Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Week Two is in the books...

...and the rankings are out for the three news services I follow.

The big stories this week, of course, are Homewood-Flossmoor's convincing 43-29 victory over Stevenson, and Loyola's utter domination of Maine South, 49-8.

That leaves Maine South, along with Providence and some others, at 0-2 to begin the 2015 season.

Now, I know what you're thinking: Come on, BOWG, that's not the end of the world!

And you'd be right.

As recently as 2013 the Hawks lost their first two games, to Montini and Wheaton Warrenville South, and ended the season at 9-3. And in 2010 the Park Ridge squad dropped its first two contests, to Schaumburg and Wheaton South (again), and won the 8A crown. Stevenson, for its part, fell in Weeks One and Two in 2013, to Indian Trail (WI) and Homewood-Flossmoor, and finished at 10-3. And lest we forget Wheaton South, which lost four of its first five games last year, still finishing at a very respectable 7-5.

Now Maine South goes into its Central Suburban Conference schedule, beginning this week with Deerfield (1-1), and will surely find at least five victories there (if not seven).

So stop the bedwetting!

And, yet . . . Providence still has to play its Catholic League Blue schedule, beginning with Mount Carmel this weekend. (And then St. Rita, Loyola and Brother Rice.) If they lose just three of those four, which is not inconceivable, then the defending 7A champs will finish at only 4-5 and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

And check out Week Three for these other 0-2 teams:

Carmel (0-2) @ Joliet Catholic (2-0) 
Downers Grove South (0-2) plays Hinsdale South (1-1) 
Glenbard North (0-2) plays Wheaton South (1-1) 
Glenbard South (0-2) plays Elmwood Park (1-1) 
Glenbrook South (0-2) plays Highland Park (1-1) 
Lake Zurich (0-2) @ Stevenson (1-1)
Lakes (0-2) plays Antioch (2-0)
O'Fallon (0-2) @ Belleville West (0-2) 
Richards (0-2) @ Lemont (2-0) 
Rockford Boylan (0-2) @ Hononegah (2-0) 
Warren (0-2) @ Lake Forest (2-0) 
Wheaton North (0-2) @ Naperville North (0-2) 

Now, not all of those 0-2 teams will lose this week. In fact, I'll say most of them improve to 1-2. But at least some of them will be 0-3 and that really puts a team behind the eight ball.  

Let's get to those rankings (all teams undefeated unless otherwise noted): 

Chicago Tribune

1. Homewood-Flossmoor 
2. Loyola
3. Mount Carmel
4. Glenbard West
5. Naperville Central
6. Montini
7. Joliet Catholic
8. Phillips
9. Stevenson
10. Libertyville 

Chicago Sun-Times

1. Homewood-Flossmoor
2. Glenbard West
3. Nazareth
4. Libertyville
5. Naperville Central
6. Montini
7. Mount Carmel
8. Joliet Catholic
9. Simeon (1-1)
10. Loyola


1. Loyola
2. Homewood-Flossmoor 
3. Barrington
4. Montini 
5. Phillips
6. Glenbard West 
7. Nazareth
8. Rochester
9. Joliet Catholic 
10. Stevenson

I was at Notre Dame on Friday night watching the Dons defeat Evanston, 48-21, and in River Grove on Saturday for the first half of the Guerin - St. Thomas More game, in which the home team Crusaders eventually prevailed, 42-26.

That first tilt was pretty much over by halftime so I ended up talking to three coaches who were sitting in front of me scouting Evanston for another Central Suburban Conference team. We were all marveling at that lopsided Loyola - Maine South score and I asked them who in their conference would be good this year. They all looked at each other and kind of shrugged as if to say . . . nobody.

"Well what the heck happened to that conference?" I demanded.

(For the record, I did some homework and the Central Suburban Conference is 12-12 so far in non-conference play. That's respectable, to be sure, but besides Maine South, Waukegan, Evanston, Glenbrook South, Deerfield, Niles North and Maine East were all positively outclassed by their opponents this weekend.)

Their answers were twofold. One, specialization. If a kid plays, say, basketball, his coaches want him to play that sport exclusively. That means working at it year-round, playing for club teams, etc. It also means there are fewer three-sport athletes as in the past. If a kid wants a scholarship, he almost has to specialize.

The second one was more troubling. These coaches said they are just not getting the numbers they need partly due to fear of head trauma. The freshman teams, for example, are really suffering. Maine East and Niles North, I believe they told me, no longer have freshman teams. And schools that used to have an "A" and a "B" team are having difficulty just filling up an "A" team.

It made me wonder if a "tipping point" was not too far in the distance. Are football's days numbered? Hard to believe, isn't it? Especially since the NFL and college are so popular. But it sure sounds like it's dying a slow and quiet death up in the northern suburbs. As someone who's made his career in the financial markets, I can attest that things always look best at the top and worst at the bottom. In my dad's day boxing and horse racing were two of the biggest sports around. And now look what's happened to them.

P. S. In case you're wondering, the reason I posted that song at the top is that I've now heard it twice, at both Oswego and at Notre Dame. The first time I thought to myself, Is that the theme from "The Munsters?" And the second, That must be a current song. When I asked my son about it he responded, "Have you forgotten how to use Google?"

No -- no, I haven't.

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