Monday, November 3, 2014

On Saturday I started the day... Loyola Academy in Wilmette and ended it at Lane Tech on Addison and Western in the city. It was cold and blustery for the noon kickoff of the Warren - Loyola game but turned mild and sunny later on.

The cold weather, though, didn't stop at least two guys from wearing shorts at the Loyola game:

But they weren't cold -- honest!

And the usual contingent of eighth graders was there, too; in this case a team called the Knights. Some day you guys could play on this field!

I found myself, coincidentally, surrounded by Stevenson players and a few of their fathers.

There to scout their opponent for Round Two, I learned from one of the dads that Warren had been the toughest and hardest-hitting squad the Patriots had faced all year. (I chuckled a little to myself at hearing this because the Catholic League prides itself on just those same attributes. I remember, for example, one particularly hard hit in the St. Joseph's Prep (PA) - Mount Carmel game at Toyota Field in the first week of the season. "That's Mount CARMEL football!" one of the Caravan fans shouted out.)

I talked about football with the players' dads and learned quite a bit. One of the Stevenson kids had some choice words about the Loyola team, which I can't print in this blog. Just suffice it to say, the good Jesuit Fathers in Wilmette would not be pleased.

At the half, the Stevenson players all made a bee-line (of course) for the concession stand. "God forbid they should miss a meal," one of the dads said to me. On their way back to their seats the Loyola fans taunted them, "You almost lost last night!"

"Yeah, but you're losing right NOW," they yelled back. Zing!

And it was true: the Ramblers were down, 12-10, after a half that was marred by some very questionable calls (and non-calls) by the refs. (And I didn't have a dog in the fight.) But Loyola coach John Holecek is a genius (even the Stevenson parents praised him) and the Ramblers made the necessary adjustments at halftime.

And, boy, did they ever! The North Shore squad came out after intermission with an attitude and scored four unanswered touchdowns to make it 37-12 before Warren even knew what had hit them. (One of the Stevenson parents told me that the Blue Devils "hang their heads" easily.) My Game of the Week had turned into a rout!

Shortly after the Stevenson crowd left I took a powder as well. Although I hadn't forgotten that 2010 semifinal game with Maine South on this very same field. After I had left, late in the fourth quarter (I had to go to dinner with David Letterman, for crying out loud!), the Hawks scored three times to beat the Ramblers, 29-22. But that could never happen again, I assured the Stevenson guys; Holecek will never forget that. Never.

By the time I was on the road the game was in the books: Loyola 37, Warren 20. (Should I have gone to that Mount Carmel - Batavia game instead?) But it was no time for second-guessing. My iPhone told me there was another contest at 3:30 at Lane Tech: No. 12 Sycamore (5-4) at No. 5 Westinghouse (7-2) in a 5A matchup. I had earlier thought I might drive farther up the road to the Fenwick - Highland Park game but six o'clock was a long way off. What the heck, I thought, let's check this other game out.

The skies had cleared by this point and the sun shined down on me on the home side at Lane Tech. It had turned into a beautiful day!

The game, alas, was an even bigger blowout than the first. The Spartans of Sycamore play in a pretty good conference, the Northern Illinois Big 12, while the Warriors of Westinghouse compete in the Chicago Public League, which has fallen on hard times in recent years. (Recent decades, actually.) A quick glance at the Warriors' schedule revealed that they had lost, 30-6, to Raby (5-4), a 3A team which had been defeated the night before, 30-22, by Oregon (the team, not the state). And their other loss had been a 36-0 shutout at the hands of Uplift, a 2A team which fell to Hales Franciscan in Round One, 40-6. When I looked at their team on the sidelines, above (in which I counted fewer than 30 athletes), I thought, Uh-oh, this could be a long day for the city kids.

(It was an interesting contrast, by the way. I was one of only a handful of white people on the Westinghouse side. And Sycamore seemed to bring half their town with them into the big, bad city for the game. As I was walking in from the parking lot I passed a fan donning his Carhartts (above). "You must be from Sycamore," I said. How did you guess? was the startled look on his face.)

It was indeed a long afternoon for the Warriors. Sycamore seemed to score on pretty much every possession. At one point I turned to the guy filming for the Spartans behind me and asked, "Don't they have a running clock in the playoffs?" "Not until the second half," he responded.

But one half was enough for me. Even though, as I said earlier, it had turned into a beautiful day, and I could have sat there forever checking the other scores on Twitter, I just couldn't take watching the bloodbath on the field in front of me. So I left, but not before snapping a few more pictures of Lane in the November sun behind the stadium:

Tomorrow I'll have my usual rankings post. And on Wednesday I should have my Friday night Game of the Week. Let's hope for good weather this weekend!


Ed Crotty said...

Any idea why almost *all* of the second round games are on Saturday instead of Friday night? All 8 of the 8A, 6 out of 8 for 7A, 7 of 8 6A, 7 of 8 5A. I don't remember so many games being on Saturday. Is there a rhyme or reason???

Mike Tracy said...

One of the Stevenson parents on Saturday told me he thought the visiting team got to pick the day and time.

Ed Crotty said...

found it -

The game must be played on Saturday, unless both schools agree to play the game on Friday.

Saturday is the default - But I am surprised after playing the whole season at night that they would choose to go Saturday.