Friday, November 30, 2012

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.

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