Bears

Bloom prevails in Lockport sectional

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Bloom prevails in Lockport sectional

By Tony Baranek
YourSeason.com
Bloom senior Donald Moore knows his clichs.He was keyed in on one in particular before he and the Blazing Trojans met Homewood-Flossmoor in the Class 4A Lockport Sectional title game on Friday.A lot of people like to say, The third times the charm. We werent going to let that happen tonight, he said. Weve worked too hard all season.It didnt come easy. The Blazing Trojans had a big lead shaved down to almost nothing.But on a night when perfection was hard to find, Moore was spot on when it counted in leading Bloom to a 43-32 victory and a showdown with Edwardsville in the Normal Supersectional Tuesday at Illinois State University.The win was third this season by Bloom over H-F. The schools last sectional title came in 2000.Moore scored 20 points for the Blazing Trojans (37-3), all but two at the free-throw line, where he was 18-of-20. In the fourth quarter alone, he was 12-of-13.Moore did his finest work after H-F (22-8) had clawed back from as much as a 13-point deficit to get within 35-32 with 2:48 remaining. Over the remaining time, Moore went to the line four times and sank alleight shots. The Vikings were 0-for-9 from the field in the final 2:48.They were still down so I knew they were going to be kind of aggressive, Moore said. So I just tried to go into the body, and got fouled.Unlike his teammates, who were a combined 3-for-11 on the night, Moore was a cool customer at the charity stripe.I just told myself, You miss these free throws and the season could be over, he said.He didnt, and the Blazing Trojans were able to prevail despite making just two second-half field goals and rushing themselves out of a good offensive rhythm in the third period.Trailing 8-6 after one period, Bloom caught a spark in the second when Lejavius Johnson (11 points), with a rambunctious H-F crowd chanting air ball at him, nailed a 3-pointer to start 14-1 run. Johnson hit another on a dish out from Moore during that sequence. Moore later added a three-point play.When Donald drives a lot of people respect him, and that takes the focus off of me, Johnson said. It was an easy job for me to catch and shoot. Leading 24-11 at the half, Bloom hurt itself at the outset of the third quarter by committing five fouls within the first three minutes. The Blazing Trojans also had problems getting into their offense after H-F switched from a 1-3-1 zone to a man defense.Still, the Vikings werent able to seriously begin to close until a foulfest in the fourth quarter resulted in the two teams going to the line 19 times.H-F converted early, Tim Williams (11 points) completing a three-point play and Maurius Hill swishing two to get the deficit down to 30-27. The Vikings got as close as 31-29 after two freebies by Tyrone Sherman with 4:36 remaining, but then fell apart on offense, and sent the wrong man to the line too many times for Bloom down the stretch.You cant play one half of basketball and expect to win a sectional championship, H-F coach Jim McLaughlin said. I dont know what happened with the rivalry, but the first half we were just flat.Both teams know each other so well, you knew it was going to be a slugfest. If you only play 16 minutes out of the 32, you wind up not with the trophy.Our hats go to off to Jasper Williams and the whole Bloom organization. They do things the right way and we wish them the best of luck.

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

If the NFL’s proposed collective bargaining agreement is ratified, seven teams from each conference will make the playoffs in 2020— a change that will immediately alter the league's player movement landscape in the coming weeks and months.

Under the proposed structure, the Los Angeles Rams would’ve been the NFC’s No. 7 seed in 2019, with the 8-8 Bears finishing one game out of a playoff spot (really, two games, given they lost to the Rams). But as the Tennessee Titans showed last year, just getting into the dance can spark an underdog run to a conference title game. The vast majority of the NFL — those not in full-on tank mode — should view the potential for a seventh playoff spot as a license to be more aggressive in the free agent and trade market as soon as a few weeks from now.

So, should the Bears look at this new CBA as reason to be more aggressive in pushing to acquire one of the big-name quarterbacks who will, or could, be available this year? After all, merely slightly better quarterback play could’ve leapfrogged the Bears past the Rams and into the playoffs a year ago.

The prospect of Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr or Andy Dalton representing that upgrade feels tantalizing on the surface, right?

But the CBA’s addition of a seventh playoff team does not, as far as we know, also include an addition of significantly more cap space available to teams in 2020, even if the salary cap has increased 40 percent over the last five years. An extra $25 million is not walking through that door to add to the roughly $14 million the Bears currently have in cap space, per the NFLPA’s public salary cap report.

So that means every reason we laid out why the Bears should not make a splash move at quarterback remains valid, even with the NFL lowering its postseason barrier to entry.

The Bears’ best bet in 2020 remains signing a cheaper quarterback like Case Keenum or Marcus Mariota (who shares an agent with Mitch Trubisky, potentially complicating things) and banking on roster improvements being the thing that gets them back into the playoffs. Adding a quarterback for $17 million — Dalton’s price — or more would hamstring the Bears’ ability to address critical needs at tight end, right guard, inside linebacker and safety, thus giving the Bears a worse roster around a quarterback who’s no sure bet to be good enough to cover for the holes his cap hit would create.

Does it feel like a good bet? No, and maybe feels worse if it’s easier to get in the playoffs in 2020. But a Trubisky-Keenum pairing, complete with a new starting right guard to help the run game and more than just Demetrius Harris to upgrade the tight end room, is a better bet than Dalton or Bridgewater and a worse roster around them.

Also: This new playoff structure will tilt the balance of power significantly toward the No. 1 seeds in each conference. The last time a team made the Super Bowl without the benefit of a first-round bye was after the 2012 season, when the No. 4 seed Baltimore Ravens won the title. Otherwise, every Super Bowl participant since hasn't played on wild card weekend. 

So while the Bears may become closer to the playoffs if the new CBA is ratified, they won’t be closer to getting a No. 1 seed. And that holds true even if they were to find a way to sign Tom Brady.

Getting in the playoffs can spark something special. But the Bears’ best path back to meaningful January football still involves an inexpensive approach to addressing their blaring need for better quarterback play. 
Is it ideal? No.

But it’s far less ideal to be in this situation three years after taking the first quarterback off the board with 2017’s No. 2 overall pick. 

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Austin Hooper dubbed Bears' ideal free-agent target

Austin Hooper dubbed Bears' ideal free-agent target

The Bears are expected to be extremely busy in their effort to upgrade at tight end this offseason. In fact, they've already made their first move with the signing of veteran Demetrius Harris, but it's unlikely he'll be the only new player added at the position over the next few months.

The most appealing free-agent tight end who's likely to hit the open market is Falcons pass-catcher Austin Hooper, who was recently dubbed the ideal target for Bears GM Ryan Pace once the spending frenzy gets started.

Hooper is exactly the type of performer the Bears currently lack. He can provide a reliable outlet to make life easier on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Granted, the 25-year-old tight end shouldn't be viewed as a Travis Kelce-like difference-maker in head coach Matt Nagy's scheme, but he's the best option in thin free-agent and weak draft classes.

Hooper would be the dream acquisition for Chicago, but the dollars are unlikely to make sense. According to Spotrac, Hooper's market value will command a five-year, $49.9 million deal, or $9.9 million per season. If the Bears inked Hooper to a contract like that, they'd have nearly $19 million tied up in tight ends in 2020 (Trey Burton's contract counts as $8.5 million against the cap next season).

As much as Bears fans want more production at tight end, that's just too steep a price to pay regardless of how important the position is for Nagy's offense.

The better route for Pace to pursue is the 2020 NFL Draft, where Chicago could be the first team to draft a tight end in April. This year's class of tight end prospects is without a clear first-rounder and with the Bears' first pick coming at No. 43 overall, there's a good chance they could have their pick of the litter.

Prospects like Notre Dame's Cole Kmet, Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, and Washington's Hunter Bryant will all be given strong consideration in the first half of the second round.

It'll be another strike against Pace's work in free agency if he's forced out of the Hooper market because of the contract he gave Burton in 2018. But maybe it's for the best. He hasn't been very good at identifying tight ends since taking over as Chicago's GM in 2015 -- Khari Lee, Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen, Burton -- and probably shouldn't be trusted with the checkbook while searching for another one this offseason.

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