Friday, November 30, 2012

Mickey Baker, the guitarist...

...and the Mickey in Mickey & Sylvia, died at age 87.

Here are some final thoughts...

...on the 2012 Illinois high school football season.

First of all, I didn't realize how important team speed was until this past weekend. In Saturday's games, all four of the champions had superior team speed, particularly on defense. It seemed that no matter what Cary-Grove and Lincoln-Way East did, they just couldn't get away from Crete-Monee's and Glenbard West's defenses. (Montini and Mount Carmel were fast too.)

Another lesson I learned is that it sure helps to have a balanced attack on offense. All four title winners could pass as well as run. And when all four of the runners-up got behind (and Neuqua Valley in the semifinal, for that matter), they had a heck of a time coming back. If a team runs primarily, it's awfully hard to start passing effectively when it's down. (Conversely, a passing team -- like Loyola -- runs the risk of going three-and-out too often and not giving its defense enough rest.)

Thirdly (and I say this every year), the kicking game has improved dramatically in recent years. So many of the teams kick off into the end zone nowadays that the IHSA may have to change its rule about an automatic touchback. (Or have the kicking team begin at the 35-yard line instead of the 40.) Also, field goals may become more and more common, like in college and the NFL. So coaches: If you don't have a good kicker, get one.

Finally, there were so many dominant players this year, such as Mount Carmel QB Don Butkus, Glenbard North RB Justin Jackson, Glenbard West TE Nathan Marcus, Lincoln-Way East QB Tom Fuessel, Crete-Monee WR Laquon Treadwell, Neuqua RB Joey Rhattigan and Waubonsie Valley RB Austin Guido that I can't, for the life of me, decide who should be the Player of the Year. (I'm looking forward to seeing whom the Trib and Sun-Times select.)

A non-lesson, but an observation, is that I saw fourteen teams play this year that I had never seen before: Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake South, Marist, Crete-Monee, Bloom, Wheaton North, Glenbard North, Morris, Kaneland, St. Viator, St. Patrick, Downers Grove North, Neuqua and Waubonsie. (And I watched them at eight new stadiums.)

Next year I hope to see a bunch of other schools that I didn't get to this year, such as Montini, Aurora Christian, Lake Zurich, Palatine, Marian Central, Lemont, Benet, Joliet Catholic, Fenwick and Batavia. (Although I promise not to base too many decisions on the 2012 season.)

And there's a lot to look forward to next year, such as a whole batch of returning stars. A (partial) list would include:

Glenbard West DB Hayden Carlson (above) and RB Scott Andrews; Marist WR Nic Weishar; Loyola RB Julius Holley; Providence QB Dominic Lagone; Bolingbrook RB Jaden Huff and DB Parrker Westphal (yes, that spelling is correct); Wheaton North QB Clayton Thorson; Glenbard North RB Justin Jackson; Mount Carmel RB Matt Domer and Benet QB Jack Beneventi. 

Also, almost all of the skill position players at Kaneland, including QB Drew David, WR Dylan Nauert, RB Jesse Balluff and RB Nate Dyer will be returning. Oh, and from what I understand, practically the entire Stevenson team.

I can hardly wait.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

David Frum sums up...

...the GOP's current problems with the electorate:

The Republicans have done a good job of articulating middle-class values. They have done a bad job of championing middle-class interests.

Andre Maginot was...

...the French Minister of War who built the famous Maginot Line in the 1930s. A series of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles and other defenses, the Line was meant to forestall another direct attack from Germany like the one the French experienced in World War I. At the time, it was hailed by military experts as a work of genius.

When the Germans finally did invade France in the spring of 1940, however, they sidestepped the Line by sweeping through Belgium and the Netherlands. The Blitzkrieg lasted all of six weeks and the French surrendered on June 22.

The colossal failure of the Maginot Line may have inspired the adage, "Generals always fight the last war."

And that brings me to The Big Lesson I Learned This Year.

My biggest takeaway as a fan from the 2012 Illinois football season was: Don't fight the last war. Or, Don't be overly influenced by the previous year's season.

Take, for example, my post on Prairie Ridge in August. I complained that the Sun-Times wasn't giving the defending 6A champion Wolves enough respect. While I acknowledged that PR had graduated a number of seniors, I couldn't help recalling their victories in 2011 over Jacobs, Nazareth and Richwoods. I concluded the piece by saying:

There is no way -- no way -- that [Coach] Chris Shremp won't have the Wolves ranked in the Top Ten by the end of the season.

Prairie Ridge went on to finish the season 3-6. Ouch.

I guess I figured out I was mistaken when the Wolves lost to Huntley, 30-7, in Week Three. I wrote:

The Chicago papers were right about Prairie Ridge; MaxPreps was wrong.

I later went on to talk to a couple of guys in the bleachers (at some game; I can't remember which) who told me that they had talked to some PR fans at the end of last year. They had told them that the Wolves "had graduated everybody; we'll be lucky to win one game next year." Oh.

My other big example of fighting the previous war was my insistence -- all year -- that Mount Carmel and quarterback Don Butkus just weren't that good. It was based on -- you guessed it -- my recollections of 2011. (You can read all the embarrassing details here.)

I seem to recall reading somewhere (I think it was Edgy Tim) that Caravan Coach Frank Lenti likes to start a junior at quarterback (like Butkus in 2011). His strategy is that while the first year should be a learning one, the second should be a push for the state championship. If that's right, then Lenti succeeded brilliantly.

But I didn't know that.

So maybe that's why guys like Edgy Tim and Mike Helfgot get paid to write about high school football, while I'm just a blogger in a bathrobe.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I just got back from...

...picking up a prescription at my neighborhood Walgreens. It was renovated recently, and in place of the old-fashioned high counter they now have a waist-high one like they do at the check-out. So instead of looking way up at the pharmacist like I always have, I now look him straight in the eye. It's a little disorienting, though; and I'm not sure he seems quite as important as he used to. After all, I want to look up to the guy who's filling my prescriptions. (I sure hope he got it right.)

Before I get into what I did...

...and didn't learn as a fan this year, let's have a short recap of the 2012 season from my (boring old white) eyes. I managed to attend fifteen and a half games this year, saw one recorded in its entirety on TV and parts of several on -- what's it called, the High School CUBE network? -- my computer at home.

I wasn't able to attend Weeks One, Two, Five, Seven, Ten (first round of the playoffs) or Twelve (quarterfinals). But I did make the best of the remaining five weeks of the regular season and two of the postseason, usually seeing a game on Friday night and one on Saturday. (In Week Eleven I was able to take in a game on Friday night, a second one on Saturday afternoon and a third on Saturday night. Nice!)

I tried to meet up with friends when possible, but that was rare. (It seems that some people have better things to do than go to a high school football game. Strange.) But I did strike up a number of really good conversations with other fans in the bleachers, many of whom -- like me -- had no dog in the fight whatsoever but were just out to see some cheap entertainment a good game between two schools. (And I learned a lot from them.)

Enough chatter; let's get to my 2012 season (home team, as always, in CAPS).

Week Three:

Cary-Grove 17, CRYSTAL LAKE SOUTH 3
Saw my good buddy Scherps.

Marist 24, NAZARETH 21
Red Hawks kicked a field goal to win with no time left.

Week Four:

Glenbard West 28, HINSDALE CENTRAL 23
Hilltoppers came back to win after being down by ten at the half.

LOYOLA 41, Providence 21
Ramblers dominated the Celtics.

Week Six:

LINCOLN-WAY EAST 42, Bolingbrook 18
Saw Aaron Bailey go down but Tom Fuessel come up.

Crete-Monee 41, BLOOM 6
Met up with my pal Kevin. Also got to see Laquon Treadwell.

Loyola 30, MOUNT CARMEL 27 (on television)
Figured the Ramblers were For Real after this one.

Week Eight:

GLENBARD NORTH 17, Wheaton North 15
Another excellent finish; Panthers won it on a field goal at the end.

LOYOLA 45, Brother Rice 0
Worst game of the year; left after it went to a running clock. (Also got rained on.)

Week Nine:

KANELAND 33, Morris 30 (above)
Outstanding contest; so glad I didn't go to the Palatine - Schaumburg game that night. Looking forward to the rematch next year.

ST. PATRICK 42, St. Viator 30
Good game; Hanson Stadium is great on a warm, sunny fall day.

GLENBARD WEST 26, Downers Grove North 0 (second half)
Blowout; but always good to go out to Duchon Field in Glen Ellyn. Very civilized.

Week Eleven (Second Round):

Neuqua Valley 44, BOLINGBROOK 33
Was introduced to Joey Rhattigan. Wow.

Waubonsie Valley 28, OAK PARK RIVER FOREST 7
OPRF is a great place to see a game, even if the contests aren't always good.

LINCOLN-WAY EAST 24, Providence 14
Great show by the Griffins; I was convinced they'd take state.

Week Thirteen (Semifinals):

Glenbard North 27, LOYOLA 24
Surprised by the outcome; Justin Jackson ran all over the Ramblers.

Mount Carmel 26, NEUQUA 21
Surprised by the outcome; Caravan much better than I thought.

And then there was Champaign. I'll have to get to that in my next post.                    

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Earl "Speedo" Carroll, of...

...the doo-wop group the Cadillacs, died at age 75.

Which was the better team...

...this year, Glenbard West or Mount Carmel? To quote one of my favorite bumper stickers: I don't know, and you don't either.

The 7A champion Hilltoppers finished the season undefeated, at 14-0, and ranked No. 1 by MaxPreps, the Tribune and the Sun-Times. The Caravan, above, won the 8A crown but had a 30-27 overtime loss in Week Six to Loyola. They're ranked No. 2 by all three news services, but they looked awfully good against Neuqua Valley in the semifinal and Glenbard North in the final.

So what do you think would happen if the two powerhouses squared off against each other? Wouldn't you like to know? I would.

During the season, the two schools had only one common opponent, Lyons. Here were the results (home team in CAPS):

Week Three: GLENBARD WEST 49, Lyons 7
Week Twelve: Mount Carmel 45, LYONS 10

Not much help, huh?

And given the current IHSA playoff system, we can only speculate on which team would win.

So allow me to go into my annual rant about postseason play in Illinois.

What if -- what if -- the IHSA combined the current eight classes into just four? What if they dropped the nine 5-4 teams in 8A: Brother Rice, Lyons, Naperville North, Glenbrook South, Niles West, Evanston, Warren, Fremd and Lane; and the two in 7A: Elk Grove Village and Jacobs?

I know what you're thinking: But Lyons won two games and advanced to the quarterfinals! And you're right. But the other ten all lost in the first round.

And consider this: in 8A the higher seed won eleven of the sixteen first round games; in 7A it was twelve out of sixteen. Surely you could cull the herd somewhere. (And make for much better first round games.)

Now I know what my son would say: Come on, Dad; they're just high school kids! They want to play in the postseason and their parents want to watch them.

Okay; fair enough. Then take the higher seeds in 8A and combined them with the higher seeds in 7A. Call that bracket 8A. The lower seeds can play a "consolation" tournament called 7A. (And do the same with the other six classes.) That way we'd have a definitive "big school" champion. And I would stop complaining. (Yeah, right.)

This year the best team would be either Glenbard West or Mount Carmel, but not both.

Wouldn't that be better?  

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

I finally finished all eight...

Is Glenbard West the best team in Illinois?
...IHSA championship games last night. What a great weekend of high school football!

While I process what I just saw, here's a review of the final scores:

8A: Mount Carmel 28, Glenbard North 14
7A: Glenbard West 10, Lincoln-Way East 8
6A: Crete-Monee 33, Cary-Grove 26
5A: Montini 19, Morris 6
4A: Rochester 43, Rock Island Alleman 18
3A: Aurora Christian 42, Tolono Unity 12
2A: Aledo Mercer County 14, Belleville Althoff 7
1A: Maroa-Forsyth 48, Stockton 24

And here are the final rankings from the three news sources I follow:

MaxPreps:

1. Glenbard West (14-0) *
2. Mount Carmel (13-1) *
3. Lincoln-Way East (13-1) *
4. Crete-Monee (14-0) *
5. Neuqua Valley (12-1) *
6. Montini (12-2)
7. Loyola (11-2) *
8. Glenbard North (12-2) *
9. Cary-Grove (13-1) *
10. Aurora Christian (13-1)

Chicago Sun-Times:

1. Glenbard West (14-0) *
2. Mount Carmel (13-1) *
3. Lincoln-Way East (13-1) *
4. Glenbard North (12-2) *
5. Loyola (11-2) *
6. Neuqua Valley (12-1) *
7. Crete-Monee (14-0) *
8. Cary-Grove (13-1) *
9. Waubonsie (10-2) *
10. Montini (12-2)

Chicago Tribune:

1. Glenbard West (14-0) *
2. Mount Carmel (13-1) *
3. Lincoln-Way East (13-1) *
4. Crete-Monee (14-0) *
5. Glenbard North (12-2)*
6. Loyola (11-2) *
7. Neuqua (12-1) *
8. Montini (12-2)
9. Maine South (11-1)
10. Cary-Grove (13-1) *

* Indicates teams I've seen play.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bruce Bartlett has traveled...

...a path that's similar to my own: from libertarian to supporter of President Obama. 

In the American Conservative today, Bartlett has a piece called "Revenge of the Reality-Based Community: My life on the Republican right -- and how I saw it all go wrong." 

It's a good read. Here are just two quotes that could have come directly from me:

For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman.

And:

The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

While President Obama defeated...

...Governor Romney, 332-206, in the Electoral College, he only carried the popular vote by about 50.8 to 47.45 percent. (The vote is still being tallied.)

That sounds close, doesn't it? But when you consider that outside the old confederacy, the president out polled his Republican challenger by almost 55 to 45 percent, it sounds more like a landslide.

My guess is that the GOP will focus more on that top number and double down in 2016, nominating a candidate even more conservative than Mitt Romney. By then, however, those national numbers may resemble even more the 55-45 split outside the South this year.

Only then, after a true landslide, will the Republicans begin moving back to the center.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The quote of the day...

...is from John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary:

Mitt Romney got the Republican nomination because he was the only one who came to the job interview in a suit.

I've watched six of the eight...

...IHSA football championship games so far. (That's Crete-Monee after winning the 6A title; what a talented team!)

I should be done with the last two by tomorrow night. Look for my wrap-up on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day...

"I'm lookin' for a couple of fast guns who ain't afraid to lay down their life. There's no pay, but it'll be a great way to get your name out there."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Before today's contests...

...begin, I thought I'd provide a brief thumbnail sketch of each. (By the way, I'm recording all eight championship games and plan on watching them one at a time, in order. So please don't tell me anything.)

In 1A, the Stockton (above) Blackhawks take on the Maroa-Forsyth Trojans.

The Blackhawks (13-0) are ranked No. 30 by MaxPreps and have only 157 students enrolled in the whole school. While their biggest victory was over Orangeville, 59-0, their closest call was against Lena-Winslow, 22-6. Stockton outscored its opponents by a stunning 662-130 margin. Wow!

The Trojans, on the other hand, are 12-1 and ranked No. 46 in the state. Their only loss came to 3A finalist Tolono Unity, 7-6, while their biggest win was over Meridian, 61-0.

BOWG call: Stockton.

2A features the Aledo Mercer County Golden Eagles against the Belleville Althoff Catholic Crusaders.

While the Golden Eagles are undefeated and ranked No. 21 in MaxPreps, the Crusaders have three losses, are ranked only No. 104, and didn't even win their conference. In addition, Aledo defeated West Prairie by a score of 80-0 and only surrendered 100 points the whole season.

But I'm going to go with Althoff. Why? Because any team that can make the finals after being 3-3 after Week Six has enough heart to win.

BOWG call: Belleville Althoff.

In 3A, the mighty Aurora Christian Eagles take on the Tolono Unity Rockets.

Both teams are 12-1, with the Eagles losing to Montini, 31-27, and the Rockets falling to Central A & M, 47-41. Aurora Christian is ranked No. 11 in the state by MaxPreps but doesn't have an entry in Wikipedia. (That's a little strange.) Tolono Unity is ranked No. 45 but does have a Wikipedia page. Their biggest win was over Meridian (see above), 59-6. Still, I have to go with the Eagles.

BOWG call: Aurora Christian.

Finally, in 4A, the Rock Island Alleman Pioneers face the Rochester Rockets.

Both teams have only one loss, with the Pioneers' at the hands of Rock Island, 8-7, in Week Eight. The Rockets lone defeat, however, was to Sacred Heart-Griffin, 29-26, in Week Two. Also, Alleman is ranked No. 39 while Rochester is No. 17. The Rockets also had three victories this year by 42 points or more.

BOWG call: Rochester.

Amidst all the turkey...

...and pumpkin pie yesterday (and football), you may have missed Nicholas Kristof's column in the Times. It's worth reading, however, as he describes how America has evolved since World War II:

Half-a-century of tax cuts focused on the wealthiest Americans leave us with third-rate public services, leading the wealthy to develop inefficient private workarounds.
___

Is crime a problem? Well, rather than pay for better policing, move to a gated community with private security guards!

Are public schools failing? Well, superb private schools have spaces for a mere $40,000 per child per year.

Public libraries closing branches and cutting hours? Well, buy your own books and magazines!

Are public parks — even our awesome national parks, dubbed “America’s best idea” and the quintessential “public good” — suffering from budget cuts? Don’t whine. Just buy a weekend home in the country!

Public playgrounds and tennis courts decrepit? Never mind — just join a private tennis club!

I’m used to seeing this mind-set in developing countries like Chad or Pakistan, where the feudal rich make do behind high walls topped with shards of glass; increasingly, I see it in our country.

Today, amidst the leftovers (and more football), you might miss Paul Krugman's column. In it he refers to an interview with Chris Mooney, the author of The Republican Brain (not my emphasis):

Social scientists, it seems, are busy confirming our gut sense that conservatives and liberals do not merely disagree on matters of policy, but are different kinds of people, who process information differently.

On average, conservatives prefer simplicity and clear distinctions, where liberals display “integrative complexity” and are more comfortable with ambiguity and nuance. Conservatives are “hierarchs” and highly sensitive to in-group/out-group distinctions, where liberals are egalitarians. Conservatives come to decisions quickly and stick to them; liberals deliberate, sometimes to the point of dithering. Conservatives are more sensitive to threats while liberals are more open to new experiences.

Sound like anyone you know?

All right, here's the deal with 8A.

The top bracket is the only one in which I didn't pick either team, Mount Carmel or Glenbard North, to make it to the final. (I had Bolingbrook beating Loyola again.) What's more, I spent the better part of the season trashing Carmel only to pick them to win earlier this week. Now, I don't know if star quarterback Don Butkus will be healthy enough to direct the Caravan offense. (He looked like he really hurt his ankle at the end of last week's game against Neuqua Valley.) But Panther running back Justin Jackson, above, who scored four touchdowns against Loyola last Saturday, may or may not be able to repeat that performance against Mount Carmel. (Neuqua's Joey Rhattigan, a similar runner, was held to only 79 yards rushing by the Caravan defense last week.) Finally, you've got the runner up of the state's Best Conference, the Catholic League Blue, facing off against the winner of the other Best Conference in Illinois, the DuPage Valley.

So what's a (boring old white) guy to do?

First of all, let's look at what each school did this year against their one common opponent, Loyola.

Week Six: Loyola 30, MOUNT CARMEL 27, OT
Week Thirteen: Glenbard North 27, LOYOLA 24

I saw those games, and it could be argued that both teams outplayed the Ramblers.

What about a head-to-head history? As far as I can tell, the two programs have only played each other once in recent years.

2007: Glenbard North 28, MOUNT CARMEL 21

Now five years may seem like a long time ago, but it's worth noting that both coaches, Frank Lenti of Carmel and Ryan Wilkens of GBN, were still at the helm back then.

As for me, I saw each team play twice this year. And while they both struggled in the first game, they definitely outplayed their opponents in the second.

Week Eight: GLENBARD NORTH 17, Wheaton North 15
Week Thirteen: Glenbard North 27, LOYOLA 24

Week Six: Loyola 30, MOUNT CARMEL 27, OT (on TV)
Week Thirteen: Mount Carmel 26, NEUQUA VALLEY 21.

The Caravan haven't won a championship since they shut out Bloomington, 31-0, in 2002. Their last appearance in Champaign was in 2010, when they were beaten handily by Maine South, 28-7. (I was there.) GBN, for its part, has never won a title game and last appeared in 2007, on the losing end of a 46-19 thrashing by Naperville North

So where does all this leave us? Beats me. I'll say Carmel wins if Butkus is healthy. If not, the Panthers take state. Don't like that answer? Okay, try this:

BOWG prediction: Glenbard North 21, Mount Carmel 17.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

My son flew home from LA...

...this morning and surprised his mother for Thanksgiving. It reminded me a little of the opening scene from one of my all-time favorite movies, The Best Years of Our Lives,* when Homer Parrish is reunited with his family (starting at about 14:27 in the above clip). His mother cries when she sees the hooks that replaced his hands, but Homer's father reassures him that "It's just that your ma is so glad to see you home."

That's kind of how my wife reacted when she saw our son this morning. (Except that he still has his hands.)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

* Haven't seen it? Go out and get it right now.

The 7A final may be the most...

...evenly matched of all this year. I mean, how do you choose between two undefeated powers like Glenbard West and Lincoln-Way East? Not only did they not have any common opponents this year, but as far as I can tell, they've only played each other once in recent years (home team in CAPS):

2010: GLENBARD WEST 42, Lincoln-Way East 28

I saw each team play twice this year. The Griffins, above, dominated both their opponents, while the Hilltoppers had to overcome a 14-0 deficit at halftime to defeat the Red Devils in Hinsdale. (I only saw the second half of the Downers Grove North game, but that was enough; I don't think the Trojans had even one first down!)

Week Six: LINCOLN-WAY EAST 42, Bolingbrook 18.
Week Eleven: LINCOLN-WAY EAST 24, Providence 14

Week Four: Glenbard West 28, HINSDALE CENTRAL 23
Week Nine: GLENBARD WEST 26, Downers Grove North 0 (second half).

Lincoln-Way East outscored its opponents this year, 466-137, with victories over Montini, Homewood-Flossmoor and Benet. Glenbard West, for its part, outscored its opponents by a margin of 463-109, with key wins over Lyons, Wheaton North and Lake Zurich. Both schools, in fact, played really tough schedules.

The two head coaches, Rob Zvonar of Lincoln-Way East and Chad Hetlet of Glenbard West, have each been down to Champaign only once, with eerily similar results. The Griffins won the 8A championship back in 2005 over Maine South, 30-24, in double overtime. And the "Hitters" fell to Wheaton Warrenville South in the 2009 final by an almost identical score, 31-24, also in double overtime.

If nothing else, this should be one heck of a game. (Wouldn't it be spooky if the contest ended 30, or 31, to 24 in double overtime?)

I'm going to stick with Lincoln-Way East, however. I'm counting on quarterback Tom Fuessel to be the difference maker. I've been following him all season and am really looking forward to watching him play in his last high school game.

BOWG prediction: Lincoln-Way East 28, Glenbard West 24.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The cartoon of the day:

In 6A, I picked Cary-Grove...

...over Lemont in the finals, and then the Indians wrecked my bracket on Saturday night by losing to Crete-Monee, 28-27. (The nerve!)

But I think I'll stick with the Trojans. Head coach Brad Seaburg, above, is in his first year at the helm after assisting under coach Bruce Kay for ten years. He was the offensive coordinator when they beat Providence, 34-17, for the 6A championship in 2009. If you haven't seen Cary-Grove, think of a smaller Mount Carmel team, running the option, in Penn State uniforms.

The Trojans (13-0) outscored their opponents this year, 484-162, including a 21-6 victory over 7A semifinalist Lake Zurich.

While Cary-Grove tends to grind it out on the ground, Crete-Monee has a more balanced attack, throwing -- in particular -- to heavily recruited wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

The Warriors, also 13-0, outscored their opponents by an even greater margin, 509-128. Wow! This included victories over Thornton Fractional South, Richwoods and previously unbeaten Ottawa.

Unless I missed it, this is the first trip to the Dance for Crete-Monee. It's also the first time the two programs have ever faced each other. What's more, they didn't have any common opponents this year. 

So why am I so confident in Cary-Grove? I'm not; but I have to pick somebody. And I just think the Trojans will control the ball and keep Crete-Monee's defense on the field. That's what they did when I saw them against Crystal Lake South in Week Three. Cary-Grove won that game, 17-3, on the road.

I also saw Crete-Monee once this year, in Week Six. They beat Bloom, 41-6, also on the road, and looked awfully good too. (It's really a pick 'em; but I'm stubborn.)

BOWG prediction: Cary-Grove 31, Crete-Monee 28.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Correction: In a previous post...

...I listed the name of the 2005 Morris football coach as Hud Venerable, above. He was actually the coach of the Normal Community Ironmen. George Dergo was the coach of Morris that year. My bad.

In one of the playoff games...

...I attended this year, the home team was trailing, 36-33, with a little over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. On third down, the quarterback dropped back to pass and delivered a perfect strike to one of his running backs at about midfield. The receiver, wide open, dropped the ball which had landed right in his hands. All of the fans around me gasped.

"That was six points for sure!" someone groaned, giving voice to the same thought that ran through all of our heads.

"It would have been the game!" moaned another.

And on the very next play, the quarterback threw an interception. Game and season over. (The visiting team scored shortly after to make the final score, 44-33.)

As I walked to my car, all I could think about was that poor kid who dropped that pass. He was a senior, one of the stars of the team, and that was his last game in high school football. What a shame.

I met his father in the stands once, and he was a real gentleman. He was obviously very proud of his son, but not in a braggy sort of way. He was actually the model of how a high school athlete's parent should act.

So I thought about him and his son; how did they handle the situation? I'll never know, of course. But all I could think was, I hope they don't accept too much blame for that loss. After all, it's hard to win games when you give up 44, or even 36, points. Where was the defense that night?

You're probably wondering right about now, what does all this have to do with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, above?

Well, it seems that some Republicans are still blaming Mitt Romney's loss to President Obama on Christie's behavior after Hurricane Sandy.

In the Times this morning, there's an article, "After Obama, Christie Wants a G.O.P. Hug," which reports (my emphasis):

His lavish praise for Mr. Obama’s response to the storm, delivered in the last days of the presidential race, represented the most dramatic development in the campaign’s final stretch. Right or wrong, conventional wisdom in the party holds that it influenced the outcome.
___

Inside the Romney campaign, there is little doubt that Mr. Christie’s expressions of admiration for the president, coupled with ubiquitous news coverage of the hurricane’s aftermath, raised Mr. Obama’s standing at a crucial moment.  

During a lengthy autopsy of their campaign, Mr. Romney’s political advisers pored over data showing that an unusually large number of voters who remained undecided until the end of the campaign backed Mr. Obama. Many of them cited the storm as a major factor in their decision, according to a person involved in the discussion. 
  
“Christie,” a Romney adviser said, “allowed Obama to be president, not a politician.”

And I find this interesting. Just like the kid who dropped that pass, Gov. Christie can't be held totally responsible for Romney's disastrous campaign for president. It's hard to win an election when you have a lackluster candidate whom nobody likes, running on a party's platform more in tune with the nineteenth century, all the while relying solely on a bunch of old white people -- like my mother -- who watch nothing but Fox News, for your support.

My advice to Republicans would be similar to what I would say to those fans in the bleachers: never mind that kid who dropped that ball; work on your defense in the off-season. And Republicans, don't worry so much about Chris Christie; concentrate on how you can attract more votes from women, young people and minorities. (And those of us who believe in all that crazy science stuff. See: Rubio, Marco.)

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

In 5A, I picked Montini...

...over Morris, and I'm sticking with it. Why? Mainly because Coach Chris Andriano, above, knows how to win championships. (The Broncos have won the last three 5A titles.)

Morris, on the other hand, hasn't won state since 2005 when it defeated Normal, 14-9. But that wasn't under the current coach, Alan Thorson. In those days, Morris was piloted by the venerable Hud Venerable (his real name). The Redskins' last appearance in the finals was in 2007, when they lost to Metamora, 17-14. Before that, Morris took state in 1980 and '84, but that's ancient history.

Montini, 11-2, is the only team in the top four classes of the finals that I didn't get to see this year. But I did watch the Broncos play Loyola in each of the last two seasons. And last year, the Lombard squad scored more points against the Ramblers than anyone, even 8A champs Bolingbrook. What's more, the Broncos did it on the road without their starting quarterback.

This year, Montini opened up with a 40-37 overtime victory at 8A Palatine and then a narrow 20-14 loss to 7A finalist Lincoln-Way East. These guys are clearly not afraid of anyone. (The only other team to beat the Broncos this season was Marian Central in Week Seven, 49-24. Montini returned the favor, however, two weeks ago with a 42-27 victory over the Hurricanes.) Leading the attack this year were Joe Borsellino and Mark Gorogianis.

On the year, the Broncos outscored their opponents, 440-268, with notable victories over Immaculate Conception, Aurora Christian and Joliet Catholic.

Morris, 12-1, enters the championship game with its lone loss at Kaneland in Week Nine. (And I was there.) The lead changed hands several times, with the Knights eventually prevailing, 33-30. But Redskins' quarterback Zach Cinnamon (great name) almost pulled it out at the end, and the Broncos are going to have to watch out for him.

Morris outscored its opponents this year, 463-190, with key wins over Richards, Washington and Sacred Heart-Griffin.

Montini and Morris had only one common opponent this year, Sycamore, which they both defeated (home team in CAPS):

Week Six: Morris 13, SYCAMORE 0
Week Eleven: Montini 24, SYCAMORE 22

Oddly enough (to me, at least), I can't find a record of these two top programs ever facing each other. Can that be right?

That'll change, of course, on Saturday.

BOWG prediction: Montini 41, Morris 35.

(Expect a high-scoring game; who can forget Montini's 70-45 shootout with Joliet Catholic last year?)

Monday, November 19, 2012

The tweet of the day:


Clamato Juice Co: "We, uh, also could shut down at any moment due to a strike. Better stock up, er, now."

Coach Frank Lenti...

...is going back down to Champaign this Saturday, and if quarterback Don Butkus is healthy, the Caravan should take another title.

The rankings are in from the three main news sources I watch, and MaxPreps has it about right: Mount Carmel at No. 1, followed by Lincoln-Way East and Glenbard West at Nos. 2 and 3. After that, it's a muddle.

MaxPreps:

1. Mount Carmel (12-1) *
2. Lincoln-Way East (13-0) *
3. Glenbard West (13-0) *
4. Neuqua Valley (12-1) *
5. Cary-Grove (13-0) *
6. Glenbard North (12-1) *
7. Loyola (11-2) *
8. Crete-Monee (13-0) *
9. Montini (11-2)
10. Lake Zurich (10-3)

Chicago Sun-Times:

1. Glenbard West (13-0) *
2. Mount Carmel (12-1) *
3. Lincoln-Way East (13-0) *
4. Glenbard North (12-1) *
5. Loyola (11-2) *
6. Neuqua Valley (12-1) *
7. Crete-Monee (13-0) *
8. Cary-Grove (13-0) *
9. Waubonsie (10-2) *
10. Benet (11-2)

Chicago Tribune:

1. Lincoln-Way East (13-0) *
2. Glenbard West (13-0) *
3. Mount Carmel (12-1) *
4. Glenbard North (12-1)*
5. Crete-Monee (13-0) *
6. Cary-Grove (13-0) *
7. Loyola (11-2) *
8. Neuqua (12-1) *
9. Maine South (11-1)
10. Wheaton North (10-2) *

* Indicates teams I've seen play.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I finally saw Mount Carmel play...

...in person last night and I have two things to say about the Caravan:

(1) They are really, really good; and

(2) I was really, really -- really -- wrong about them this year.

I hadn't seen Mount Carmel play in 2012 (except on TV against Loyola, recorded because I was at the Bolingbrook - Lincoln-Way East game instead) because I didn't think any of their games were worthy of my attendance.

I began the season in error, by recalling the Caravan's fade in 2011. (By the way, look for a post soon on what I learned this year about myself as a fan.)

I first saw Mount Carmel last year on the losing end of a 12-7 score at Loyola in Week Five. (Actually, that's not completely true; I did see the fourth quarter of their first game of the season, a 31-0 trouncing of Morgan Park, at Soldier Field.) But after that game at Loyola (in which they outplayed the Ramblers, if I want to be totally honest), I saw the Caravan lose to St. Rita, 17-7, in Week Seven, which was followed in Week Eight by a 24-18 loss to Providence. I then watched the squad from Woodlawn lose to the eventual 8A champions, Bolingbrook, 21-7, in the second round of the playoffs.

I came away from that last game thinking that maybe Coach Frank Lenti had seen his best days at Carmel and that the talent he was attracting, in particular quarterback Don Butkus (above), just wasn't that great anymore.

Boy, was I wrong! (About a lot of things.)

First of all, let me just say that Butkus is as good a quarterback as any I've seen this year. He may not be as exciting a runner as Tom Fuessel of Lincoln-Way East, or have as good an arm as John Peltz or Clayton Thorson of Wheaton North, but he directs what is probably the most potent offense in the state right now. (Butkus has always been a good runner; when did he become such a good passer?)

So I came into 2012 bashing the Caravan for their easy schedule this year -- only four of their opponents had winning records last season. (This alludes to a defect in my thinking which I'll get to in that post I mentioned above.)

I then went on to write:

As for the Chicago papers, what is this fascination they have for Mount Carmel? (MaxPreps has them at No. 19.) The Caravan have a "favorable" schedule this year, playing only four teams that had winning records in 2011. So far, they beat two 1-1 teams, St. Patrick (3-6 last year) and Morgan Park (4-6). And they play a deceptively weak 2-0 team this weekend, De La Salle (4-5 last year).

I saw Mount Carmel play
four times last year, against Morgan Park, Loyola, St. Rita and Bolingbrook. (They seemed to get worse as the season went on.) And -- I'm telling you -- this is not your father's (or even your older brother's) Caravan. Prove me wrong, Coach Lenti.

Ouch.

Wait; it gets worse. On September 16, I wrote:

Finally, there's St. Rita (and Mount Carmel). Why do I keep linking the two? I hope to make that clear in a moment.

The Mustangs are currently 2-2, with victories over downstate
Danville and Fenwick, and losses to Marist and Brother Rice. But the South Siders still have to play Providence (3-1), Mount Carmel (4-0) and Loyola (3-1). If they lose to those three and still beat Hales Franciscan (3-1) and Bishop McNamara (2-2), St. Rita will end up the regular season at 4-5 and watch the playoffs from the bleachers! How could that possibly happen? (The Mustangs haven't had a losing season since Moses was a little boy.)

It could happen because of Rita's crushing schedule. And this is where Mount Carmel comes in. St. Rita's crosstown rival is currently 4-0, with victories over St. Patrick (2-2),
Morgan Park (1-3), De La Salle (3-1) and St. Joseph (0-4). Is it really that hard to imagine St. Rita at 4-0, too, if they'd played such a schedule?

So while the Mustangs could sit out the postseason this year, the Caravan could lose all four games against future opponents Brother Rice, Loyola, St. Rita and Providence, and still enter the playoffs with a 5-4 record, assuming they beat St. Laurence. Does that seem right to you?


If there's any justice in the universe, teams should be rewarded for playing tough schedules and punished for playing easy ones.


And that's why I'll be rooting for St. Rita to defeat Mount Carmel at Gately on October 12.


P. S.
Maine South, are you listening?

Although I do think I was right about Maine South.

The next day, I wrote:

...go see Ty Isaac, arguably the best running back in the state (if he's healthy) play at Marist, the best Catholic school in Illinois. (Sorry, Caravan fans, but you've got to beat somebody to get respect.) Marist beat St. Rita, Brother Rice, Nazareth, and -- okay -- St. Patrick (MaxPreps has the Shamrocks at No. 49). Mount Carmel beat -- again -- St. Patrick, Morgan Park, De La Salle and St. Joseph. (Not exactly a Murderers' Row.)

But the Mount Carmel - Brother Rice game should reveal which team is the Real Deal. (Maybe both; who knows?) What do I think? The Caravan will defeat the Crusaders on the road. Why? Because everyone at Brother Rice has been taught since
they were two years old that Mount Carmel is the better team.

On the 22nd, I let a little light shine in with this one word response to Carmel's 56-7 victory over Brother Rice: Wow.

Before the Loyola game in Week Five, I wrote:

This year, I'll pick the Ramblers to win, 21-17. I think the Wilmette squad is underrated, while the South Siders are a little overrated.

Got one right!

After watching that game on TV, I let a little more light shine in:

My takeaways from the Loyola - Mount Carmel game? First of all, the Caravan are better than I thought. (Mea culpa.)

I also took note of the Caravan's stingy defense at around this point; and their prolific offense. And on October 14, I wrote:

And that reminds me, so who is good this year? Who are the teams to beat in the playoffs? Well, Loyola and Mount Carmel in 8A, certainly. 

I was coming around.

But then I got stubborn (a family trait) on October 18:

And this is unfortunate, because as I mentioned at the beginning of the season (and later here) St. Rita had one of the toughest schedules around. Now, granted, they seem to be having an off-year anyway, losing to Marist, 35-25, Brother Rice, 23-21, Providence, 14-0, and Mount Carmel, 27-0. But I can't help feeling like Rita is being punished for playing good teams. And I'm wondering if Coach Todd Kuska, above, is going to say to himself in the off-season, "Why don't I just schedule a bunch of cupcakes, like Mount Carmel and Maine South do? You'd never see them go 4-5 with the most playoff points. Why don't I get St. Joseph (0-8) or St. Laurence (1-7) on the schedule? Or Niles North (3-5) or Waukegan (2-6)? Why not just take the easy way out?"

But as we saw last year, both Mount Carmel
and Maine South went down in the second round of the playoffs. So maybe it pays to play good teams during the regular season. We'll see. 

Ouch again.

So why did I rank the Caravan at No. 3 after Week Seven? Did I suspect the truth? After all, I did pick them to go to the semifinals.

But then last week I predicted that Lyons Township would upset St. Cyril Mount Carmel. Final score: Caravan 45, Lyons 10. And then I predicted here and here that Neuqua Valley would beat them. Final score: Mount Carmel 26, Neuqua 21. And, as much as it pains me to say this, last night's game wasn't as close as the score would indicate. The Caravan was clearly the better team.

So, I'm sorry Coach Lenti. I'm sorry Don Butkus. I'm sorry Mount Carmel fans. I've been wrong about the Caravan all year. I'll try to make up for it in 2013 (by being more objective).

As for next week, if Butkus is healthy (and he seemed to sustain a pretty serious ankle injury last night) the Caravan should defeat Glenbard North in the finals. The Panthers are just too similar to Neuqua. But if Butkus doesn't play, I'd expect GBN to prevail. Either way, it should be a good game!

P. S. In that other contest I attended yesterday, Glenbard North defeated Loyola, 27-24. GBN played better than the one time I had seen them (against Wheaton North) and Loyola played worse than the three times I had seen them before. Panther running back Justin Jackson, above, had four touchdowns in a very impressive outing.

But really, I shouldn't have been so surprised by the outcome. After all, everyone knows the DVC is the best conference in the state!

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Friday, November 16, 2012

My picks for this weekend...

...will be essentially what they were before the playoffs began.

In 8A, I think Loyola and Neuqua will prevail (I had the Ramblers in a rematch with Bolingbrook in the finals; my bad). In 7A, I expect Glenbard West to face Lincoln-Way East. I still think Cary-Grove will square off against Lemont in 6A. And in 5A, I look for Montini to play Morris in Champaign, above.

Go to a game near you! (If you can score a ticket...)

Martin Fay, an original member...

...of the traditional Irish folk band the Chieftains, died at age 76. That's him in the above video (at about :55), second from the right, on violin.

The last time Neuqua Valley...

...played Mount Carmel* they were led by a kid named T. J. Rhattigan, above. Tomorrow night, the Wildcats will be led by his younger brother, Joey Rhattigan.

So who are these Rhattigan brothers, anyway?

Well, T. J. is now a linebacker at Penn State, which is also known as "Linebacker U." A preferred walk-on, he turned down a number of scholarship offers to play for Joe Paterno. In addition to linebacker, he played wide receiver and running back as a true freshman. This past spring, however, T. J. tore his ACL during the annual Spring game. He's currently rehabbing and is expected to see time on special teams next year.

Oh, and in that playoff game against Mount Carmel? T. J. had 25 solo tackles. In fact, he holds several defensive records at Neuqua, including most career tackles, solo tackles and forced fumbles. As a senior, T. J. was named All State by the Illinois High School Coaches Association.  No wonder the Nittany Lions wanted him.

As for his younger brother, Joey, Penn State has also shown interest in the star running back. But the younger Rhattigan is considering a number of Division I programs, including Indiana, Western Michigan, Boise State and South Carolina. And the straight "A" student, whose GPA has never dipped below 4.0 since elementary school, is also looking at three Ivy League schools -- Princeton, Cornell and Harvard -- as well as Army, Navy and Air Force. (He got a taste of New England last summer when he spent a week at Harvard's senior select camp.) His dad told me that Joey is a voracious reader who usually goes through ten or fifteen books each summer. He seems to put more effort into his studies than sports and is taking such classes this term as Advanced Placement macroeconomics, genetics and calculus. (Sounds a little like my high school career -- not!)

But it's for his performance on the gridiron that Joey has become so well known. In twelve games this year, Rhattigan has rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 31 touchdowns. He's averaged 12 yards per carry and has yet to fumble this season. But what's really remarkable is that Joey played in only the first half (and in many cases only the first quarter) of six of the Wildcats' games this year. After scoring twice, coach Bill Ellinghaus would often sit the 6' 200-pound senior and give someone else a chance to play. (And that also speaks to Neuqua's depth.) But Rhattigan never complained; it seems he's a selfless player who thinks only of his team. In fact, his dad told me, Joey often doesn't even remember how many touchdowns he scored in a game. (I can relate. After the Bolingbrook contest, I couldn't remember if he had scored four, or five. It was five.)

Rhattigan's nickname, "The Bus," dates back to his days in Naperville Youth Football when he wore a Pittsburgh Steelers' Jerome Bettis jersey to practice. Unless I have my facts wrong, Joey was not in the same backfield in grade school as Waubonsie star Austin Guido (as I had previously been told), but did play on the same traveling baseball team. The two are friends off the field, though, and work out together in the off-season. Apparently, Rhattigan was quite the baseball and lacrosse player but gave them up to concentrate on his first love, football.

Joey did, however, play on a seventh grade traveling football team with current Neuqua quarterback Dylan Andrew, Waubonsie tight end (and Wisconsin recruit) Troy Fumagalli and Waubonsie middle linebacker Austin Lacke. (How would you like to have been that coach?)

His father also tells me that Joey is "the most unselfish person you may ever encounter. He wants for nothing. We ask him every year at Christmas and on his birthday what we can get him and the answer is always the same: 'I don't need anything.' "

After every home game, Rhattigan makes a point to stop and greet the younger kids who wait for him by the gate. He seems to relish taking the time to talk to them, giving them high-fives and having his picture taken with them.

Sounds like a nice kid, doesn't he? Regardless of what happens tomorrow night (and I think the Wildcats will win), Rhattigan should have a bright future ahead of him.

* In an earlier post, I wrote that the 2010 game was played in Chicago. Apparently, it was in Naperville; my bad.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ramesh Ponnuru has...

...an interesting article on the Republican Party in -- of all places -- the National Review Online. It's an honest and introspective piece on the current state of the GOP (my emphasis):

The first thing conservatives should understand about the electoral catastrophe that just befell us — and it was a catastrophe — is that any explanation of it that centers on Mitt Romney is mistaken.

Romney was not a drag on the Republican party. The Republican party was a drag on him. Aaron Blake pointed out in the Washington Post that Romney ran ahead of most of the Republican Senate candidates: He did better than Connie Mack in Florida, George Allen in Virginia, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, Denny Rehberg in Montana, Jeff Flake in Arizona, Pete Hoekstra in Michigan, Deb Fischer in Nebraska, Rick Berg in North Dakota, Josh Mandel in Ohio, and of course Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana. In some cases Romney did a lot better. (He also did slightly better than Ted Cruz in Texas, a race Blake for some reason ignored.)

It's worth a read.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Cleve Duncan, who sang...

...the 1954 doo-wop hit "Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)," died at age 77.

Are you one of those people...

...who thinks that Mitt Romney, down deep, is really a classy guy who didn't believe half of the nonsense he spewed in the 2012 presidential campaign? Then get a load of what the former governor of Massachusetts said yesterday on a conference call with supporters, according to an article in the New York Times (my emphasis):

...Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the “old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”

Does that sound a little bitter? There's more:

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

This last line doesn't explain how Romney received two million fewer votes than John McCain did in 2008.

But wait; there's also this from his running mate, Paul Ryan (again, my emphasis):

Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin on Monday blamed Democratic turnout in “urban areas” for the loss by the Republican presidential ticket last week, saying he was surprised that he and Mitt Romney did not do better in the nation’s big cities.

“The surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race,” Mr. Ryan said in an interview with WISC-TV. “When we watched Virginia and Ohio coming in, and those ones coming in as tight as they were, and looking like we were going to lose them, that’s when it became clear we weren’t going to win.”

That highlighted sentence is meant for scared old white people like my mother, who is addicted to Fox News. For those of you who can't hear the dog whistle, Ryan is saying, "Obama stole this election by having a bunch of black people stuff the ballot boxes in the inner cities."

Ryan goes on to say:

...he did not think that the nation’s voters had rejected his long-standing ideas for how to restructure the nation’s budget and cut spending.

“I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare — we clearly didn’t lose it on those issues,” he said.

And this is why I think the GOP will be in the wilderness for quite some time. I expect them to nominate a far-right candidate like Ryan in 2016 and get just crushed. Only then will the Republicans take a good, honest look at their party and make the necessary changes to become credible again.

As far as I can tell, Mount Carmel...

...has only played Neuqua Valley once, in 2010. The Caravan was victorious that year, 21-14, at home.

On Saturday night, though, the game will be played in Naperville and feature the best running back I've seen this year, Joey Rhattigan, above. Mount Carmel hasn't seen anything like him all year (Loyola is mostly a passing team) and they may have their hands full. If they can stop Rhattigan -- a big IF -- the Caravan will advance to Champaign to take on the Ramblers (?) again. If not, it could be a long, quiet bus ride back to Woodlawn.

Mount Carmel (11-1) beat St. Patrick, Morgan Park, De La Salle, St. Joseph, Brother Rice, St. Laurence, St. Rita, Providence, Brother Rice (again), Simeon and Lyons by a combined score of 450-59. Wow! The Caravan only lost to Loyola in Week Six, 30-27, in overtime. (Of these teams, eight had winning records and four losing.)

Neuqua (12-0) defeated Naperville North, Naperville Central, South Elgin, St. Charles East, Aurora East, Metea Valley, Waubonsie Valley, Lake Park, Bartlett, Naperville North (again), Bolingbrook and Waubonsie (again) by a combined score of 520-244. 520 points? Double Wow! (Of these, only seven teams had winning records.)

A word of caution for Mount Carmel fans: everyone has known about Rhattigan all season and no one has been able to stop him.

When I went to the Bolingbrook game a few weeks ago, I found Rhattigan on the field right away. So, I thought to myself, if they just key on him it's all over. The senior running back then went on to score five touchdowns that night. And just when I thought Rhattigan was going to carry the ball on every play, quarterback Dylan Andrew lobbed a touchdown pass over everyone's head to receiver Mike Dudek.

So what about Saturday night? I think Neuqua can take the big, bad Caravan this time. And I'll be there -- if it isn't sold out.

(If it is, I'll high-tail it down the road to the Lincoln-Way East - Benet game. Gotta be resourceful!)

BOWG prediction: Neuqua 35, Mount Carmel 31.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I started following high school football...

...because it was easy. I live about two miles from Loyola Academy, above, and would ride my bike past the stadium once in a while on Saturday afternoons. I'd check out the scoreboard from the parking lot and if it was a game, I'd stroll in (for free) and watch the second half. It would only take about 45 minutes or so. (If the score was lopsided, I'd just continue on my way.) Either way, no big deal.

Those were the days.

Like any habit, I began following the Ramblers (where my brothers went) and Glenbrook South (which my sons later attended), and I'd watch the entire game.

Eventually, I'd see Loyola play someone like Gordon Tech (or Glenbrook South play Maine East) and see the home team win by some crazy score like 40-0. And I thought, Why bother? Meanwhile, there would be a good contest -- like Lincoln-Way East - Bolingbrook, or Wheaton Warrenville South - Maine South -- being played somewhere else. And I would think, Why not attend one of those games instead of this crummy one?

And that's when it started getting complicated.

I began driving all over the Chicago area: down to Frankfort and Bolingbrook, out to Naperville and even Maple Park (where?), and up to Algonquin and Crystal Lake. My friends and family would just shake their heads and say to each other, "Mike has a problem, you know." (I won't tell you what my wife said to me when I drove down to Champaign a couple of years ago to see the finals.)

Clearly, it was becoming a sickness.

Now, as we head into the semifinals, it turns out you need a ticket ahead of time to attend the games. Sheesh!

So this morning, I called my sister in Naperville and begged her to drive over to Neuqua Valley tomorrow and buy a ticket for Saturday's game against Mount Carmel.

"Come on, Joanne, I'll do anything! I'll even watch your grandchildren some time!" (And I hate kids.)

After she finally agreed, I hung up and took a look at Benet's Web site. I quickly called her back.

"Hey Jo, you gotta do me a solid. Go over to Benet and buy another ticket this afternoon in case Neuqua is sold out."

"Huh?"

"Come on, don't do it for me. Do it for Dad. He's looking down on us right now!" (I knew that would work.)

"But then you'll have two tickets."

"I don't care. I can't take the chance of getting shut out!"

"Oh, all right."

Looks like I've hit rock bottom.

As for my sister, she's a good sport, even if she is an enabler. (I wonder what she'll say when I ask her to sell the extra ticket I don't use?)

Oh well, it's off to Loyola to get a ticket for that game.

Loyola, under Coach John...

...Holecek, has beaten Glenbard North twice in recent years (that I know of).

2011: LOYOLA 28, Glenbard North 13
2008: LOYOLA 26, Glenbard North 14

Will this Saturday be any different? I doubt it. (Except this time I'll be there.)

But one thing is certain: no matter who wins, people will be saying afterward, "Of course, (fill in the blank) won. Everybody knows the (DuPage Valley or Catholic League) is the best conference in Illinois!"

Seriously, if defense wins championships (and Holecek is a defensive wizard) then Loyola should prevail. The Ramblers (11-1) beat Simeon, Lake Forest Academy, Providence (I was there), Gordon Tech, Mount Carmel (I watched it on TV), Fenwick, Brother Rice (I was there until the game went to a running clock), St. Rita, Evanston, Bartlett and Palatine by a combined score of 387-104. Their only loss was in Week Two to Dallas Jesuit, 30-29. (Of these opponents, only Lake Forest Academy, Gordon Tech and St. Rita had losing records.)

Glenbard North, also 11-1, defeated Carmel, West Chicago, Glenbard East, Aurora West, Naperville Central, Wheaton Warrenville South, Wheaton North (I was there; the Panthers struggled but won), Naperville North, Fremd, Stevenson and Maine South by a combined score of 334-162. The Panthers' only loss was to Batavia, 42-41, in Week One. (Of these teams, only the last six had winning records. "Yeah," I can almost hear someone say, "But it's the DVC!")

As I mentioned, I saw Glenbard North only once this year and they narrowly beat a good Wheaton North team at home. Running back Justin Jackson did not dazzle me in the way I expected. If the Ramblers can keep his numbers down on Saturday, they should be headed back to Champaign (and for a possible rematch with Mount Carmel).

BOWG prediction: LOYOLA 27, Glenbard North 14.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A week ago, I voted for...

...Barack Obama for president of the United States. Surprised? (Actually, I voted on October 27 when my son was home from school.)

But for whom should I have voted? According to a piece in Sunday's Times, married college-educated white men of my age and income who live in the suburbs and consider themselves political  "independents" voted for Mitt Romney.

(The only category in which I didn't fit was "Religion." While I would consider myself "none of the above," the graph didn't list that. "Catholics" -- how I was raised -- voted for Obama, 50-48 percent, although 59 percent of white Catholics backed Romney.)

To be fair, those with graduate degrees (I have an MBA -- somehow) voted for the president, as did self-described "Democrats," of which I am probably one. But I find it a little interesting how out of step I am with my "tribe."

Darrell Royal, the famous...

...football coach of the University of Texas, died at age 88 while I was traveling. From his obit in the Times:

When Royal was named the Texas football coach in 1957, he took over a team that had won only one game the previous season. When he retired after 20 seasons, he had coached the Longhorns to 11 Southwest Conference championships and 16 bowl appearances, and he never had a losing team. He was named national coach of the year five times and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

But what I found more interesting was this:

Texas had fine teams in the 1940s under Coach Dana X. Bible but never finished atop the national rankings.

Can you think of a better name for a Texas football coach than Dana X. Bible? (That's him in the picture above.)

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

And as for that election...

...we had last week, here are just two data points (so far) for your consideration. Not only have the Republicans lost the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections, but Mitt Romney actually received two million fewer votes than (the hapless) John McCain did in 2008.

I'll have a lot more to say about the dismal state of the GOP just as soon as I get settled in.

I'm back from my trip...

...and there's a lot to catch up on.

Let's start with the latest rankings from the three main news sources. Not too many changes, except that Montini leaped ten spots to No. 8 on MaxPreps after upsetting (?) Marian Central, 42-27. In the Sun-Times, Benet is getting some respect. And over at the Trib, Maine South finally tumbled from the No. 1 spot after getting beat by Glenbard North, 29-23. (The Hawks are still in the top ten -- somehow -- ahead of Cary-Grove, Montini and Waubonsie. In MaxPreps they're No. 30. Go figure.)

I would have the top six teams something like this:

1. Loyola (11-1) *
The Ramblers beat Palatine, above, easily. Do they have the best defense in the state?

2. Neuqua (12-0) *
As good as any team I've seen this year.

3. Lincoln-Way East (12-0) *
Should face Glenbard West in the 7A finals unless pesky Benet upsets their plans.

4. Glenbard West (11-1) *
Only beat Wheaton North, 3-0. Red flag?

5. Glenbard North (12-0) *
Justin Jackson will try to avenge last year's semifinal loss to Loyola this weekend.

6. Mount Carmel (11-1) ^
The Caravan haven't seen a running back like Neuqua's Joey Rhattigan all year. Could be a long bus ride home from Naperville.

To the rankings...

MaxPreps:

1. Glenbard West (12-0) *
2. Mount Carmel (11-1) ^
3. Lincoln-Way East (12-0) *
4. Loyola (11-1) *
5. Neuqua Valley (12-0) *
6. Cary-Grove (12-0) *
7. Lake Zurich (10-2)
8. Montini (10-2)
9. Crete-Monee (12-0) *
10. Glenbard North (11-1) *

Chicago Sun-Times:

1. Glenbard West (12-0) *
2. Mount Carmel (11-1) ^
3. Loyola (11-1) *
4. Lincoln-Way East (12-0) *
5. Neuqua Valley (12-0) *
6. Glenbard North (11-1) *
7. Crete-Monee (12-0) *
8. Benet (11-1)
9. Waubonsie (10-2) *
10. Cary-Grove (12-0) *

Chicago Tribune:

1. Loyola (11-1) *
2. Lincoln-Way East (12-0) *
3. Glenbard West (12-0) *
4. Mount Carmel (11-1) ^
5. Neuqua (12-0) *
6. Glenbard North (11-1)* 
7. Crete-Monee (12-0) *
8. Maine South (11-1)
9. Lake Zurich (10-2)
10. Benet (11-1)

* Indicates teams I've seen play. ^ Indicates teams I've seen on television.