Preps Talk

Andriano contemplates 4th title, retirement

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Andriano contemplates 4th title, retirement

Montini coach Chris Andriano would like to win a fourth consecutive state championship in 2012, putting his program in a class with Driscoll, Joliet Catholic, Providence and Mount Carmel as the only schools in the history of the state playoff to win four or more in a row.

Whether he wins or not, however, it could be his last season.

"I have told the school president (Jim Segredo) and the athletic director (Bob Landi) that next year might be my last year," Andriano said as he closed the book on his 33rd season at the Lombard school.

"I will be 60 years old on Dec. 7. I have completed 33 years as head coach. I am looking at retirement. I'm getting to the point where there is time for someone else to run the show. Next year might be it.

"I have four grandchildren and I like to fish in Canada. This job gets tougher every year. My health is good. But this is a year-round job now. Now it is the college recruiting season. Three college coaches came in today.

"When I started, it was a simpler job. Life was simpler. Football was a simpler game. The off-season wasn't as complicated with recruiting and workouts and weight room and conditioning and planning things out.

"If we weren't winning, life would be simpler. But it's a great problem to have. There's a bigger buildup when you're in the limelight. If you win three state titles in a row, you reach a special category in Illinois high school football. How many teams have done that? You're in a pretty select group. And everyone is gunning for you."

It was a never-to-be-forgotten season, the stuff that dreams and legends are made of...beating Joliet Catholic 70-45 for the state title with a team featuring the best quarterback (John Rhode) and the best player (wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp) that he has produced.

"When you win three state titles in a row, that's off the charts for me," Andriano said. "We've had some good teams but to win three in a row is more special than anything else we've done here.

"Four years ago, I had a great team, maybe my best team, four Division I players, but we lost to Driscoll in Week 9 and lost to Wheaton St. Francis in the quarterfinals. I'm coaching players whose fathers played here. We have a connection with families that goes back to when I first started here. There is great loyalty here."

How do you top it?

"Next year we will have another great group of kids," Andriano said. "Who will be the quarterback? Who will replace Westerkamp? We will have five starters back on offense and three on defense. Every year different kids emerge. It will be another good, solid team."

Andriano will build his 2012 team around versatile Joe Borsellino, who played quarterback, wide receiver, running back and defensive back this season but will be a primary receiver next season. Other standouts will be 6-5, 280-pound guard Tate Briggs, quarterbackwide receiver Mark Gorogianis, 6-3, 255-pound defensive end Fred Beaugard and running back Demetri Taylor.

The coach's game plan calls for Gorogianis to replace Westerkamp at wide receiver. He was Rhode's backup this season at quarterback but Andriano would like to keep him at wide receiver. That means sophomore Jimmy Barron will have to earn the starting spot at quarterback.

"Experience-wise, right now, Gorogianis is our best kid at quarterback," Andriano said. "Barron has to prove he can run the offense and make the right decisions. It's all about decision-making."

Westerkamp can't be replaced, of course. He set state records for pass receiving yardage and touchdowns in a career. "He is the best the state has ever seen at his position, strong and physical, a great blocker, a do-everything type. There is no doubt that he can be a dominant player at Nebraska--and he has a shot at making it in the NFL," Andriano said. "One play in the state championship game that I am more proud of him than of anything else he has accomplished is he ran down Joliet Catholic's Malin Jones after he intercepted a pass. A lot of kids wouldn't have come back to make that tackle. Jordan has great heart. He's a great competitor."

Rhode, the transfer from Marian Catholic who missed the first month of the season with a broken thumb, came on so strong and was so impressive that Andriano insists he has the tools to be a Big 10 quarterback. Unfortunately, he didn't get any exposure last year and most colleges have filled their quarterback slots for next year.

"He has great arm strength and touch to make all the throws," Andriano said. "He sees defenses, reads them, knows our offense, can check down and can throw it away. He will take off and run. He is so smart with the ball. He has zip on the ball. He puts the ball in positions where the receiver can get it and defenders can't. There never has been a quarterback that smart before."

While Andriano contemplates retirement, he admits that a third state championship has only provided him with a greater appreciation for the kids in his program.

"Three state titles is about the hard work and talent we have," he said. "The freshman started in the weight room today (Monday). Everybody else is off until after Christmas. Then next year's team will start working out. When you go 14 weeks with games and get all that extra practice with younger kids, it is a big plus. It gives us plenty of time to work on strength and speed when we get back in January. These kids are committed."

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

High School Lites is down to the final week of the regular season in local high school hoops as the Class 3A and 4A schools finish up conference play. The boys basketball playoffs have also started as the Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships will be played on Friday night.

The girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also be featured. You can catch all of those games on NBC Sports Chicago on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1A semifinals. High School Lites will air Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago

East Aurora at No. 11 West Aurora, 7:00 p.m. -- These two rivals meet for the 225th time. The Blackhawks (20-4, 9-0) won the first matchup by 22 points as they try to finish the season on a 12-game winning streak. 

Jacobs at Dundee-Crown, 7:00 p.m. -- Fox Valley rivals match up as Jacobs tries to go unbeaten in the conference. The Eagles (23-3, 15-0) has been playing very well as they've won 20 of 21 games heading into this one -- including an earlier win against Dundee-Crown. The Chargers (14-11, 10-4) has won seven consecutive games since dropping to the Golden Eagles as they're second in the Fox Valley heading into this one. 

Yorkville at DeKalb, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East play in this one. DeKalb (16-11, 11-1) has already clinched a share of the conference title as the team's only league loss has come against Yorkville. The Foxes (17-8, 10-2) knocked off DeKalb at their place on Feb. 3 as they try to win again to get a piece of the division title. 

T.F. North at Lemont, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the South Suburban Blue battle on the eve of the playoffs. Lemont (17-8, 9-3) has picked up three straight wins entering this one. T.F. North (11-9, 9-3) is trying to build some momentum after recent close losses to Hillcrest and T.F. South.

Carmel at No. 10 Benet, 7:30 p.m. -- The ESCC closes out its season with this one. Benet (22-4, 7-1) is coming off a nice road win at Marian Catholic earlier this week. Carmel (17-10, 4-4) knocked off Joliet Catholic during the week as they've been a dangerous team in the ESCC. 

Class 2A Boys Basketball Regional Championships

Leo vs. Marshall, 6 p.m. -- The Lions are the favorites but the Commandos are the host of this regional title game. Leo (20-5, 8-0) has a 13-game winning streak as they won the Catholic League White. Marshall (8-17, 4-5) struggled in the win column but they were a competitive 4-5 in a very deep Public League Red-South. 

Uplift vs. Northridge, 7 p.m. -- This should be an interesting battle as Uplift is playing on the road at Northridge. Uplift (17-9, 6-3) has played an extremely competitive schedule that includes a recent close loss to No. 1 Simeon as Kansas commit Markese Jacobs and senior forward Toraze Dobbs are one of the best combinations in the Class 2A field. Northridge (22-5, 12-0) went unbeaten in the Independent School League this season as they're riding a 13-game winning streak.

Class 1A Boys Basketball Regional Championships 

Aurora Christian vs. Harvest Christian, 7 p.m. -- These two teams play for the third time this season in what should be an interesting regional title game. Aurora Christian (23-1, 10-0) is the host as they only lost to Winnebago this season. The Eagles beat Harvest Christian twice in a six-day span in December. Harvest Christian (18-8, 8-2) finished third in the Northeastern Athletic as they played the second game within two points. 

Class 1A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Okaw Valley vs. Stockton, 11 a.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Okaw Valley (29-5) is making its first state appearance after winning its first regional title in school history. Stockton (31-2) finished under .500 last season (13-15) and had an amazing turnaround that includes a current 15-game winning streak. 

Lebanon vs. Schlarman, 12:45 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- These two teams have combined for two losses this season as this should be a good one. Lebanon (31-1) just won its first sectional title in school history as they've now moved on to state. Schlarman (31-1) is led by junior Anaya Peoples, a Notre Dame commit and five-star prospect in the Class of 2019. 

Class 2A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Harlan vs. Eureka, 5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two red-hot teams play in the first semifinal in Class 2A. Harlan (25-6) is riding a 12-game winning streak as this is its first appearance at state for girls basketball. Eureka (28-3) has a 19-game winning streak as they make their first state appearance since 1988.

Marshall vs. Teutopolis, 7:15 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two storied programs in the state match up in this one. Marshall (20-7) will be making its 21st state appearance as head coach Dorothy Gaters is one of the most storied coaches in Illinois. Teutopolis is making its 17th appearance at state as the Lady Shoes (28-6) seek their first title since 1995. 

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

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USA TODAY

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

Could 2018 be the year that the Cubs finally see a top pitching prospect debut with the team? 

Thursday, MLB.com released its list of the Cubs' 2018 Top 30 Prospects, a group that includes six pitchers in the Top 10. The list ranks right-hander Adbert Alzolay as the Cubs' No 1. prospect, projecting him to debut with the team this season. 

Alzolay, 22, went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee last season. He also struck out 108 batters in 114 1/3 innings, using a repertoire that includes a fastball that tops out around 98 MPH (according to MLB.com).

Following Alzolay as the Cubs' No. 2 overall prospect is 19-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan. Ademan hit .267 in just 68 games between Single-A Eugene and Single-A South Bend, though it should be noted that he has soared from No. 11 in MLB.com's 2017 ranks to his current No. 2 ranking. He is not projected to make his MLB debut until 2020, however.

Following Alzolay and Ademan on the list are five consecutive pitchers ranked 3-7, respectively. Oscar De La Cruz, No. 3 on the list, slides down from his 2017 ranking in which MLB.com listed him as the Cubs' top overall prospect. De La Cruz, 22, finished 2017 with a 3.34 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) between the Arizona League and Single-A Myrtle Beach.

De La Cruz is projected to make his MLB debut in 2019, while Jose Albertos (No. 4), Alex Lange (No. 5), Brendon Little (No. 6) and Thomas Hatch (No. 7) are projected to make their big league debuts in 2019 or 2020. All are right-handed (with the exception of Little) and starting pitchers.

Hatch (third round, 2016) and Lange (30th overall, 2017) and Little (27th overall, 2017) were all top draft picks by the Cubs in recent seasons.

Having numerous starting pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues represents a significant change of pace for the Cubs. 

Since Theo Epstein took over as team president in Oct. 2011, a plethora of top prospects have debuted and enjoyed success with the Cubs. Majority have been position players, though.

The likes of Albert Almora, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell all contributed to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Similarly, Ian Happ enjoyed a fair amount of success after making his MLB debut last season, hitting 24 home runs in just 115 games.

Ultimately, Alzolay would be the Cubs' first true top pitching prospect to make it to the big leagues in the Theo Epstein era. While him making it to the big leagues in 2018 is no guarantee, one would think a need for pitching will arise for the Cubs at some point, whether it be due to injury or simply for September roster expansion.

The Cubs have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years in terms of their top prospects succeeding in the MLB. If the trend continues, Alzolay should be a force to reckon with on the North Side for years to come.