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Football or Baseball for Getzelman?

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Football or Baseball for Getzelman?

Ever since he was 10 years old, since travel leagues became popular and he began to receive national exposure in his favorite sport, Prairie Ridge's Jordan Getzelman felt baseball was his future.

The budding center fielder who produced a .465 batting average last spring has been a presence since he earned all-tournament recognition in USSSA World Series events at age 11 and 15. A junior, he already has been focusing on college baseball. National powers LSU and Stanford have expressed interest. So have Michigan, Northwestern and Central Michigan.

Nobody seemed interested in Getzelman as a football player--not until now. Not until the 6-1, 215-pound running backreceiver emerged as one of the leaders in Prairie Ridge's drive to the Class 6A championship. He rushed 26 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-14 victory over Peoria Richwoods to cap a 13-1 season.

"He had a phenomenal season," coach Chris Schremp said. "He did so much for our team. He snapped on punts and field goals, returned punts and kickoffs, was our leading rusher (1,394 yards, 28 touchdowns) and our leading receiver (20 catches, 429 yards). He did it all for us."

Now Getzelman admits, it might be a mistake to write off football with another year ahead of him. If he could improve his burst of speed, from 4.8 to 4.6 or 4.5, Schremp believes he could attract Division I recruiters. Getzelman already is entertaining the possibility.

"I have been playing at a higher level of baseball for a longer time than football," he said. "But football has taken off for me now. I used to have more love for baseball. But winning a state title in football has been something special."

"I'd still like to play baseball (in college and professionally) but if I could get faster and be an elite running back on a national level, I'd love to do it. My goal in the off-season is to get bigger, stronger and faster, to cut my speed to 4.6 or 4.5."

"This season has put some new thoughts in my mind. Maybe I'm better than I thought I was. My talent level has changed a bit. No one has talked to me about football, no colleges. But I'd have to keep an open mind if some big schools called. It is too early to stop considering all of my options."

Until he enrolled at Prairie Ridge, Getzelman wasn't known as a football player. Before high school, he played tight end and defensive line. Then he was moved to running back. As a sophomore, however, he missed the first eight games with an injury.

"It was a disappointing season for me," he said. "But what made me want to keep going was that I was brought up to the varsity for the state playoff. We got to the semifinals and I was a part of it."

Getzelman and his teammates had high expectations for 2011. Schremp said it was the best team he had coached in 10 years. "Under our breath, we talked about a state appearance. We knew we had talent to get back to the semifinals. But was a state title realistic?" Getzelman said.

"I was beyond expectations this year. I felt I could be good with Connor Greenwald at fullback. But I didn't expect to rush for nearly 1,400 yards and 28 touchdowns. We were better than I thought we would be. Now I have new goals. I have room to get better and stronger and faster. I look back on every game film and pick out things I did wrong, where I can get more yards, increase my speed and improve my reads."

Meanwhile, Schremp is basking in the glow of the Crystal Lake school's first state football championship.

"I was sitting on the bus coming home from Champaign and I had my phone out. I was on the phone for three hours. I want to answer all the e-mails. I have over 200 in the box now...old high school friends, college friends, coaches. I never dreamed of such a response," Schremp said.

"What was most overwhelming was at the pep rally on Sunday when the principal (Paul Humpa), superintendent (Jill Hawk) and athletic director (Patti Hie) spoke about me...nice things, what I taught the team, more than blocking and tackling. I broke down in tears. It was a nice pat on the back and a hug."

Schremp has come a long way. When Prairie Ridge opened, there was a UPS strike. So the football staff went to the loading docks to get blocking sleds and other equipment that couldn't be delivered. In their first season, the Wolves won only one game, played their first home game at Crystal Lake South and the home field didn't have a press box or concession stand. Most kids in the school district chose to attend Crystal Lake Central rather than Prairie Ridge.

"In 14 years, we've gone from there to a state title. I've seen it all," he said. "It is gratifying to get to this point, knowing I have been a big part of it. Every year we have taken steps. And this was my best team, the best overall group of kids, athletes and character-wise. I have received e-mails from referees who said they were so impressed with our kids. It tells me how well our kids have represented our program and the school."

Dave Whitson was the head coach for the first five years. Schremp took over in 2002. "When I took over, I was learning to be a head coach. I was 29 years old, not ready to be a head coach," Schremp said.

But he learned quickly. He hired two veteran coaches with histories of success, Bill Mack from Crystal Lake Central and Grant Blaney, who had directed Buffalo Grove to a state championship in 1986.

"I was surprised to be named head coach at 29," he said. "I don't think I was ready for it from an X's and O's standpoint. But I applied a lot of what (Mack and Blaney) did with their successful teams. I felt I could communicate with kids and parents. That was my strong point. Then I had to come up with a plan."

It all came together in the next few years. Eight years ago, in an effort to compete against conference rival Cary-Grove, he switched from a 6-1 to a 3-5 defense. And, with Mack's guidance, he installed an option offense because he had an abundance of 5-10, 180-pound linemen and not enough Division I linemen to overpower opponents.

"We could always find athletic kids to run the option offense and we didn't need big linemen or a passing quarterback," Schremp said. "I felt we could find the best athlete and have him run the offense and teach him to read the option."

But perhaps the biggest plus in Prairie Ridge's program is the off-season program. "It is called the Maroon Platoon. It is what sets us apart," Schremp said.

"We've stolen ideas from clinics and other coaches. We track our kids in the weight room, the 40-yard dash and agility tests. We award a point for every pound they lift in the weight room. We also award points for conduct and positive behavior in school. We e-mail teachers every week for feedback on players.

"It has changed the overall feeling of our program. It's a 24-hours-a-day thing. Kids are held to a higher standard being an athlete. They have to do well in school, too. The parents and kids and faculty have bought into it. It has made a difference in the program."

But what about next year? Only three offensive starters and three defensive starters will return. Getzelman and 6-4, 255-pound sophomore tackle Shane Evans will be the headliners. Evans projects to be one of the top prospects in the class of 2014 when he is a senior. But will they be enough?

"It will be a test of me and my staff to keep it going, getting the next group of guys ready to go," Schremp said. "We have a really good sophomore class that was 7-2. We won't change our game plan. We have to stay grounded. It took 14 years to get here. We can't think we have it all figured out. We got to the state title because we worked hard at it. We can't let it get to our head. We have a whole new set of guys playing next year and we'll have a target on our backs."

For the time being, however, he will just take time to enjoy the moment. He watched the game film after arriving home on Saturday night. It still seemed too surreal, seeing his team play on the turf of Illinois' Memorial Stadium. "I dreamed of it. I still don't know if it has sunk in," he said.

On Tuesday, he was sitting in his living room with a representative from Josten's, picking out championship rings. The company had e-mailed him after Saturday's game, almost before he had time to change his shirt.

"Some of the rings look like trophies on your finger. I'm still making a decision," he said. "Everything has been great. The ladies in the school cafeteria made me a big cookie. I haven't paid for lunch in a long time. My daughter broke her foot and on the way to her doctor's appointment, we got a free breakfast at the local diner, Caf Olympia. And I got a free turkey sandwich at Jimmy John's. I told the kids they have to keep winning."

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night:
 
1. Surviving a crazy first period.

The Blackhawks committed four penalties in the opening frame within a 2:18 span, and escaped unscathed from it despite a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Coyotes.

Of course, the only goal allowed in the period came from a fluke deflection off Jordan Oesterle's stick and slipped underneath Corey Crawford's five-hole.

Joel Quenneville likes to say the team that takes advantage of their 5-on-3 opportunities has a pretty good chance to win the game. It applied in this case, with the Blackhawks coming out victorious after surviving that stretch.

2. Power play comes alive early.

The Blackhawks got off on the right foot in an area that has been an issue for them this season, capitalizing on their first power play of the game 24 seconds into it when Richard Panik redirected a Jonathan Toews shot that tricked past Louis Domingue.

Good thing too, because it was the only man advantage they'd get. Well, excluding the power play they received with 17 seconds left in regulation when the game was already decided. 
 
3. Another controversial review in Arizona.

What's with it with controversial reviews in Arizona and the Blackhawks being on the wrong end of the call?

The Blackhawks appeared to have taken a 3-1 lead when Tommy Wingels converted on a penalty shot, but it was overturned after officials reviewed it and determined the Coyotes netminder got a stick on Wingels' initial shot. Replays didn't exactly show conclusive evidence, but the NHL released a statement proving otherwise:

Video review determined that Wingels shot the puck into the net after Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue made contact with the puck. According to Rule 24.2, "No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind."

Shortly after, the Coyotes scored in the final minutes of the period to even up the score at 2-2 in a big turn of events at the time.
 
4. ... But puck don't lie.

The overturned penalty shot didn't matter in the end though, because the Blackhawks came away with the victory and Wingels ended up getting his first goal after all on an empty netter that iced the game.

It was Wingels' first goal as a member of his hometown team, and it was well deserved for a guy who was part of the fourth line that turned in arguably their best performance of the season.
 
5. Lance Bouma rewarded with game-winning goal.

Speaking of which, it was fitting that Bouma scored the game winner with 4:24 left in the third period because that trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden was around the net for the majority of the night.

They combined for two goals and two assists, had eight attempts shot attempts (five on goal), eight of the team's 16 hits and four blocked shots.

Miscues, miscommunications and missed shots: Bulls offense struggling all around

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USA TODAY

Miscues, miscommunications and missed shots: Bulls offense struggling all around

Denzel Valentine corralled a rebound and casually dribbled up the right side of the floor, unaware of the final 5 seconds ticking off the clock in the third quarter. The second-year shooting guard moved toward the basket as the buzzer sounded, only realizing his gaffe as the red lights behind the backboard lit up. It was that kind of night for the Bulls offense, and one that highlighted carelessness, a lack of talent and obvious growing pains as the rebuild begins.

Fred Hoiberg’s group finished with more turnovers (20) than assists (18), shot 38 percent from the field and were doubled up on points in the paint in an ugly 87-77 loss to the Spurs on Saturday night. Adding to the issues were only nine free-throw attempts and 28 percent shooting from deep on a night where the Bulls played well enough defensively to earn a win.

But they couldn’t take advantage of a Spurs team playing without Kawhi Leonard. The ball stopped for long periods of time in the halfcourt, the fast break was non-existent and miscommunications were frequent, even when they didn’t result in one of those 20 turnovers.

“We had 20 turnovers that led to 23 points…that’s what kills you,” Hoiberg said. “A team goes on a run and they get easy ones, pick-sixes, you’re all of a sudden in a big hole. And obviously did not shoot the ball well today.”

The struggles came from across the board. Only Cris Felicio was turnover-less of the nine Bulls who played. The backcourt tandem of Jerian Grant and Justin Holiday combined for 11 of 32 shooting. Rookie Lauri Markkanen showed flashes with eight first-half points, but finished 5 of 14 and committed three ugly turnovers. Robin Lopez made the first 3-pointer of his career 630 games in, but a 29-year-old leading the way for a young rebuilding group could be deemed bittersweet at best.

It capped off a whirlwind first week for the Bulls, who dealt on the fly with the fallout of the altercation between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis. Losing Mirotic and Portis hurt from a talent standpoint, but it also threw a wrench into Hoiberg’s rotation and scheme. It thrust 20-year-old Markkanen into the starting lineup; Paul Zipser has shifted to playing more power forward (while also starting at small forward); Lopez is being asked to score more than ever, and at times be the primary option.

“With everything we’ve had going on the past week, with playing guys different positions that they haven’t played yet,” Hoiberg said, “we’re still trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to go out there and play. We’re getting stuck at times because guys are in the wrong spots.”

The Bulls opened Saturday night with a solid first quarter, scoring 21 points, assisting on nine of 12 baskets and committing just three turnovers.

The final three quarters couldn’t have been more different. The second unit again struggled like it did in allowing the Raptors a 20-2 second-quarter run on Tuesday. Even without Leonard the Spurs’ defensive length cut off passing and driving lanes, forcing the Bulls to dribble down the shot clock and turn to isolation basketball or contested 3-pointers.

The Spurs couldn’t pull away thanks to an inspired defensive effort by the Bulls, but the offensive stalling rendered it moot; the Bulls took 28 3-pointers and 37 shots in the paint, an ugly ratio when considering the nine free-throw attempts. The bench shot 7-for-19, but most of that came in garbage time.

“One thing we definitely need to work on is attacking the basket,” Lopez said. “I think there are times where we all get a little jumper-happy on the perimeter. I think we need to have a good balance.

We need to be aware of that. We’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of room for error so any time we concede the ball like that, we don’t get up a shot attempt, tat’s going to really hurt us.”

Kris Dunn may be closer than expected to returning to the lineup after dislocating his finger in the preseason. It would give the Bulls help on that dismayed second unit, knocking Kay Felder (3 turnovers in 15 minutes) out of the rotation. Once Mirotic and Portis return in November, Hoiberg will have more flexibility with his rotations as well as some insurance if frontcourt foul trouble arrives.

None are go-to scorers, and not even Zach LaVine's 19.8 points per game last season will save the Bulls once he's healthy. Season-long struggles like Saturday night are on the way for a young team searching for pieces of the future. That's expected, and in the long term it benefits them as more Lottery balls roll toward Chicago.

But in a season in which success will be judged not on wins and losses but improvement from game-to-game, but the Bulls have set the bar low in the season's first week.