Friday, October 25, 2013

I went to Lane Tech yesterday... see Whitney Young defeat Taft, 21-6, in their last game of the regular season. The Dolphins (the Dolphins?) finished with a perfect 9-0 record and narrowly missed notching their seventh -- yes, seventh -- shutout of the season when the Eagles scored on a pass with literally no time left on the clock. (They didn't even get to attempt the point after.) Young outscored its opponents this year, 343-18, and didn't allow an offensive touchdown until the very last play of the season. (The only other touchdown was a kickoff return.) Wow!

One of the reasons I went to the game (besides the fact that an 8-0 team was playing a 7-1 team on a Thursday afternoon at Lane) was to answer the question I had posed yesterday: Is Whitney Young for real?

Now, before I get to that, I have a few observations. (Surprised?)

First of all, Lane Tech is a massive place. I can't imagine going to school there. But, despite a few signs of wear and tear (such as the Totem Pole, above), the school appears to be in relatively good shape. Totem pole?

Second, pink is not a good look on a football team. I know, I know, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I applaud everyone for observing it. (I'll admit it: my wife and I are a little jealous. How did they make pink such a ubiquitous color for breast cancer awareness? And how could we ever do something like that for autism?) But the color pink just doesn't look good as part of a football uniform. Let's face it, it's hard to intimidate someone when you're wearing a color that's usually associated with baby girls. There; I said it.

Third, why was there no one sitting on the Whitney Young side? Okay, there were actually two people over there: a guy filming at midfield and a woman standing way down at the goal line. (Can you see her?) What was that all about? Why were all the Young fans on the home side? And why didn't that woman move down, closer to the action? There were plenty of good seats on her side. Oh, well.

Fourth, the Taft band, above, was excellent, but I didn't get to hear them as well as I would have liked because I spent the entire halftime standing in line for the one lady selling concessions. (I finally gave up and returned to watch the second half. There were still people in line well into the fourth quarter. Did they come to watch a football game or to eat?)

And last (before I get to the actual game), my failure to get a hot dog at intermission was a blessing in disguise: it allowed me to visit Hero's Sub Shop, above, on Addison and Western after the game. If you've never been there, you really should. The proprietor told me it's been there for fifty years! I got a "Monster" sub for myself and a turkey one to bring home to my wife; they were as good as I had remembered. Sometimes the universe just smiles on you.

Now, as for the Dolphins (the Dolphins?) and whether or not they're for real, I have to start by saying that I counted fewer than 30 guys suited up. And five of their starters played both ways. (In contrast, Taft had almost 40 guys in uniform and big schools like Loyola have almost 60.) So can Young compete in the playoffs with such a small squad? (Remember, they're in 7A.) Despite Young's star running back, Miles Baggett, who carried the ball a lot, the Dolphins (the Dolphins?) are without their starting quarterback, David Craan. And even though Carter Coates and Christian Everett did well in his place (sharing duty in the first and second halves, respectively), how confident, entering the postseason, can coach Tim Franken be?

(Baggett incidentally, is the brother of former Young star Terry Baggett, who recently set the Army single-game rushing record with 304 yards against Eastern Michigan. Cool.)

The game itself turned out much better than I had expected. Judging from some of Young's previous scores, I had told my wife that I'd probably be leaving at the half. Turns out, though, that the contest was scoreless until the very end of the third quarter. It was actually a good game; well worth the five bucks for admission.

So at 9-0 Young now stands to draw a 5-4 team in Round One of the playoffs. How would the Dolphins (the Dolphins?) fare against one of the current 5-3 teams in 7A such as St. Patrick or Andrew? Or against some of the stronger 4-4 teams, such as Stagg or St. Charles North? Does a 30-man roster, missing its starting quarterback, stand a chance? We'll see.

And whither Taft, which ended its season at 7-2? Well, as it turns out, they may not even make it to the playoffs. What? (That's what I said to the guy next to me.) But he's right; according to the IHSA Web site:

At the request of the Chicago Public Schools League, only the top two teams in each of the four "Chicago" conferences will be eligible for the IHSA playoffs.

Apparently, the Chicago Public League is divided up into three groups of conferences, the "Chicago," the "Illini," and the "Inter-City." (There's so much I don't know about football.) Why don't they want more than two teams from the "Chicago" conferences to go to the playoffs? 

Now if Schurz beats Roosevelt on Saturday, the Bulldogs will finish in second place in the conference and advance to the postseason. (Schurz beat Taft in a head-to-head matchup in Week Six.) That means that the Eagles, at 7-2, would miss the playoffs. Sounds odd to me.

So Whitney Young finished the regular season at 9-0 and will draw a 5-4 opponent in Round One. Taft, meanwhile, may or may not go to the playoffs. And I saw a much better game than I expected (and took too many pictures). All in all, it was a good day. 

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