Thursday, June 6, 2013

When you think of De La Salle...

...Institute, do you think of football? Because, if not, you may have to start.

Now, I know what you're thinking:  

That place across the Dan Ryan from Sox Park? Isn't that where the Daleys went? I knew they were good at basketball, but...

Yep, that's the place. De La Salle is also the alma mater of three other Chicago mayors, a Cook County Board President, Bryant and Greg Gumbel, "Moose" Krause and -- oh, yeah -- that guy for whom that expressway is named. But football?

Actually, yes. The Meteors just might be one of the teams to watch this year in Illinois.

That's Head Coach Dan O'Keefe, above, with his star offensive tackle, Jamarco Jones. Jones is one of the most heavily recruited athletes in the state, with offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State. (What's with these Catholic school kids anyway? They all seem to wear ties beneath their jerseys!)

While the Meteors haven't had a winning season since 2009, Coach O'Keefe is 37-27 (by my count) in six seasons at the helm. Last year was a disappointing one (4-5) with lopsided losses to Mount Carmel, 48-0, Bishop McNamara, 34-16, Brother Rice, 28-6, and Fenwick, 28-3.

But this year, De La Salle doesn't have to face Mount Carmel or Brother Rice. Phew! In fact, their schedule looks pretty favorable through Week Six. Check it out (last year's records in parentheses):

Sept. 1 Phillips (5-3) @ Soldier Field
Sept. 7 @ Hales Franciscan (7-4)
Sept. 13 @ Providence (8-3)
Sept. 20 St. Ignatius (3-7)
Sept. 27 St. Joseph (1-8)

Oct. 4 @ St. Laurence (1-8)
Oct. 11 Loyola (11-2)
Oct. 18 Fenwick (8-4)
Oct. 25 @ Bishop McNamara (5-4)

Plus, O'Keefe may have his most talented squad ever. Besides Jones, De La Salle has Aaron Roberts at guard (with offers from Syracuse and Illinois, among others), the Vanderbilt-bound running back Mikale Wilbon, and Shelby Spence, a dual threat quarterback.

(While Wilbon gets a lot of press -- and deservedly so -- Spence, a 6'1", 195-pound senior who runs the 40 in 4.56, could be the most underrated quarterback in the state.)

So by my reckoning, the Meteors could be 5-1 after Week Six with a possible loss to Providence. But don't be too surprised if these guys are undefeated by the time they host Loyola on October 11. That game may prove to be a "Gotta."

If De La Salle should happen to knock off the Ramblers, they could go into the Fenwick game at 6-1. It would be a chance to avenge last year's loss against another one of the area's up-and-coming teams, led by Western Michigan-bound running back Robert Spillane. (He's a grandson of the legendary Johnny Lattner.)

After a trip down to Kankakee in Week Nine, I figure the Meteors could finish the regular season at 7-2, or even an eye-popping 8-1!

It was once written that "The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, but the business leaders of Chicago were trained in the Counting Rooms of De La Salle."

Now, I don't know what a "counting room" is, but we may have to start paying attention to those "playing fields" on the South Side.

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