Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Before I get to... Game of the Week, let me just tell you about two I will not be attending:

Homewood-Flossmoor (1-0) at Stevenson (1-0), 
Loyola (1-0) at Maine South (0-1).

Now I know what you're thinking: But your mantra has always been, "The best game between the best teams."

And you're right. But I don't feel that way anymore. (Although it's still a good rule of thumb for the postseason.) In my old age I have a new mantra: Go to the game you want, not necessarily the one you think you should. (And that's particularly apt for Week Two: go check out a school or a certain player in the early part of the season. The best teams will still be around in November.)

That first one, Homewood-Flossmoor at Stevenson, is surely the best game between the best teams. The Vikings, this year's No. 1 squad in both the Trib and the Sun-Times (and No. 3 in MaxPreps), travel up to Lincolnshire to take on last year's Class 8A champ in a rematch from the 2014 final, in which the Patriots prevailed, 31-25. (Stevenson also defeated H-F in Week Two on the road last year by an almost identical score, 33-24. You don't suppose the Vikings will be out for revenge, do you?)

Not only does this contest feature two of the best teams in the state (Stevenson is ranked No. 6 in both the Trib and MaxPreps, and No. 11 in the Sun-Times), but it will also showcase a number of top players. According to Beth Long of the Times, H-F has one of the best quarterbacks in the state, Bryce Gray, one of the best receivers, Kendric Pryor (who also plays defensive back) and the Harley-Hampton twins, Deante and Devonte, two of the best running backs

On the other side of the field will be quarterback Jack Sorenson of Stevenson.

Before last year, the two schools competed only twice in the modern era (since 2004), with H-F winning both tilts at home, 28-21 in 2013, and 35-27 in 2012.

So who's going to take this one? Doesn't really matter, does it? Both teams will make the 8A playoffs. Think of it more as an exhibition game. But get there early; it'll be packed and parking up there is a pain in the neck.

The other game I won't be attending should be a great contest between two 8A powerhouses, right? Loyola is ranked No. 1 in MaxPreps, No. 5 in the Trib and No. 12 in the Times. Maine South, although it dropped its opener to Montini, 20-17, is still ranked No. 10 in the Times, No. 17 in the Trib and No. 20 in MaxPreps.

So how come I'm not going? For the same reasons I won't be attending H-F at Stevenson: both games will be crazy-crowded, you'll have to get there really early to get a decent seat and, besides, both teams will probably go to the playoffs anyway so you'll have lots of chances to watch them later.

I'm also not convinced this matchup will be as good as advertised. Are the best days for Maine South in the rear-view mirror? Has life in the cushy Central Suburban Conference masked a decline up there in Park Ridge? Despite back-to-back-to-back 8A championships in 2008, '09 and '10, the Hawks were defeated last year in the second round of the playoffs by Barrington, 21-7. As for Loyola, Maine South hasn't beaten them since that 29-22 come-from-behind miracle in 2010 (I was there). The last time the two teams met was in the third round of the 2013 playoffs when the Wilmette squad blanked the Hawks, 35-0.

Not persuaded? Fine; go to the game and tell me how Brian Collis, the quarterback for Maine South, does. (He's also on Ms. Long's list.) If the Hawks lose, they can still go 7-0 for the remainder of their schedule, although I'm hearing New Trier, Evanston and even Niles North could give them a game this year. Will this be the season Maine South ends its winning streak in the Central Suburban Conference?

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