Preps Talk

Crystal Lake Central reads, reacts and wins

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Crystal Lake Central reads, reacts and wins

You've heard about John Wooden's UCLA offense, the Princeton offense, motion, triangle, flex, pick and roll, swing, shuffle, triple post and dribble-drive. They are as numerous as there are plays in a playbook, as simple or as complicated as you want.
But what about the read-and-react offense? Sounds like football's triple option. Should I hand off, run with the ball or pitch out? Well, Rick Torbett's innovation may not be as popular or as revolutionary but it has been very effective for Crystal Lake Central this season.
"It's something I saw at a clinic at the Final Four in 2007," said Crystal Lake Central coach Rick Czeslawski. "Prior to that, we were running the Princeton offense. I studied it for a few years, put it in and we went 24-5. It's a versatile offense, easy to teach.
"It isn't a hot offense, more of a grassroots game working its way up. A growing number of coaches are using it, like Pat Ambrose at Stevenson and Mike Bailey at St. Patrick. You can run it with any personnel against any defense, man-to-man or zone. It's a way of teaching offense."
The read and react offense is basically a motion offense but with specific rules and reads for players without the ball. There is more player movement and less standing around. A player is free to do what he sees best--drive, shoot or pass and cut.
"The big thing is spacing," guard Jake VanScoyoc said. "It gives players more freedom to pass and drive to the basket. We are athletic. Anyone can score. The offense suits our team really well. It isn't like a set offense. We look to reverse the ball, make sure our spacing is right, then drive to the basket or kick it back out. There is so much more freedom."
Czeslawski has made it work despite returning only one starter from last year's 22-6 team that lost to Belvidere in the regional.
"We hang our hat on defense. What stands out is we do a good job on defense and share the ball on offense. Our kids have bought into the concept of positive energy," he said.
Whatever it is or whatever it does, it is effective. Crystal Lake Central is 15-2 going into Tuesday night's game against Grayslake North. The Tigers, who had a recent 14-game winning streak snapped by Woodstock, will meet Johnsburg on Friday.
Last Wednesday, Crystal Lake Central bounced back from its stunning 54-53 loss to Woodstock on Jordan Turner's game-winning shot with four seconds to play by smashing Grayslake Central 75-53. Corban Murphy scored 18 points and VanScoyoc and Brad Knoeppel each contributed 11.
"It was a wakeup call for us," VanScoyoc said. "We didn't play a bad game but we learned we must be sharper against teams we play. We didn't come in with as much energy as other games. We were missing two starters but that's no excuse. We've got to play in the present and come out with a lot of energy."
The read and react offense has turned around Czeslawski's program. His teams were 10-20, 15-13, 6-22 and 9-18 before he adopted the new strategy. In the last two years, the Tigers were 24-5 and 22-6. They won the school's first regional championship since 1998 and its only sectional title since 1974. Now they are hoping to make history.
"We have a lot of good kids," Czeslawski said. "It took a few years to get the culture turned around, to expect winning. We had a good group of kids coming through in the first few years and they bought into the system. The school hadn't had much success and we needed to turn it around."
Czeslawski founded a Thanksgiving tournament and got his players involved in a summer league and a summer shootout. While attending a dozen clinics a year, he came up with the read-and-react offense and a concept of positive energy that he discovered after hearing Jon Gordon, author of the book "Energy Bus." Interest was stoked. More kids began to come out for basketball. They wanted to work hard and make a commitment.
The lineup includes Corban Murphy (15 ppg), a 6-foot-3 senior who was one of two unanimous all-tournament selections at the Jacobs Holiday Tournament (with Zion-Benton's Milik Yarbrough); 6-foot-7 senior Kyle Fleck (8 ppg, 8 rpb, 3 blocks); 6-foot-6 senior David Panicko (9 ppg, 7 rpb); VanScoyoc (10 ppg); and Knoeppel (10 ppg, 6 assists), a 5-foot-9 senior point guard. D.J. Thomas (7 ppg), a 6-foot senior, and Corban's brother, 5-foot-11 sophomore Cavanagh Murphy, come off the bench.
They probably couldn't make the roster at Whitney Young or Simeon. There aren't any Division I prospects. A few are being recruited by Division III schools. But put them together and they have a pretty good idea of how to win basketball games and make opponents very unhappy.
"We focus on each possession," Czeslawski said. "We want to make the other team uncomfortable on each possession. We average 16 assists per game. We want to spread the ball around and find the guy who has a match-up edge or has the hot hand."
The coach describes VanScoyoc as "our glue guy, our best defensive player, the guy you least want to go into a game without."
Added Czeslawski: "He has an uncanny knack when he makes a mistake, he makes up for it within the next possession. When he turns it over, he comes right back and steals the ball. His response is to make up for a mistake immediately. He keeps us together. He keeps us going."
A year ago, VanScoyoc was the seventh man. Even though Corban Murphy was the only returning starter, he shared his coach's high expectations for this year's team.
"As sophomores, we went 21-1. We have a lot of team chemistry. I knew we had some talent," he said. "We are versatile. That's our edge. If one guy is having an off game, another steps up. Anyone can score on any given night."
Their goal is to win the sectional. "Our first ever," VanScoyoc said. Not so. Many in the Crystal Lake community don't recall that coach John Swenson's 13-14 team won the school's only sectional title in 1974. Led by Dan Osmun and Rich Sexton, the Tigers lost to Oswego 64-47 in their only trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
"Our goal is to win the sectional," VanScoyoc said. "We don't talk about it too much. We just focus on the next game. No other team in school history has ever started 15-2. But we're just looking ahead to our rematch with Woodstock (on Jan. 29) at their place."

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