Cubs

Glenbard West edges Lincoln-Way East for state title

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Glenbard West edges Lincoln-Way East for state title

By Bill Harrison
Season Pass

CHAMPAIGN Glenbard West defensive back Hayden Carlson said he never hit anybody as hard in his life as he did late in the Class 7A state title against Lincoln-Way East late in the fourth quarter.

He had good reason to sacrifice his body.

On a fourth-and-10 attempt by Lincoln-Way East on the Hilltoppers 13-yard line, the junior defensive back recorded the play of the game when he flipped quarterback Tom Fuessel, three yards short of the first down.

That gave the Hilltoppers the ball back with 1:50 left, and they held on for a 10-8 win for the first state title in program history.

I knew I had to make that play or we can eventually lose the state championship, Carlson said. I felt it afterward, my shoulder was killing me but I still had to get back out there for the final series.

Following Carlsons hit, the Hilltoppers (14-0), leading 10-6, faced a fourth-and-3 from their 13-yard line and opted to take an intentional safety instead of punting. A free kick went out of bounds and set up Lincoln-Way East at the Glenbard West 45-yard line with 23 seconds to play.

But Fuessel, still shaken up by the Carlson hit, wasnt close on a pass attempt before being sacked by Nathan Marcus on second down. Fuessel managed to spike the ball with one second remaining, but appeared confused and dazed and was replaced for the last play by cousin Brett Fuessel, who was tackled by Ruben Dunbar trying to scramble out of a heavy rush to end the game.

I dont even remember the hit, said Tom Fuessel, who appeared shaken at the post-game press conference.

The Hilltoppers defense set the tone from the start of the game, holding the Griffins (13-1) to 44 total yards of offense in the first half. No small feat considering Lincoln-Way East produced two 1,000 yard rushers this season.

Glenbard Wests offense struck with 2:30 left in the first quarter on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Henry Haeffner to Marcus for a 7-0 lead. The Hilltoppers increased their advantage to 10-0 with 40 seconds left in the frame on a 27-yard Hayden Lekacz field goal.

A 35-yard run by Justin Corbett pulled the Griffins within 10-6. But a missed extra point would change the strategy of the game, contributing to the Griffins attempting to convert on fourth-and-10 instead of a going for a game-tying field goal.

If were the best defense in the state, Lincoln-Way East is the second best, Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said.

CubsTalk Podcast: How new coaching staff will help ensure Maddon's tactics won't get stale

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USA TODAY

CubsTalk Podcast: How new coaching staff will help ensure Maddon's tactics won't get stale

ESPN’s Jesse Rogers stops by the CubsTalk Podcast to chat with Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki about his new book on Joe Maddon. The trio also debate whether Maddon’s tactics get stale and how the new coaching staff will affect the season.

Plus, who should hit leadoff? Fans are all in on Albert Almora Jr., but that might not be the best option. And whose side do you take in the Willson Contreras-Yadier Molina tiff?

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Who should lead off for Cubs in 2018?

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USA TODAY

Who should lead off for Cubs in 2018?

The Cubs' offseason has been hyperfocused on pitching, pitching and more pitching.

But what about the offense? Specifically: Who's going to hit leadoff for the 2018 Cubs?

That question seems to be one of the hot topics surrounding the team as they strive to make Even Year Magic a Chicago thing and win another World Series in 2018.

Before we get into who SHOULD lead off, I'll tell you who shouldn't: Albert Almora Jr., who is a popular choice among fans to fill in for the ghost of Dexter Fowler atop the order.

That's not a knock on the young outfielder, who seems primed for a breakout in 2018 when he should be playing on a regular basis and seeing a lot more time against right-handed pitching. 

This will only be Almora's second full season in the big leagues and given he was in a platoon for most of last year, he still only has 411 career plate appearances in the majors. 

So he's not much more experienced than Kyle Schwarber was when he was penciled into the leadoff spot for the Cubs to kick off 2017 and we all know how that experiment went. Leading off is a tough position to put players in, especially those that are still growing in their big-league skin.

Plus, Almora simply doesn't see enough pitches. He swings at the first pitch often (more than 11 percent of the time) and saw only 3.45 pitches per plate appearance in 2017. That mark was good for 29th on the Cubs behind eight pitchers (Dylan Floro, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Eddie Butler, Jose Quintana, Jake Arrieta and Hector Rondon), though the pitchers obviously have a small sample size of plate appearances.

Still, that's a shockingly small number for a position player. Almora would've been tied for 143rd out of 145 position players in baseball in pitches per plate appearance if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

But as for who SHOULD lead off, my choice is Ian Happ, though I would like to see Kris Bryant get some run up there and maybe even another Anthony Rizzo stint as "The Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All Time."

Here are my Top 5 suggestions if Joe Maddon were writing out the lineup today:

1. Ian Happ
2. Kris Bryant
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Jason Heyward
5. Anthony Rizzo

Here's more on the reasoning behind that:

Hot Stove - Cubs Leadoff Hitters/2021 White Sox Predictions

Who should be the Opening Day leadoff man for the Cubs? What will the 2021 White Sox lineup and rotation look like? We make our predictions and want to hear yours NOW on Hot Stove Live!

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Wednesday, January 17, 2018