Friday, November 28, 2014

What can Phillips expect...

...from tonight's game with Rochester? Besides a No. 3-seed team with an 11-2 record looking for its fifth -- yes, fifth -- consecutive 4A title? A team coached by Derek Leonard (above), whose father, Ken Leonard, is the coach of Sacred Heart-Griffin, the 2013 5A champ which will defend its crown against Montini tomorrow? (The Leonards, by the way, became the first father-son duo to win a state championship in the same weekend last year.)

Yeah, besides all that, what can the Wildcats expect?

Well, first of all, the Rockets, who compete in the Central State Eight Conference, are ranked No. 41 in the state by MaxPreps, behind Oak Park and River Forest (7-3) and ahead of Lakes (9-2). (The Wildcats are ranked No. 20 by MaxPreps, behind Joliet Catholic (8-3) and ahead of Warren (7-3).)

During the 2014 regular season, Rochester beat only two winning teams, Chatham Glenwood (7-4) and Springfield Southeast (5-5). Both of its losses, meanwhile, were on the road in the last two weeks of the season to a pair of winning squads, MacArthur (6-4) and Sacred Heart-Griffin (13-0). (That last game, against the Cyclones, was a 56-13 thrashing delivered by none other than Derek's father, Ken. Thanks Dad!)

Here's the rest of Rochester's 2014 schedule (home team in CAPS):

ROCHESTER 56, Eisenhower 28
Rochester 43, SPRINGFIELD 14
ROCHESTER 49, Springfield Lanphier 13
ROCHESTER 42 Chatham Glenwood 0
ROCHESTER 50, Lincoln 0
ROCHESTER 54, Jacksonville 46
MACARTHUR 38, Rochester 33


ROCHESTER 65, Mt. Zion 35
Rochester 35, QUINCY NOTRE DAME 14
ROCHESTER 56, Bloomington Central Catholic 21
ROCHESTER 28, Herrin 9

As for the team itself, well, let's just say the Rockets are pass-happy. 

From an article in MaxPreps a few years ago (my emphasis):

[Ken Leonard] loved the passing game and was one of the first high school coaches to follow Urban Meyer – then at Bowling Green - into the spread craze. Each of his state title teams threw for more than 2,500 yards.

According to Liz Leonard, Ken’s wife and Derek’s mom, "They’re almost like clones."

Before each became head coaches, both lost in state-title games as offensive coordinators, Ken at Chenoa in 1979 and Derek at Fairbury Prairie Central in 2003.

Derek, a former quarterback for his dad at Sacred Heart-Griffin and the career leader in touchdown passes (52), yards (6,667) and completions (546) at Division III Illinois College, has coached a number of the state's top quarterbacks in recent years.

Perhaps you've heard of Will Lunt (above), who started the 2014 season as quarterback of the University of Illinois? Well it was Derek Leonard who "turned the former defensive lineman into the state career passing leader with 8,308 yards. Lunt also ranked first in attempts (1,084) and second in completions (603)."

"I’m not saying it because he’s my son, but he truly has a great offensive mind," Ken said of Derek. "He’s always had a great understanding of the game, probably because he was around it so much.
"He’s been drawing up Xs and Os since he was about 5. He was always drawing up plays."


Now, I'm not going to predict that Rochester is a lock for a fifth consecutive championship. (Just ask Chris Andriano of Montini how hard that is.) Phillips has a pretty good defense, having allowed an average of just six points per game in the playoffs. Also, the Wildcats have a very talented quarterback of their own in Dewayne Collins -- the Sun-Times Player of the Year -- as well as wide receiver Quayvon Skanes and running back Corey Warren.

I've seen Rochester in the finals on TV and -- hoo, boy! -- do they run an up-tempo offense. But I think the Bronzeville squad has the athleticism to handle it. So I think it could be a heck of a matchup.

I'm going to say that Phillips becomes the first Chicago Public League team to bring back a trophy from Champaign.

Enjoy the game, everyone!

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