Preps Talk

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Wednesday, December 23rd

As a bartender, its in my job description to help out when needed. Whether thats to listen, take and process your order or offer advice, thats what I do, its a full service bar!

Well at this time Id like to offer some advice to some of those last minute shoppers out there. I know that it can get confusing and stressful shopping at this time of year, but I have an easy solution. TICKETS! How easy is that? You can get them online, pick the date and the sport.

One thing that I hope everyone realizes during the holidays is that, sometimes its fun to hang with the family. In fact, some would say these are the memories that last a lifetime. I couldnt agree more. As Im raising my own family, I cant help but think back on the times I enjoyed during holidays past. But there is another set of memories that are always with me, and make me smile to this day. Going to professional sporting events as a kid made me the sports geek that I am today. (Of course, Im viewing that as a positive, others might have a different opinion!)

As a kid going to games, I got to see up-close (sometimes) my sports heroes. It was magical. I was especially enamored of going to Philadelphia Flyers games in the early seventies. They were very good and the fan base bordered on rabid. This was very intense for an impressionable young mind and, very addicting. The names and numbers of every player from the 2 Cup years are seared in my brain and I dont mind repeating them when prompted, and sometimes when not prompted, like when Im dealing with a couple of hockey-know-it-alls from Toronto. Gets them every time!

But what really brought it home for me were the times I enjoyed with my parents, sisters, aunts and uncles at the games. They are a bond for us that exist to this day. Funny, since most of the other games and teams we followed had an amazing propensity for losing, A LOT! None the less, in my family, there are years of happy memories going to sporting events.

So thats why I say dont fret that youve let your shopping go down to the wire, again. Get on that computer and buy some Hawks tickets. Now, before they are gone. This team is going to be remembered for a long time. Isnt it cool when they bring out Bobby Hull or Stan Mikita? Well, trust me, its not going to be long before those names change to Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews. Dont you want your kid to tell their kids all about them?

Or how about being able to share the blossoming of Derrick Rose with another hoops junkie in the family? I would hope I wouldnt have to mention either baseball team, since just being able to get outside during the summer in Chicago is fun in itself. But how fun is it to chant: Paulie! Paulie! Or to boo Milton Bradley? (Sorry couldnt help myself, besides: Too late!) And I hear through the grapevine the 2011 Bears are going to be awesome! (Never too early!)

By giving the gift of tickets, youll not only be able to share in some great memories of teams that will live in Chicago sports history, but create some memories that will live on in your families history. It seems to me that tickets are truly a gift in the spirit of the holidays. So dont worry that your shopping time is almost gone, a timeless gift is only a click away. Oh, and if you happen to stop at 33 W. Kinzie St. before or after the game, well, that will just add to it, Im sure.

Power Rankings: #10 - Homewood-Flossmoor

Power Rankings: #10 - Homewood-Flossmoor

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Homewood-Flossmoor

Head coach: Craig Buzea

Assistant coaches: Tom Cicero, Zac Wells, Alex Pratt, Daron Williams, Eric Schreiber Jr., Bart Czachor, David James, Josh Blair, Josh Forney and Matt Ramos

How they fared in 2017: 9-2 (6-1 Southwest Suburban Conference). H-F made the 8A state playoff field, defeated Lake Park then lost to Naperville Central in second round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Michigan City (IN)

Sept. 1 vs Lutheran North (MO.) at East St. Louis

Sept. 7 vs Stagg

Sept. 14 @ Bolingbrook

Sept. 21 vs Lincoln-Way West

Sept. 28 @ Lincoln-Way East

Oct. 5 @ Bradley

Oct. 12 vs Andrew

Oct. 19 vs Sandburg

[MORE: 69 Days to Kickoff - Lincoln-Way West]

Biggest storyline: Can the Vikings, now without their dynamic WR/RB Justin Hall (NIU), get back to the postseason and play deeper into November?

Names to watch this season: QB Dominick Jones and DB Wynston Russell (Oregon State)

Biggest holes to fill: The Vikings have a good number of returning starters back in 2018 (five offense, six defense). The team boasts plenty of talent. But who can step up and be the go-to guy? Who replaces Justin Hall?

EDGY's Early Take: The Vikings have become a traditional power in Chicago's south suburbs and in the overall Class 8A field. Head coach Craig Buzea is looking for a breakout season and he has the ingredients in the program. The offense will be led by junior QB Dominick Jones. He has some firepower behind him in senior RB Leon Tanna. Keep an eye senior TE Jack Schmitz as well. The defense is also talent-heavy. Look for senior DL Isaiah Coe and senior DE/OLB Charlies Brooks to help carry the load. Oregon State commit senior DB Wynston Russell is the lone returning starter in the secondary.

With Roquan Smith and others, Bears moving closer to elite defense in a hurry

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USA TODAY

With Roquan Smith and others, Bears moving closer to elite defense in a hurry

As encouraging as some elements of the 2017 season was for the Bears defense, it wasn’t enough. Ranking in the top 10 in fewest points and yards allowed left linchpins like lineman Akiem Hicks setting “top five” as a declared goal.

With what has happened within the last 13 days – from the first preseason game vs. Baltimore through the long-anticipated arrival of Roquan Smith – the Bears have had arguably seen a handful of developments that could put “elite” within reach of a defense intent on being just that.

The developments have been the play of linebackers Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving, and now topped off by the Smith addition. The reasons are obvious – a linebacker-dependent defense (as all 3-4’s inherently are) has moved to the brink of realizing impact from not one, not two, but possibly three.

None is being given a leading role in an already good defense. But what they all represent are high-speed additions in a sport where speed rules and rivals pad-level in importance. Fitts and Irving have flashed off the edges, and Smith was the No. 8 pick of the draft for his speed in getting to targets, followed of course what he does to them when he gets there.

How any change occurs remains to play out, and Vic Fangio has used rotations in his front seven’s. One scenario could be Smith easing in as part of nickel packages, where the Bears have used a 4-2 front and would have Smith and Danny Trevathan as their ILB’s. Likewise, Fitts and Irving present edge options in that package as well as in base 3-4.

Perspective, please

Understand: No criticism of any sort is directed at either of the incumbents. No knock on Nick Kwiatkoski, who has in two seasons and this training camp established himself as an NFL inside linebacker. Nor is it a diss of Sam Acho, who is a physical edge presence with some pass-rush pop. The Bears need both, REALLY need both. 

But the 1983 Bears ranked fifth in the NFL in points allowed with Al Harris as part of a linebacker corps that included Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson. Jim Finks drafted Wilber Marshall in the 1984 first round and Ron Rivera in the second. Harris remained the starter but the Bears also jumped to third in points allowed with Marshall and first the two years after that.

Elite.

Hall of Fame defensive lineman Dan Hampton said years later that Marshall – nicknamed “Pit Bull”by teammates – was the single best individual player on that elite defense, and the player that took things to another level entirely. And as Marshall told Hall of Fame NFL writer Rick “Goose” Gosselin, who created the special-teams ranking system used by every NFL team and now hosts "Talk of Fame Radio:”

"They had Mike [Singletary] sitting on the sidelines when I’m playing middle linebacker on third down. So I wasn’t just a rush guy, like the guys on the end that you see them go 90 percent of the time."

Sounding like a bill of particulars for Smith.

Best guess that Smith – wearing the No. 58 that Marshall wore – will have a new level of impact for a defense that just added a piece with a chance to earn the designation of “elite.”

Fitts and Irving are younger, faster options on the edge. Fitts is bigger and faster (4.69 sec. 40) than Irving, but one can never be too rich, too thin or have too many edge rushers.

And Smith, who had 6.5 sacks last season at Georgia (his only credited sacks in three seasons there), projects to be the fastest Bears linebacker with a documented 4.51-sec. time in the 40 – faster than Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and…well, you get the point.

And speed is the route to “elite.”