Preps Talk

EDGY: Refs need to be safe and held in the highest regards

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EDGY: Refs need to be safe and held in the highest regards

I stumbled across a story out of San Antonio, Texas and it's something that I hope we never see or experience here in Illinois.

But like most things these days, I've also learned (sadly) to never say never.

In the story and accompanying video, two San Antonio-area defensive players from John Jay High School intentionally hit the back judge who was watching the developing play. While we will most likely never know the intentions or the reasons why, one thing I do know is this: if some day it becomes open season on refs, high school football is over.

Over my 20 years of having the privilege and honor to stand on the sidelines week in and week out, I'd like to think I've learned a few things about the sport and some of the people involved in and around high school football.

Refs? No question in my mind that many of the refs who I've been able to get to know are some of the best, most passionate high school football fans around.

The refs I've gotten to know are all generally highly successful people in the professional world as well as off the field. They definitely aren't in the business just for the money; in fact, far from it. You'd be amazed at how little these officials are paid these days. The refs that I know are in it because they love the game and want to give something back. Simple as that.

Issues? Just like in every walk of life, you have some great referees and some that are not so great. I've seen some of them blow calls that decided the outcome of a few games. Yet to go to the extent of intending to injure somebody on the field without pads? Any line of thinking in those regards, whether done by a player — or even worse — encouraged by a coach or coaches, needs to end right now.

Lots of issues remain in the officiating business — in particular the disturbing lack of available refs in the 25 to 40-year old range. Refs are getting older and harder to come by in all sports and football remains one of the most physically demanding. Video and stories like this one, likely seen by more than a few potential refs in the making, will make anyone think twice before deciding to make the sacrifice to become an official. And who could blame them if an incident like the one in San Antonio becomes more than a one-time incident?

The day that refs feel that they are not safe above and beyond the inherited risks…or at least the day where they feel need to watch their backs?

It's over. Done. Finished.

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

High School Lites had five matchups between top-25 teams on Friday night as the Public League Playoff semifinals and big matchups in the CSL South, Catholic League Blue and SouthWest Suburban Blue took shape.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Palatine's Eduardo Orozco

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Maine West girls basketball

Highlights

No. 1 Simeon holds off No. 4 Whitney Young

No. 2 Orr gets revenge on No. 3 Curie

No. 9 New Trier takes down No. 6 Evanston

No. 8 Fenwick handles No. 10 Loyola Academy

No. 23 Homewood-Flossmoor rallies past No. 18 Bolingbrook

Oswego East upsets No. 20 Joliet Central

Andrew shuts down Thornridge

Sandburg tops Lockport in OT

Richards runs by Shepard

Maine West captures second straight girls basketball regional title

Five ranked matchups lead a loaded edition of High School Lites

Five ranked matchups lead a loaded edition of High School Lites

High School Lites has a huge lineup in place for this week's show as we'll feature five matchups between top-25 teams. With the Public League Playoff semifinals, Catholic League Blue, CSL South and SouthWest Suburban Blue. 

Catch the newest edition of High School Lites this Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. 

Public League Semifinals at Chicago State

No. 2 Orr vs. No. 3 Curie, 5 p.m. -- A huge rematch in the first semifinal puts these two top-3 teams against each other. Curie (23-3, 8-1) won the first matchup between the two teams early in the season as they were playing without senior guard Maurice Commander. Junior guard Marquise Walker and senior big men Traevon and Tyree Martin stepped up in that one. Orr (22-3, 9-0) has been on a roll lately as seniors Raekwon Drake, Dannie Smith, Ty Mosley and Chase Adams are playing at a high level. 

No. 1 Simeon vs. No. 4 Whitney Young, 7 p.m. -- The second semifinal puts two Public League titans against each other. The Wolverines (23-3, 9-0) will be the favorite as they're still unbeaten against Illinois competition. Senior Talen Horton-Tucker is the leading Player of the Year candidate and he's surrounded by talented teammates. Whitney Young (22-6, 7-2) earned a huge quarterfinal win over Morgan Park earlier this week as the Dolphins are playing with a lot of confidence. Seniors Javon Freeman and Xavier Castaneda are experienced while sophomore Tyler Beard has elevated his play.

Friday's Other Games

No. 9 New Trier at No. 6 Evanston, 7:00 p.m. -- A huge rematch in the CSL South that could ultimately decide a tight conference race. Evanston (20-4, 8-1) won the first matchup in overtime on the road on Jan. 12 as they've won six straight games. New Trier (20-3, 7-1) has won 10 straight games since that loss to the Wildkits as they picked up an important overtime win over Maine South earlier this week.  

No. 8 Fenwick at No. 10 Loyola, 7:00 p.m. -- Two Catholic League powers battle here. Fenwick (17-7, 7-0) is trying to stay unbeaten in the conference as they picked up a win over Marmion earlier this week. Loyola (21-5, 5-2) has dropped two straight games on the road but the Ramblers are still trying to gain some momentum before the postseason starts. 

No. 18 Bolingbrook at No. 23 Homewood-Flossmoor, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the top teams in the SouthWest Suburban Blue face in this one. The Vikings (15-6, 5-1) have recent wins over Hillcrest and Lincoln-Way East as they've been playing better basketball the past few weeks. The Raiders (17-5, 5-2) won the first matchup between these two teams on Jan. 19 as they beat Sandburg in their last game. After a 10-day layoff, it'll be interesting to see how Bolingbrook looks in such an important game. 

Lockport at Sandburg, 6:00 p.m. -- We stay in the SouthWest Suburban Blue in this one as Sandburg look to get back on track. The Eagles (15-8, 2-5) have dropped two straight games, including a recent loss to Bolingbrook. Lockport (7-14, 1-6) recently knocked off Bolingbrook but they've also lost two straight heading into this one. Sandburg won the first matchup between these two teams with an overtime win on Jan. 19. 

Thornridge at Andrew, 6:30 p.m. --  Heading over into the SouthWest Suburban Red, Andrew tries to stay ahead of the pack for the league title. The Thunderbolts (16-8, 8-2) have won three straight games as they won on the road at Thornridge on Jan. 12. Thornridge (14-9, 3-6) has gone on a lot of runs this season as they've won two straight on the road after a five-game losing streak. 

Richards at Shepard, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the best teams in the South Suburban Red matchup here. Shepard (15-7, 7-4) lost to Oak Lawn last week to snap a seven-game winning streak. Richards (11-12, 8-3) has played significantly better lately after a slow start. Both of these teams are battling with Oak Lawn for league supremacy. 

Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week

No. 20 Joliet Central at Oswego East, 6:30 p.m. -- Our Viewers' Choice Game of the Week heads to the Southwest Prairie. Joliet Central (19-4, 11-0) is trying to go unbeaten in league play as they've won three straight games. Oswego East (16-7, 8-3) is coming off a big win over Romeoville earlier this week. The Steelmen won this first matchup between these two teams on Dec. 15.