Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites game coverage

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Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites game coverage

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @CSNPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night's "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m. — just after Chicago White Sox baseball. The show also live streams at csnchicago.com/watchlive. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. the following Saturday. This week, we're giving fans a taste of Chicago's southern suburbs. All of the games will have significant bearing on the playoff race. Two of them (Crete-Monee/Rich Central and Richards/Eisenhower) are duels for first place in their respective conference. Where should we send our cameras? 

Crete-Monee at Rich Central, 7:00 p.m.

Oak Lawn at Shepard, 7:00 p.m.

Richards at Eisenhower, 7:00 p.m.

Poll opens Monday at 12 p.m. and closes Thursday at 4 p.m. Here is what fans need to do to vote:

— Follow @CSNPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @CSNPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @CSNPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @CSNPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.
 

No coasting allowed: why some football programs schedule to play "up"

No coasting allowed: why some football programs schedule to play "up"

While many IHSA football programs across the state continue to face various scheduling issues, some of the top programs are still finding ways to play the best possible opponents. It's a matter of scheduling "up" and not "down." Here are some Illinois high school programs who are loading up on their respective non-conference schedule:

East St. Louis: The Flyers (1-1) took its first loss of the year on Saturday night to nationally-ranked Evangel Christian 14-6. But don't be fooled by the final result. East St. Louis was able to compete for four quarters against an Eagles team that featured three LSU commits and an overall roster stocked with top underclassmen talent. This matchup was part of the annual Gateway Scholars Football Classic which featured three local teams (Cahokia, Belleville West and East St. Louis) against three of the top out of state programs in the country (New Jersey's Camden and Timber Creek, along with Louisiana's Evangel Christian). The day-long event was packed with fans and featured several local restaurants, a children's play area and a great overall festival atmosphere. 

Unlike so many other Illinois teams who are forced to seek out of state opponents to fill scheduling issues, the Flyers actively seek out nationally-ranked programs to take part in the Classic, a process that begins a year or two in advance. If any school could make a case for actually moving up in the in-state polls after a hard-fought game and loss to a national power, it could very well be the Flyers. I seriously doubt that the Flyers will see another team the rest of the season with as much raw talent and speed on the field than what Evangel Christian brought to Clyde C. Jordan Stadium on Saturday night.

Crete-Monee: You'll be hard-pressed to find another program that stacks its non-conference schedule better than Crete-Monee (1-1) does under head coach John Konecki. The Warriors lost in the opening week to the state's top ranked team in Lincoln-Way East; however, they pulled off (arguably) the program's biggest non-conference regular season win in defeating Brother Rice 33-25 last Friday. The Warriors will get a taste of out-of-state competition this Friday night when they travel to Purdue's Ross Ade Stadium against West Lafayette High School. 

Phillips: The Wildcats (2-0) under head coach Troy McAllister also "play up" when it comes to the non-conference schedule, including this season with wins over 8A power Loyola Academy (1-1) and last Friday in Oak Lawn over 6A power Richards (1-1). Phillips, who has been a low 4A-sized program until petitioning up to play in Class 5A for the next two seasons, has also defeated the likes of Fenwick, Carmel and Naperville North in recent years. Phillips will also get its annual Chicago Public League battle with Simeon this Saturday night at Gately Stadium-- a game that has become a must-see in the CPL.

Providence Catholic: The Celtics (0-2) have played two straight defending state champions to start this season in East St. Louis and St. John Vianney (Missouri), both losses. Providence Catholic has always challenged itself when it comes to the non-conference schedule. In recent years, those early test have paid off while at other times the tough schedule has played a factor in keeping the Celtics out of the state playoff field. Providence Catholic will need to turn up the heat this week hosting CCL Blue rival St. Rita (2-0) in what could be a must-win scenario. 

[MORE: Edgy Tim's Week Three Power Rankings]

Maine South: The defending 8A state champs opened the season at Glenbard West then hosted Lincoln-Way East. And the Hawks (1-1) didn't exactly pump the brakes on the rigid non-conference slate after scheduling those two opponents. Mid-Suburban conference foes are lurking over the next two weeks: Fremd (0-2) and then Palatine (1-1).

Lake Zurich: The Bears (2-0) are another program that doesn't shy away from from competition in non-conference play. They posted good wins over solid football programs in Fremd (0-2) and last Friday over Montini Catholic (1-1).

Lincoln-Way East: The Griffins (2-0) were able to get strong wins over 6A power Crete-Monee and the previous top-ranked team, Maine South. They open up conference play this Friday night in Tinley Park against Andrew (1-1).
 

Bears sign standout WR Tanner Gentry, 13 undrafted free agents

Bears sign standout WR Tanner Gentry, 13 undrafted free agents

The Bears have found success in the undrafted free agent market with the likes of wide receiver Cameron Meredith, linebacker Christian Jones and safety Harold Jones-Quartey among others during GM Ryan Pace's tenure with the club. 

Pace and the Bears hope to continue that trend and uncover some hidden gems in this year's crop of undrafted free agents.

Ahead of rookie minicamp this weekend, the Bears announced on Thursday they have signed 13 undrafted free agents.

Here's a look at some of the notable UDFA's the Bears signed:

Tanner Gentry (WR), Wyoming: The 6-foot-2 wideout ran a 4.40-yard dash at his Pro Day and had 72 catches for 1,326 yards with 14 touchdowns for the Cowboys last season. Gentry also led the country in deep targets (49) last season.

Dieugot Joseph (OT), Florida International: After a switch from defensive end to the offensive line, Joseph became a stalwart at left tackle for the Panthers. Joseph was named honorable mention All-Conference USA in 2016.

Andy Phillips (K), Utah: A former member of the United States National Ski Team, Phillips walked on to the Utah football team in 2012. As the Utes starting kicker from 2013-16, Phillips converted 84 percent of field goals and missed just one extra point.

Freddie Stevenson (FB), Florida State: For three seasons Stevenson served as the lead blocker for All-American running back Dalvin Cook. A former four-star recruit as a linebacker, Stevenson had 292 total yards and seven touchdowns with the Seminoles.

Kermit Whitfield (WR), Florida State: One of the most explosive athletes in the country, Whitfield accumulated 2,386 yards as a kick returner at Florida State. Whitfield broke the ACC record for yards per return (36.4) during his freshman season.

[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Jhajuan Seales (WR), Oklahoma State: Seales has the ability to climb the ladder and make the contested catches with a 41.5-inch vertical leap. After subpar sophomore and junior seasons, Seales rebounded as a senior with 37 receptions for 615 yards and four touchdowns.

Franko House (TE), Ball State: House was a standout basketball player for the Cardinals. House will use his 6-foot-6, 247-pound frame to make the transition to the gridiron after not playing the sport since his senior year of high school.

Joel Bouagnon (RB), Northern Illinois: The ex-Huskies running back couldn't quite replicate his junior year numbers, but still posted a respectable 4.9 yards per carry with nine total touchdowns in 2016.

Rashaad Coward (DL), Old Dominion: Coward was a second-team All Conference USA selection last season, finishing with 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Coward fits the Bears 3-4 base defense as somebody who could rotate either inside or outside on the defensive line.

Mitchell Kirsch (OL), James Madison: Kirsch was the starter at right tackle for the Dukes since 2014, and was named an FCS All-American last year.

Hendrick Ekpe (LB), Minnesota: Ekpe started 11 games for the Gophers and notched 28 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Ekpe played defensive end at Minnesota, but with his size (6-foot3, 245 pounds) he'll play outside linebacker for the Bears.

Isaiah Irving (LB), San Jose State: The 6-foot-3, 255 pound Irving led San Jose State with seven sacks as a senior.

Alex Searce (LB), Coastal Carolina: Searce was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan National Defensive Player of the Year Award. He had eight sacks for the Chanticleers in 2016.

Below are some standout players who have been invited to rookie minicamp:

Denard Robinson (RB): The artist formerly known as "Shoelace" from his days as a quarterback at Michigan is one several veterans that will try to impress the Bears' brass at rookie minicamp this weekend. Robinson was used as an "offensive weapon" during his four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-2016) and accumulated 1,058 rushing yards, 310 receiving yards and five total touchdowns.

Tyler Gaffney (RB): The former Stanford star will be at rookie minicamp for the Bears after he was released by the New England Patriots in March. Gaffney, originally a sixth-round selection by the Patriots in 2014, spent the majority of the last three seasons on injured reserve. During his season year at Stanford, Gaffney started 14 games and had 1,709 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.

Titus Davis (WR): Davis, a standout wide receiver at Wheaton South High School, is the older brother of Tennessee Titans' 2017 first-round selection Corey Davis. Titus Davis played at Central Michigan from 2011-2014 and registered 204 receptions for 3,700 yards and 37 touchdowns. 

D.J. Johnson (TE), Kansas State: Johnson joins House as one of two college basketball players the Bears will have in rookie minicamp. Johnson averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game with the Wildcats in 2016-17 and helped the team to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Johnson was an All-Conference defensive end and tight end at Parkway North High School in St. Louis.

Mark Spelman (OL), Illinois State: Spelman was one of the key members of the Redbirds offensive line last season and garnered third-team All-American honors.

D'Nerius Antoine (S), Southern Mississippi: A two-year starter for the Golden Eagles, Antoine had 189 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 2 interceptions and 10 passes defended. Antoine also has experience as a returner.

DeSean Smith (TE), LSU: Smith wasn't often utlized in the Tigers passing game, ending his collegiate career with 19 receptions for 346 yards and one touchdown.

Lance Lenoir (WR), Western Illinois: Lenoir, a high school teammate of 2016 Minnesota Vikings first-round pick Laquon Treadwell at Crete Monee, finished his Leathernecks career as the school's all-time leader in receptions (273), yards (3,796) and touchdowns (28).