Naperville Central game instead. I thought it would be the better contest and, although Loyola trailed, 13-0, at the half, I was right. Even though the final score was 22-19, the game was essentially decided by a missed extra-point attempt. Both teams scored three touchdowns, both teams came from behind and both teams -- really -- deserved to win.

But only one team could advance to Champaign, and on Saturday it was Bolingbrook.

I arrived at the stadium about a half hour before the kick-off and walked briskly past the concession stand. Somebody was grilling what looked like Italian sausages and onions just outside the gate and it smelled terrific! But the line was too long and the stands were filling up quickly. I had to get my seat on the fifty-yard line.

At most of the games I've been, I end up sitting around other losers guys who have nothing better to do than attend a high school football game on the weekend and seek out other guys in which to impress with their knowledge of the game and its players. But at Naperville Central I seemed to find myself among only parents. In fact, I was probably the only one around me who wasn't wearing red and didn't seem to know everyone else.

After a few minutes the Bolingbrook team ran out onto the field in black pants, black helmets, black socks and plain white jerseys with plain black numbers. (I've seen the Raiders four times now, and I've never seen them wear the same uniform twice.) The effect was menacing, intimidating. The lady in front of me (and although young, could only be described as a "lady") even gasped a little at the sight of the opposing players. "Oh my," she said. The crowd became noticeably quieter. I could only imagine what they were thinking: "These guys look so ... so... urban." (Which is a euphemism for you-know-what.)

At the last game, against Homewood-Flossmoor, I overheard someone describe Naperville as "Disneyland" -- not real somehow. And there's something to that; it seems Utopian. After a questionable call in that game someone yelled out "WHAT THE FRICK!" And after an uneasy moment or two, everyone laughed a little and someone even remarked, "That's how we swear in Naperville!" (More laughter.)

Saturday's game began boringly enough as each team went three and out, three and out, three and out. (I don't think either team had a first down in the first quarter.) Raider quarterback Aaron Bailey wasn't very impressive, and I wondered if the Central team was asking each other, "Is that it?"

Both teams finally did score, however. (Hey D. J. Pruitt: there's a "fair catch" in football for a reason.) And the two teams went into the locker rooms tied at the half, 7-7.

The lead changed hands a few times (credit to both teams for coming back) but the key play was the missed extra point after Central scored in the third period to make it 14-13. Bolingbrook was assessed a roughing-the-kicker penalty which knocked senior Tyler Gillen out of the game (and confirmed the Central fans' suspicions that the Raiders were thugs). The ensuing two-point conversion fell short and more jawing took place between the two teams.

The refs could sense they were losing control of the game and summoned the head coaches out to mid-field for a mild talking-to. Central coach Mike Stine was particularly irritated, however, and told Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow just exactly what he thought of his squad. Ivlow responded angrily and the refs sent each coach back to his sidelines. It was a nice try, at least.

(My lip-reading isn't what it used to be, but I could swear I saw Ivlow saying, "SO'S YER OL' LADY!" to Stine. Not sure, though.)

The incident only served to fire up both teams (and both crowds) and led to a tension-filled fourth quarter.

Central quarterback Ian Lewandowski put his team up 19-14 before Bailey finally broke free for a 60-yard dash down the sidelines for the winning touchdown. The Raiders converted on a two-point attempt to make the final score, 22-19.

But the truth is -- as I mentioned earlier -- both teams played well and both deserved to win. Lewandowski and running back Matt Randolph played great (at one point the senior running back seemed to carry the entire Bolingbrook defense on his back), and once Bailey got going -- in the second half -- he showed why he is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the state (he even completed a few passes!). Both defenses played tough, the Raiders' without star linebacker (and Florida-bound) Antonio Morrison.

As the crowd filed out of the stadium (Outta my way; I have to get to St. Rita for the next game!) I couldn't help lingering just a little to watch the Central players as they walked off the field. Many (most) of them were crying and being consoled by their parents. I got a little choked up myself as it made me think of my own two sons. You guys have nothing to feel bad about, I wanted to tell them. They really didn't.

Now about that Rita game...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Today's game between...

...Bolingbrook and Naperville Central will come down to one question: Can the Redhawks contain Raider quarterback Aaron Bailey, above? If they can, they'll win. If they can't, they'll lose. It's really that simple.

Can Central's defense hold Bailey to one touchdown, like Mount Carmel did in its 21-7 loss in the second round of the playoffs?  Can they hold him to two touchdowns, like Lincoln-Way East did in its 20-14 upset in Week 6? You can be sure that Central's coaches have been watching films of those games all week.

Or will Bailey run wild and score five touchdowns, like he did against Downers Grove South last week? In Bolingbrook's 11 victories, the Raiders have averaged over 39 points a game.

To be fair, Raider running backs D. J. Pruitt, Jaden Huff and Omar Stover have stepped it up in the playoffs. And the defense, led by Florida-bound linebacker Antonio Morrison and defensive backs Darien Brown, Tevin Teamer and Diaron Rhodes, has been excellent.

And Central is no slouch, either. They belong in the semifinals. As I've  mentioned, quarterback Ian Lewandowski and running backs Matt Randolph and Nick Thomas will manufacture points for the Redhawks.

But let's just say what everybody else is thinking: It's all about Bailey. (This guy has to be my Player of the Year.) And I think he'll make all the difference.

Now I'll say something that not everyone is thinking: The winner of this game will defeat Loyola in the finals. I just don't think the Ramblers have played anyone as good as either of these two teams. There. I said it.

BOWG prediction: Bolingbrook 28, Naperville Central 21.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The chart of the day... from Chris Cillizza's blog.

Communism is more popular than this Congress. Communism.

While I'm watching the...

...Bolingbrook-Naperville Central game tomorrow, Prairie Ridge will be playing at Batavia just down the road -- and upsetting the undefeated Bulldogs, I think.

Batavia has beaten five winning teams, Bartlett, Geneva, Streamwood, Lake Forest and Lakes, by a combined score of 203-70. That's impressive (especially last week's 42-0 shutout of Lakes).

But the Wolves are even more impressive, having beaten Glenbard South (twice), Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South, Jacobs and Nazareth, by a combined score of 250-56. PR's lone defeat was at the hands of Cary-Grove, 22-21.

Both Batavia and PR beat their one common opponent, Marmion, 36-7 and 49-0, respectively.

I've been watching the Wolves all year and saw them come from behind to beat a previously undefeated Jacobs on the road and Nazareth last week at home. The Roadrunners were 10-1 going into that game and had beaten some really first-rate teams.

I can't say enough about Prairie Ridge. I expect quarterback Nick Nissen, top, to lead the Wolves to a showdown with Lemont next week in Champaign.

BOWG prediction: Prairie Ridge 31, Batavia 24.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Lee Pockriss, who wrote...

...the song "Johnny Angel," died at age 87.

I used to sing this song to my son when he was a newborn. (Also, I always thought my mom looked a little like Donna Reed.)

Karl Slover, one of the last...

...remaining Munchkins, died at age 93. The 5'4" actor, left, was born in what is now the Czech Republic.

According to John Fricke, author of 100 Years of Oz, “In those uninformed days his father tried witch doctor treatments to make him grow.” 

Young Karl was buried in the backyard, immersed in heated oil until his skin blistered and then attached to a stretching machine at a hospital, all in an attempt to make him taller. Eventually, when he was 9, he was sold by his father to a traveling show in Europe.

Coach Ron Muhitch...

...of Wheaton Warrenville South would have to be a magician to beat St. Rita on the road this week without a quarterback. (According to Mike Helfgot at the Trib, both senior Thaddeus Armstrong and sophomore Ryan Graham are injured.)

Sorry, Tiger fans, but there may be no rematch with Lake Zurich (who will have their hands full with Rockford Boylan) in Champaign this year.

To review, South lost three of its first four games (against Glenbard West, Maine South and Naperville North) before going on an eight-game winning streak. The Tigers defeated Naperville Central, Glenbard North, Wheaton North, Providence, Lincoln-Way East and East St. Louis by a combined score of 94-50.

I saw the game against Lincoln-Way East in Frankfort, which the Tigers won, 7-0. But while Wheaton South's defense was practically air-tight that evening, running back Dan Vitale didn't dazzle me like I was expecting. The Northwestern-bound senior will need to have a big game for South to defeat St. Rita.

The Mustangs, however, did impress me, on both sides of the ball, when I saw them beat Mount Carmel, 17-7, in Week 8.

Kenny Golladay and Mike Zunica each caught touchdown passes in that game. But quarterback Scott Thomas may have to rely more on running back Tim Lombard Saturday night, especially if it rains. The 6'0", 170-pound junior from St. Bede the Venerable is a workhorse, and I expect the South Siders to eventually wear down their guests from the DVC.

St. Rita lost only two games this year, both to undefeated teams: Whitehaven (Tennessee) and Loyola. The Mustangs defeated Brother Rice, Providence, Bishop McNamara, Mount Carmel, Andrew and O'Fallon by a combined score of 125-75.

BOWG prediction: St. Rita 14, Wheaton Warrenville South 7.