Cubs

Female HS football coach in D.C. title game

595160.jpg

Female HS football coach in D.C. title game

From Comcast SportsNet

WASHINGTON (AP)Natalie Randolph is a novelty no moreat least not in these halls. Shes something even better: A winner.

Twenty months ago, the national media swarmed into a classroom at Coolidge High School to observe a curiositya press conference to announce the hiring of a female high school varsity head football coach, believed to be only one in the country. The special guest was the mayor, who happened to be running for re-election.

Last Friday, students flocked to the schools gymnasium for a celebration. Randolph has led the Colts to an 8-2 record and a berth in the most puff-your-chest-out, school-pride game of them all in the nations capitalthe Turkey Bowl city championship on Thanksgiving Day. The pep rallys noteworthy guest was longtime NFL receiver and Coolidge graduate Jerry Porter, visiting from his California home.

I got word Coolidge was in the Turkey Bowl and I was like, Yeah, Ive got to come check it out, Porter said. Its huge. Because when I was here, we didnt have very many winning seasons. We mostly watched the Turkey Bowl.

And the fact that Randolph is a woman is so yesterday. She could be the Man (or Woman) from Mars if it meant being on the field for that 11 a.m. Thanksgiving kickoff. When Coolidge faces Dunbar (8-3) on Thursdaya rematch of a game won by Dunbar in overtime earlier this monththe last thing on Randolphs mind will be the games sociological impact.

People have kind of forgotten about it, so that makes it nice, Randolph told The Associated Press in an interview in one of the schools locker rooms. But its always been about football. Its never been about gender or whatever, at least not for me.

Other people, I dont care what they think, but its always been about the kids.

School officials adamantly denied that Randolphs hiring was a publicity stunt. She was more than qualified, they pointed outa city native, a former University of Virginia track star, a receiver for six years with the D.C. Divas of the National Womens Football Association, an assistant coach for three years for the football team at rival H.D. Woodson.

The only questions seemed to be would the players respect her and could she win.

For a while, it didnt look good. She lost her first five games.

Last year, I think, was overwhelming, said Shedrick Young, the Colts defensive coordinator last season. It was overwhelming for all of us. That first game was something we never experienced, with all the cameras and stuff on the field, and media. Were not used to that, so when it calmed down and the media wasnt around, thats when the team started to jell. We started to play well.

The fifth loss came after the Colts allowed a 99-yard winning touchdown drive in the final minute. Afterward, Randolph gave a long, blistering speech to her playersa defining moment in the season.

The kids kind of realized they dont want that feeling anymore, Young said. After that, they believed in what we were doing. Instead of individual accolades, they played for each other. We didnt baby em anymore. Shes probably got the worst mouth on the field sometimes. Shell let em know.

The Colts won their next four and backed into the playoffs, finishing with a 4-7 record. The momentum carried into this season, when Randolph was able to coach her first practice and first game without the distraction of all those cameras and reporters. She never much cared for all the attention anyway.

Im not one to be all out in the open, she said. Im not a person that really enjoys being out in the public eye, and when I have something to do, I want to do that. I dont want to be bothered.

What she wants to do is teach and coach.

Athletic director Keino Wilson said the overall GPA of the team is up from 2.65 last year to 3.1. Randolph juggles her classesbiology and environmental sciencewith the sometimes unique challenges of coaching in a city where schools always seems to be facing logistical and financial hurdles.

Randolphs coaching staff was down to four earlier this season because of a new citywide process for approving assistants. The logjam is taking months to sort out. Young has to watch practices from the stands while waiting for his paperwork to clear, which means Randolph herself had to take charge of the defense.

I had to call the defensive plays for, like, seven games, she said. Its more of a collaborative effort now. Im glad, especially now that were in these big games.

After the pep rally, the Colts went to the field to practice, and they kept on going even when it became so dark that it was difficult to see the ball. The field has lights, but they are set to a timer. Finally, they came on at 5:30 p.m. to cheers from some of the players.

When practice finally ended, the Colts retreated to the locker room, thinking about their place in Coolidge history. Not as players for a female coach, but as players with a chance to win the citys biggest prize.

Everybody had that demeanor of Shes a girl coach, shes a female, said senior receiver Dayon Pratt, an East Carolina recruit. Now this year, its a dedicated coachand were going to the Turkey Bowl.

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.