Preps Talk

Big test for Simeon against No. 1 Montverde on Saturday

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Big test for Simeon against No. 1 Montverde on Saturday

Simeon has come a long way in a very short time. After opening the season a little over a month ago as the No. 1 high school team in the country, the Wolverines looked like a shell of the squad who won the last three 4A state championships in Illinois.

But since then, the Wolverines have shown much better chemistry and continuity on the court.

After losing their second game of the season and their No. 1 ranking in a nationally televised contest against DeSoto (Texas), Simeon put together a string of seven consecutive victories, including capturing the title last week at the ultra-competitive Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

Much of the Wolverines' improvement can be directly attributed to the overall health of the team and specifically, their All-American, Jabari Parker. Since making his return to the court on Dec. 1 and struggling in the process Parker has improved his conditioning and dropped much of the weight hed picked up since his injured foot kept him sidelined and unable to play since the summer.

While at Pontiac, Parker proved why he is one of the best prep players in the country as he led Simeon to the championship and earned the tournament's MVP award. Coach Robert Smith was pleased with his superstar and his team as a whole, feeling confident that his squad has made great strides in a short amount of time.

I think we played well in Pontiac. I still think we have some room for improvement, but guys were sharing the basketball and we got some wide-open shots as a result. We just looked like we were playing Simeon basketball again, but we still have a long way to go, opined Smith at his teams final practice on Thursday afternoon before departing for West Virginia Friday morning to compete in the Cancer Research Classic.

One of the big issues for Simeon has been their overall health as theyve had key players like Parker and Kendrick Nunn banged up in the early part of the season. But Smith feels those concerns are behind them and now that the team is whole again, they can continue to work on their chemistry and becoming more familiar with each other as a group.

Kendrick is fine now. He was a little banged up going into Pontiac, but those two days we had off after the tournament really helped him, said Smith. And Jabari is getting healthier and healthier, getting more in shape, and as time has gone on weve started to get better as a team.

We saw our rhythm start to come together in Pontiac and we knew thats where it would happen. Our offensive flow has gotten a little bit better, our execution has gotten a little bit better, weve still got to get some guys to understand their roles, but were starting to pick that part up as well.

The improvements the Wolverines have made will be put to the test this weekend as they face another top-ranked high school program in No. 1 Montverde Academy (Fla.), in yet another nationally televised contest on Saturday evening at 5:00 CT on ESPN2.

Simeon will have their hands full with a Montverde team that boasts three players in the top 100 of the 2013 class including point guard Kasey Hill (No. 9) who signed with Florida, 6-10 center Dakari Johnson (No. 12) who is still undecided and 6-0 power forward Devin Williams (No. 85) who will play his college ball at West Virginia next season.

Coach Smith knows hes facing a formidable opponent Montverde knocked off Whitney Young in overtime en route to a championship at the City of Palms Classic in Florida but feels his team is ready for the challenge and has a good chance to win as long as his guys come to play.

To be able to beat Montverde, were going to have to have guys step up and bring their A game, said Smith on the matchup. Its not going to be able to be a B or C game from us if were going to beat those guys. They have some great, talented players some high-major, Division I guys were going to have to really step up and play well to have a chance to win.

Despite their demanding travel schedule, Coach Smith isnt concerned with it affecting his team. In fact, he knows these tough matchups will only help Simeon when the local action here in Chicago becomes much more intense.

These games, where we have to travel, just gets us ready for March and some of the bigger games we have down the line, like the Whitney Young and Morgan Park games, said Smith. The games were playing now against national opponents are a good test to see where we are. If we can compete with these teams, well be able to compete with everybody locally.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

High School Lites Week 9 football capsules and picks

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High School Lites Week 9 football capsules and picks

NBC Sports Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school football games across Chicagoland on the Week 9 edition of High School Lites Friday night at 11 p.m. Can Lincoln-Way East win the outright Southwest Suburban conference on the road at Bolingbrook?  Who wins — and goes to the IHSA state playoffs — between Wheaton Academy and St. Edward? And who wins the final Upstate 8 River conference crown when undefeated Batavia travels to take on St. Charles North?

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East at No. 19 Bolingbrook, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Lincoln-Way East (8-0) will take on Southwest Suburban rival Bolingbrook (7-1) in this annual rivalry game. East will rely on its running game behind senior QB Brendan Morrissey and sophomore WR/RB AJ Henning, plus one of the state's top defensive lines anchored by senior Devin O'Rourke (Northwestern). Bolingbrook head coach John Ivlow will look towards a more balanced offense behind QB Anthony Vespo, junior RBs Anthony Williams Jr. and Quentin Pringle, plus senior WR I'Shawn Stewart. The defense has talent including senior DT Dashawn Mallory and a young but very skilled secondary. Can Bolingbrook's defense take away the Lincoln-Way East running game? Can the Bolingbrook offense win time of possession this week? 

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way East 28, Bolingbrook 20

Wheaton Academy at St. Edward, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Bombs away on Friday? Both Wheaton Academy (4-4) and St. Edward (4-4) feature strong quarterback play and both will need a win to qualify for the IHSA state playoff field. Wheaton Academy will rely on junior QB Ben Thorson while St. Edward will look towards senior QB Dylan Mlinarich. Last possession wins? 

EDGY's Pick: Wheaton Academy 34, St. Edward 33

Dundee-Crown at No. 2 Prairie Ridge, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Dundee-Crown (1-7) will look to slow down Prairie Ridge (8-0) this week. The Chargers will look to run the football behind junior RB Ricky Ibarra. Prairie Ridge head coach Chris Schremp will look to post a win and get ready for the state playoffs next weekend behind senior QB Samson Evans (Iowa).

EDGY's Pick: Prairie Ridge 46, Dundee-Crown 7

T.F. South at Oak Forest, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Head coach Bob Padjen will have TF South (5-3) back in the state playoffs with or without a win over Oak Forest (4-4), yet the Rebels would also like to lock in a sixth win this week. Oak Forest is in a must-win scenario. Veteran head coach Brian McDonough and company have lost three out of its last four games. 

EDGY's Pick: T.F. South 27, Oak Forest 14

St. Patrick at Marian Central Catholic, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: St. Patrick (2-6) has lost four straight games and will look to derail Marian Central Catholic's (4-4) season with a win. The Hurricanes will need to win to get into the IHSA state playoff field. 

EDGY's Pick: Marian Central Catholic 27, St. Patrick 14

No. 14 Batavia at No. 24 St. Charles North, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Both Batavia (8-0) and St. Charles North (7-1) will play for the final Upstate 8 River conference title. Under head coach Dennis Piron, Batavia features are one of the state's top defenses led by juniors in ILB Luke Weerts and LB Michael Jansey Jr. St. Charles North has a potent offense led by senior QB Michael Hohensee. One of his main targets is junior WR/DB Tyler Nubin. Can the Batavia defense lock down the North Stars offense?  

EDGY's Pick: Batavia 21, St. Charles North 20

Glenbard North at Neuqua Valley, 7:30 p.m. **#SendEdgy**

EDGY's Take: The playoffs begin a week early for both Glenbard North (4-4) and Neuqua Valley (5-3) as both teams need to win to qualify for the IHSA state playoff field. Glenbard North head coach Ryan Wilkins will look to run the football behind a big offensive line led by senior OL Jose Vazquez. They also have one of the state's top secondaries led by Tyrik Henderson (Minnesota). Neuqua Valley head coach Bill Ellinghaus will counter with senior QB Jake Eskoff and senior RB Cameron Raupach. Can the Neuqua Valley defense stop the Glenbard North running game? Also can the Panthers defense contain the Neuqua Valley balanced offensive attack?

EDGY's Pick: Neuqua Valley 20, Glenbard North 14

VIEWERS' CHOICE: Evergreen Park at Tinley Park, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: The playoffs begin this week for Tinley Park (4-4) and head coach Nick Johnston as the Titans need to win this week against Evergreen Park (3-5). Tinley Park will look towards senior QB Ryan Zientara. He has been a big key this fall for the Titans offense. 

EDGY's Pick: Tinley Park 34, Evergreen Park 20