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High School Lites previews Week 1 of playoffs

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High School Lites previews Week 1 of playoffs

"I'm not a guy that believes you've got to have a lot of experience to have success in the playoffs."

- Former N.Y. Giants QB Phil Simms

The folks at Bloom High School may want to take that quote and scribble it on a few chalkboards. Bloom will be making their first playoff appearance since 1989 Friday night when they take on Simeon, one of the many games that we will feature on Fridays edition of High School Lites. We will also feature Chicago's Perspectives High School, a team that will playing in their first football playoff game in school history. The story is slightly different with Bolingbrook. The Raiders, who would probably take issue with the Simms quote, are the reigning 8A champs and have made the playoffs in each of the last 21 years. But will they have their starting quarterback ready to go against Sandburg?

Here is a snapshot of each game we will profile on Fridays edition of High School Lites. Please note that all rankings reflect the class seedings in the IHSA playoffs:

8A:

No. 10 Bartlett (6-3) at No. 7 Leyden (7-2), 7:00 p.m.

Opportunity is knocking again for Bartlett. They have not defeated a .500 team yet this year, although they did look impressive in Upstate Eight Valley play. RBDE Aaron Everson, the new Bartlett single-season rushing yardage record-holder, can be dominant. They also feature another two-way player in Central Michigan recruit Chris Kantzavelos. Leyden, the West Suburban Gold champs, look to continue a memorable season with quarterback Michael Smith at the reins.

No. 9 Bolingbrook (7-2) at No. 8 Sandburg (7-2), 7:00 p.m.

The big question here is whether Raiders quarterback Aaron Bailey plays. Bailey, who injured his knee in September against Lincoln-Way East, has been cleared to play according to reports. But will he? Sophmore quarterback Quincy Woods has filled in quite well in his absence. Sandburg defeated Bolingbrook 13-6 on the road in week sevenone of five wins they have in which they kept opponents to a touchdown or less. The Eagles have gone to the playoffs in 25 of the last 29 seasons.

No. 13 Proviso West (6-3) at No. 4 Waubonsie Valley (8-1), 7:00 p.m.

Its an intriguing matchup with the Waubonsie offense going up against a Proviso West defense that has shut out four opponents on the season. The 8-1 Warriors are averaging 41 points per game. Running back Austin Guido and Wisconsin-bound tight end Troy Fumagalli are always threats to score. As for Proviso West, head coach Famous Hulbert had guided a program from relative obscurity to one that has qualified for the playoffs four consecutive seasons.

No. 12 Oak Park-River Forest (6-3) at No. 5 Hinsdale Central (7-2), 7:30 p.m.

Can anything top the excitement the last time these two teams faced each other? In week seven, OPRF shocked Hinsdale Central 42-41 in overtime. The Huskies feature playmakers on both sides of the ball, namely defensive end Nile Sykes and running back Jakari Cammon. Hinsdale features a fine quarterback in Brian Owens. The 7-2 Red Devils have won each of their last four games by a touchdown or less. That said, five of their seven wins were against teams currently in the playoffs.

No. 11 Bloom (6-3) vs. No. 6 Simeon (7-1), 7:30 p.m. at Gately Stadium

Milli Vanilli was at the top of the charts. A gallon of gas cost 1.12. The Cosby Show dominated TV airwaves. Even mullets were big. All of these things happened in 1989, the last time Bloom High School reached the IHSA playoffs. They clinched a spot last week after shutting out Rich Central 21-0. Simeon, on the other hand, is a long-time veteran of postseason play. Their 12th straight IHSA appearance has been fueled by quarterback Elcee Burke and running back Sharoid Roach.

7A:

No. 7 Andrew (6-3) at No. 2 Benet (8-1), 7:30 p.m. at Benedictine University
To say that Benet is having a dream season would be an understatement. The Redwings, who were 1-8 last year, have reversed their record thanks in large part to a stifling defense and sophomore quarterback Jack Beneventi. He passed for 365 yards and four touchdowns in last week's thrilling win over Joliet Catholic. It gave Benet their first share of a conference title in school history. But a good opponent awaits. Andrew's biggest win of the season was in week nine: a 27-0 win over Thornton.

6A:

No. 5 Shepard (6-3) at No. 4 Perspectives (6-2), 4:15 p.m. at Gately Stadium

Chicago's Perspectives Charter is widely known as the school of the NBAs first overall draft pick, Anthony Davis. But that's OK for now. Their football team, who will be playing in their first playoff game in school history, would like to change that thought process. Keep an eye on running back Lonnie Washington. He has racked up 22 touchdowns on the season. Shepard is averaging 36 points per game. Quarterback Jimmy McClinton and receiver Londell Lee have both shattered various Astros records.

No. 7 Lincoln-Way North (6-3) at No. 2 Richards (8-1), 7:00 p.m.

The Southwest Suburban Red conference got five teams into the playoffs, including the 6-3 Phoenix. Julian Hylton is one of their leaders on offense. The junior running back found the end zone three times in last week's 38-9 victory over Stagg. Richards has a few weapons on offense with running back Tommy Mister and quarterback Hasan Muhammed-Rogers. And let's not forget the Bulldogs defense, either. They have posted four shutouts on the season.

No. 12 Lake View (6-2) at No. 5 Grant (7-2), 7:00 p.m.

The 7-2 Bulldogs are familiar faces around the 6A playoff circuit. Its their seventh appearance in the last eight years. This year's team is led by a defensive group who only surrendered nine points in last week's game against Antioch. The offense, however, has been hit by the injury bug. Quarterback Kyle Whitman and running back Jonathan Wells have missed time. The 6-2 Wildcats, who are on a four-game winning streak, will be making their first IHSA playoff appearance since 1996.

No. 15 St. Viator (5-4) at No. 2 Lakes (8-1), 7:30 p.m.

Even though Lakes' football program has only been in existence for eight seasons, they've made the playoffs in five of them (including four straight). The North Suburban Prairie champs are paced by a vicious offense. In their current six game winning streak, they have beaten three playoff teams --Wauconda, Grant and North Chicago-- by scores of 69-20, 42-14 and 62-0, respectively. St. Viator has bounced back nicely after a 2-7 season. They feature Mayo Arogundade at running back.

Our Muscle Milk Team of the Week is the Palatine Pirates-- a team that has had to use a lot of muscle in 2012, and not by choice. The Mid Suburban-West champs were without their star running back, Cam Kuksa, for most of the regular season. But he's back and that could mean trouble for the teams who stand in their way on the road to Champaign. Plus, well also catch you up with Joliet Catholic in this weeks Drive segment, presented by Northern Illinois University. And well take a drive down Memory Lane in Flashback and bring you up-to-the-minute scores from across Chicagoland.

High School Lites airs at 10:30 p.m. Friday night and streaming live at CSNChicago.com. The show will re-air Saturday morning at 7:30 and 8:30.

Follow CSNChicago.com preps writer Joe Collins on Twitter: @JoeCSN.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: highschoollites@comcastsportsnet.com

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

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USA TODAY

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

While Saturday's trip to the Twin Cities featured some more of the same for the Fighting Illini, it marked important step in Lovie Smith's rebuilding project.

Freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, a Marian Catholic product, saw action for the first time in his collegiate career, Smith busting out a new option at the game's most important position. Thomas threw a nasty pick six, but he did lead Illinois in rushing in a 24-17 loss at Minnesota.

Thomas only made four throws, completing two of them and landing a third in the hands of a Minnesota defender, but his play injected a bit of excitement into what's looking like another dreadful season of Illinois football, with Smith's team falling to 2-5 through the first seven games of his second season at the helm of the program. Thomas mostly starred with his feet Saturday, rushing for a team-high 79 yards in the defeat.

His first appearance came following the first of the Illinois' defense's three takeaways. Thomas ran for a nine-yard gain on his first carry, and the Illini tied the game with a touchdown on the next play. Thomas was interchanged with starting quarterback Jeff George Jr. from there on out.

While the Illini defense kept the Gophers at bay for much of the day thanks to those three takeaways, P.J. Fleck's team had no trouble racking up rushing yardage, finishing with a whopping 292 rushing yards. Minnesota engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter exclusively running the ball to break a 10-all tie and go up 17-10.

Thomas threw a pick six on the very next play from scrimmage, sending the Gophers up 24-10 to effectively seal the deal. George led an Illinois touchdown drive on the next possession, but the Illini couldn't make up the suddenly big gap in the limited amount of time.

Illinois finished with only 282 yards of offense. George was 18-for-23 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Ra'Von Bonner carried the ball 18 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The defeat dropped the Illini to 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in conference play. One of just two teams without a Big Ten win (Indiana is the other), Illinois faces off against a top-10 Wisconsin team next weekend.

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bobby Portis publicly issued an apology to Nikola Mirotic for the punch that broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and caused a concussion earlier this week.

Portis was suspended eight games by the NBA while Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks after he goes through concussion protocol, following an incident in Tuesday’s practice where the tensions boiled over between the two power forwards.

“I'm wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko,” said Portis outside the Bulls locker room at the United Center, hours before the home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. “I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization, and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”

Sticking to clear talking points, repeatedly saying “we were competing” as a way to describe the incident, it was a more toned down version of Portis. Portis is usually colorful and engaging when talking to the media.

Saturday, he was muted, almost robotic in a sense. And he didn’t want to go into the incident in detail, one that many sources have said was instigated by Mirotic as the two were going back and forth physically during several possessions.

The play before, things intensified, causing assistant coach Randy Brown to step in and break things up. The next time downcourt, Mirotic apparently charged at Portis and Portis responded with one punch that sent Mirotic to the floor.

Gently choosing his words, Portis said, “We were competing and kinda went back and forth and things happened.”

When asked if he was shoved, Portis reiterated the two were competing although numerous accounts say Mirotic did push him leading up to the direct incident.

“Yes I was surprised by my own action,” Portis said. “That's not who I was, as I first stated. I'm a competitor at the end of the day but I never meant to hurt my teammate.”

Portis and Mirotic have not yet spoken, although Portis said he’s called and texted Mirotic with no response. It hasn’t been determined whether Mirotic will take legal action on Portis.

“Not concerned with that at this point,” Portis said. “At this point I’m just trying to publicly apologize to Niko and my teammates, and that I’m real sincere about the situation.”

Portis will be allowed to practice during his suspension, having returned Friday and Portis believes things can be mended with he and his teammate.

“Going forward I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and we can be teammates again,” Portis said. “I'm pretty sure we can. We just have to repair this relationship.”

Justin Holiday said the issue will have to be addressed head on as opposed to being swept under the rug or letting the element of time naturally heal things. Whether that conversation is initiated by teammates or the coaching staff or front office, as long as both are wearing a Bulls uniform, it will be necessary.

“It hasn’t been arranged, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have to talk it out,” Portis said. “And I’m pretty sure it will be a gentle conversation. I’m pretty sure we can get past this.”