Bulls

Alviti guides Maine South past Lane

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Alviti guides Maine South past Lane

By Matt Le Cren
SeasonPass.com

Matt Alviti completed 24 of 35 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for another score as host Maine South rolled to a 42-7 victory over Lane in a Class 8A playoff opener Saturday in Park Ridge.

Alviti led the No. 3-ranked Hawks (10-0) to touchdowns on each of their first four possessions in building a 28-0 halftime lead. He completed passes to seven different receivers, with four catching touchdowns.

We started real strong and offensively we played great in the first half, Alviti said. Our receivers are awesome. I think weve got the best receiving corps in the state.

Alviti tossed touchdown passes of 12 yards to John Solari and nine yards to Daly Guzaldo in the first quarter and found Zach Hinkamp on a 28-yarder and Guzaldo on a 26-yarder in the second quarter.

Lane (5-4) scored on a four-yard run by Jack McLaughlin midway through the third quarter and got the ball back when Joel Velazquez recovered a fumble by Alviti, who was sacked by Ricardo Reyes.

The visitors got one first down but Maine South linebacker Chris Buscemi ended the comeback bid when he picked off a McLaughlin pass and returned it 30 yards to the Lane 36, setting up a three-yard TD run by Alviti on the penultimate play of the quarter.

I thought the defense picked us up, made the big interception on that fourth-down play and that was the team, Maine South coach David Inserra said. Chris Buscemi made a great play on it but I believe everybody was in the right position.

George Sajenko caught seven passes for 136 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, for Maine South, which also received 93 yards rushing from Anthony Mitchell. The Hawks will host Conant, which beat New Trier 14-0, in the second round.

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen’s celebration for his 21st birthday coincided with another major honor, being selected to the All-Rookie First team.

Markkanen received 76 of 100 possible first-team votes to join Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma on the first team. Mitchell and Simmons were unanimous selections and Tatum was one vote short of joining Mitchell and Simmons.

Markkanen, acquired on draft night in the package of players for Jimmy Butler, showed he was far more advanced than many expected. His 15.2 points per game ranked third among rookies and his 7.5 rebounds were first.

Markkanen was a constant in a topsy-turvy season for the Bulls, scoring 30-plus twice and hitting the 25-point plateau another three times. As a perfect fit in Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system, Markkanen had eight games where he hit four triples or more, including a game in New York where he drilled eight 3-pointers against the Knicks.

Only 15 rookies have hit more than 140 triples in NBA history, with Markkanen accomplishing the feat in 68 games—he was joined by Mitchell and Kuzma from this year’s star-studded class.

As the season progressed and Markkanen took hold of the power forward position, the Bulls began maneuvering personnel around him, trading disgruntled forward Nikola Mirotic and making a concerted effort to put Bobby Portis at center to pair Portis with Markkanen as a spread-shooting duo.

As the most impressive rookie the Bulls have employed since Derrick Rose, he’s also the first rookie since Taj Gibson in 2010 to make All-Rookie First Team.

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.