Bears

Crete-Monee, Cappel hoping to catch up

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Crete-Monee, Cappel hoping to catch up

Crete-Monee coach Tom Cappel can only speculate if last week's last-second, one-point loss to Rich South cost his team the No. 3 seed in the Class AA sectional tournament at Lockport.

But he is certain of one thing. In his first season at Crete-Monee, after winning 502 games in 23 years at Hillcrest, the 64-year-old Cappel is dealing with issues that he didn't anticipate when he was hired.

"It has been different," Cappel said. "It has taken longer for the kids to get into our system. I'm used to playing one way in September, then still trying to get stuff in when the season begins. I needed more time to convince them that this works.

"I had to change my system. We're playing more man-to-man defense. They were used to one system and they liked it and were more comfortable with it. It takes a while to show how things work. When you have a summer to do it, it is easier to convince them. I'll try to work my system next year."

Cappel's system produced two Elite Eight teams at Hillcrest. His current squad is 16-6 after beating Rich Central 75-68 last Friday. This Friday, the Warriors will meet Bloom, the top-seeded team in the Lockport sectional. They have lost to the Trojans twice, including the final of the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament.

"My system is to put pressure on other teams with defensive sets, a combination of zone and man-to-man and trap," Cappel said. "I like to run but we're not running as much because we don't line up right. Our offense is inconsistent. We haven't played four quarters yet.

"I hope it gets better. I would like to be running more. I would like to be more organized. But I'm happy with where we're at and I'm trying to convince them that if they do things better, we'll go farther in the state tournament. We haven't played anyone we can't beat."

Rated among the top 15 teams in the Chicago area in the preseason, Crete-Monee has struggled at times. The Warriors have beaten only one rated team, Seton. Losses to Bloom (twice), Andrew, Notre Dame and Hillcrest "tells us that we must play better against good teams," Cappel said.

"Our cohesiveness is good. Our kids are terrific. If they realize what they can do, we can go far. Some play to play. I don't know if they realize how good they can be. We go in spurts in every game, then for a quarter we are terrific. In the final quarter or in overtime, we play with a sense of purpose. We have won four games in overtime."

But Cappel doesn't want to wait to get the desired results. When all of his players are healthy, which hasn't been too often, he is confident that they are as competitive as any team in the sectional or beyond. He just hasn't had enough time to put his act together.

"This is a bigger adjustment than I thought," he said. "I knew it would be difficult because we didn't start until September with open gym. We have to do better on two fronts -- hit more free throws at crunch time and lower our turnovers. Sometimes we go too fast and we need to slow down our thinking process."

Crete-Monee is led by one of the state's premier point guards, 6-foot-2 Michael Orris (10 points, five assists per game), who is committed to Illinois. He was slowed by a sprained ankle early but "is getting back to where we thought he would be," according to Cappel. "He sees the floor very well, can deliver the ball and breaks pressure."

Two other standouts are 6-foot-3 junior LaQuon Treadwell (10 points, nine rebounds per game), who is better known as one of the state's top football prospects in the class of 2013, and 5-foot-9 junior guard Marvie Keith (13 points per game).

Against Rich Central, Treadwell had 24 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Orris had 15 points and six assists.

Treadwell plays basketball as he plays football. "He is a great athlete. He has a never-say-die attitude. He competes with everyone. He has no fear. He relishes the idea of competing against whomever he has to guard. He wants to dominate them," the coach said.

But Marius Hopkins is an unsung hero. The 6-foot-2 senior (9 points per game) is described by Cappel as a lockdown defender. "I call him my Eveready battery. He never stops. He is go-go-go. He has been a key factor this year. He listens, he's quick and he is willing to sacrifice his body for the ball," he said.

Hopkins didn't play much last year. In fact, as the eighth man, he usually got on the floor only during mop-up time. "But we were winning so I didn't want to pout over it. I was looking forward to this year," he said.

He worked hard during the summer, every day he was free from his part-time job working with his mother at a cleaners to earn spending money. He came to school and worked on his defense, shooting and rebounding, often with other team members.

"My role is to bring energy to the team, get stops and defend the other team's best offensive player. I try to keep him from attacking and keep the ball out of his hands," Hopkins said.

The trick is to get all of the players on the floor at the same time. Jordan Perry, a 6-foot-3 senior, is sidelined with scarlet fever. His sub, 6-foot-4 junior Mark Conner, was all-tournament at the Big Dipper. T.J. Morris, a 5-foot-8 senior, is back after suffering pneumonia before the holidays. And 6-foot-7 sophomore Rashod Lee is back after being ineligible prior to the holidays.

"If we play together, we can beat a lot of good teams," Hopkins said. "Sometimes someone tries to do too much. But we're getting better as the season goes along. That (to Hinsdale Central) was a frustrating loss. We played hard to the end but they got the game-changing free throws.

"We can't let that bring us down. We have to learn from it. It has to motivate us for the next game. We have to play hard from the first to the fourth quarter and never let up."

WATCH: Bears share video of post-game celebration after win over Cardinals

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USA TODAY

WATCH: Bears share video of post-game celebration after win over Cardinals

The Bears are in first place in the NFC North for the first time since 2014, and they’re enjoying it. The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings were both upset in Week 3, so an ugly win over the Arizona Cardinals was enough to put Chicago at the top.

Even though they were on the road, the Bears were still able to celebrate their victory with a disco ball dance party in the locker room and smiles all around.

The team shared a video of the post-game celebration, and it’s easy to see how much they cherish every win they can get.

The video also shows a locker room speech from Matt Nagy, and he specifically pointed out Eddie Jackson for his strong performance.

The second-year safety intercepted Sam Bradford and almost had a pick six off of Josh Rosen, but it was called back due to an offsides penalty on the defense.

The Bears know they still have a lot more work to do, but they’re going to enjoy this week’s win a little longer and then get back to work for Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bears grades: A closer look at Mitch Trubisky, and another standout game for Khalil Mack

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears grades: A closer look at Mitch Trubisky, and another standout game for Khalil Mack

QUARTERBACKS: D+

Mitch Trubisky competed two of his six passes that traveled 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage in the air, with his most notable strike a 39-yarder to Allen Robinson that sparked a third-quarter touchdown drive. But not included in that total is a missed throw toward Robinson that could’ve resulted in a touchdown in the second quarter; instead, he threw the ball behind his receiver but was bailed out by a roughing the quarterback flag (that drive still ended in a field goal). Only two other completions traveled 10 or more yards in the air, and those two went for about 10 and 11 yards, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Otherwise, the rest of Trubisky’s completions were short throws, and 17 of his 24 total completions traveled five or fewer yards in the air. 

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given where he is in his development right now, and Trubisky does deserve credit for not turning the ball over in the second half and leading the offense on three consecutive scoring drives in the second half to take the lead. But between his fumble, interception (which was partly due to an excellent play by Chandler Jones and partly because he didn’t get enough loft on the short throw), not recognizing a numbers advantage and flipping an innacurate fade to Robinson near the goal line, an ill-advised throw that should’ve been picked off on the third quarter touchdown drive, some early issues with Arizona’s exotic blitzes and those missed deep shots, there was a lot he could’ve done better, too. 

On the Bears’ first drive, they reached Arizona’s 13 before Trubisky took a sack that lost 17 yards. He rolled to his right and, with the benefit of a second look, it appeared he could’ve had Kevin White — who was farther away on the field side, to be fair — for at least a completion, if not a first down on third and six. Instead, Trubisky took the sack, and Cody Parkey missed a field goal that would’ve given the Bears points on their opening drive for the third consecutive game. 

RUNNING BACKS: C+

The final stats for Jordan Howard (24 carries, 61 yards) and Tarik Cohen (five carries, 53 yards) don’t look great, though that’s partly because five of Howard’s runs went for negative yardage (-14), the reason for which falls on the offensive line and Howard not making run blitzes (like safety Budda Baker) miss. Cohen had runs of 17 and 21 yards, with his 17-yarder setting up Howard’s one-yard touchdown run. Both running backs fared well in the passing game, with Howard’s preseason pass-catching focus continuing to pay off with two catches on two targets for 20 yards, while Cohen caught all three of his targets for 15 yards. Benny Cunningham got his first action with the offense in 2018 on Sunday, too, and did some good things as a blocker (he helped set up Cohen’s 17-yard run) while catching one well-designed pass for nine yards. 

WIDE RECEIVERS: B-

Kind of a weird grade here, given the general lack of offensive production, but the thought here is the Bears’ receivers got open more times than Trubisky could find them. A better throw from Trubisky would’ve found Gabriel for a 36-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and two plays later a more accurate throw could’ve led to a 21-yard touchdown to Allen Robinson. Anthony Miller did some good things while gritting through an injury, though he did have some issues getting lined up or shifting. Overall: There are signs that the talent is there at wide receiver, and that’s encouraging going forward so long as Trubisky can consistently get the ball to these guys, preferably downfield more frequently. For example: Robinson executed a good double move to get open for a 39-yard reception in the third quarter. 

TIGHT ENDS: C+

Trey Burton ran an excellent route on a 25-yard catch that was Trubisky’s second-best throw of the day (the best being a 39-yarder to Robinson). Dion Sims and Ben Braunecker (snaps) were used plenty as blockers both on running and screen plays and did some decent things in those areas. . 

OFFENSIVE LINE: C

Three penalties were assessed to this group: A false start on Bobby Massie, a false start on Eric Kush and a chop block on Kush. There wasn’t a consistent push up front generated on inside zone runs, though this group generally kept the pocket clean for Trubisky when the Cardinals didn’t send exotic or overload blitzes. 

DEFENSIVE LINE: A

Akiem Hicks had another strip-sack while Eddie Goldman had a strong game in the interior to help limit Arizona running back David Johnson to just 31 yards on 12 carries (and that was with the Cardinals playing with the lead for most of the game). Hicks also had three hurries, while Roy Robertson-Harris added one. But the play of the game for this unit came on a third-and-2 right after the second half two-minute warning, when rookie Bilal Nichols plowed his way from the interior into the backfield to drop running back Chase Edmonds for a three-yard loss. 

OUTISDE LINEBACKERS: A

Khalil Mack had another ridiculous game, with two sacks, a forced fumble, three hurries and a tackle for a loss while also leading the Bears with five tackles. Leonard Floyd and Aaron Lynch both had relatively quiet games, but Mack is having the kind of start to a season that can win him defensive player of the year if he keeps it up. 

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: C-

It looked like both touchdowns Arizona scored could be pinned on Danny Trevathan, possibly. On the first one, Lynch shoved tight end Ricky Seals-Jones into Trevathan, who looked like he was going to carry him over the middle. Instead, Seals-Jones broke for the corner and caught a 35-yard touchdown with nobody around him. Johnson’s 21-yard touchdown was an excellent route and play design, on which Trevathan didn’t stay with him. Roquan Smith missed a tackle early in the fourth quarter but delivered some solid plays, and this unit’s grade is boosted by its contributors to stopping Johnson and the Cardinals’ running game all afternoon. 

DEFENSIVE BACKS: A

Sherrick McManis was the star of this group with an interception and game-ending sack, but Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara both had strong games despite not getting in on the pick party. Bryce Callahan and Eddie Jackson did, though, and four of the Cardinals’ five second-half possessions ended because of a play made by a defensive back (three interceptions, the game-ending sack). Callahan in particular had an excellent game, and held his own when shifted outside, too. Undrafted rookie Kevin Toliver II did struggle some when he had to come off the bench for a banged-up Amukamara, and was beat on a double move by rookie Christian Kirk for a big-chunk gain in the fourth quarter. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: B+

Parkey missed his first field goal attempt of the year in the first quarter, going wide right from 46 yards. But that was the only major ding to this unit — Parkey hit three other field goals, including the game-winner from 41 yards, while McManis made an outstanding tackle on a 61-yard punt by Pat O’Donnell. Cohen had a solid 21-yard punt return as well, which was one of those he didn’t try to break for a touchdown — he took the yards that were there, and it was successful. 

COACHING: B-

The Bears were sloppier from a penalty standpoint, committing seven penalties for 45 yards (and, really, it was nine because the Cardinals declined one flag and accepted a 15-yard penalty over a five-yard one that were called on the same play). Credit Vic Fangio with dialing up a blitz against a rookie quarterback on the game-ending play instead of dropping eight or nine back in coverage, though the defense’s showing in the first quarter wasn’t inspiring. Nagy committed to running the ball, though it wasn’t with much success, and his decision to call a timeout and then not go for it on fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line in the first half merited some second-guessing.