NBC Sports Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school football games across Chicagoland on the Week 4 edition of High School Lites, Friday at 11:00 p.m. Can Yorkville beat Joliet West and stay undefeated in the Southwest Prairie West conference? Southwest Suburban conference rivals Lincoln-Way East and Bolingbrook square off in another big matchup of top 10 teams. The last time IC Catholic Prep and Bishop McNamara squared off it was at the Class 4A state title game. Will this rematch serve as a preview for the 4A title game this November? This week we #SENDEDGY to cover Loyola playing at Mount Carmel. Can the Caravan remain undefeated at their new on campus facility, Carey Field? Also: Who do you have in this week's Viewers' Choice Game? CPL Illini Prairie State foes Payton and Clark do battle on the West Side.
Yorkville at Joliet West, 6:30 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Yorkville (3-0) is off to a strong start behind the arm of QB Josh Beetham. The senior has a great target in fellow upperclassman WR/S Cale Reeder (South Dakota) and a deep group of running backs. Don't overlook the Foxes' defense. The unit has allowed just 10 points in three games. Joliet West, coached by Bill Lech, stands at 0-3. That said, the Tigers have played the hardest Southwest Prairie crossover schedule so far in losses to Oswego, Minooka and Oswego East-- all undefeated. West will look to get the ground game going behind a big offensive line along and a running game led by junior RB Trenten Howland. Can the Tigers get the running game going this week? Can they find a way to derail the Yorkville offense?
EDGY's Pick: Yorkville 26 Joliet West 16
Schaumburg at Deerfield, 7:00 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Schaumburg (2-1) has bounced back with two straight wins after a close 16-13 loss in the opening week to York. Coach Mark Stilling has a potent offense this fall, led by QB Luke Jessie and junior RB Mike DeGiola. Deerfield (2-1), with veteran head coach Steve Winiecki, is off to a strong start. They're coming off a 31-24 double-overtime loss to Rolling Meadows. The Warriors will rely on the arm of QB Ryan Nagelbach. RB/DE Colin Ward has been an impact player on both sides of the football. Can Deerfield limit the Saxons' big play abilities? Can Schaumburg get the job done on the road?
EDGY's Pick: Schaumburg 31 Deerfield 30 OT
(1) Lincoln-Way East at (9) Bolingbrook, 7:00 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Top-ranked Lincoln-Way East (3-0) is off and running. The Griffins boast another deep, talented roster. Senior QB Kyle Quinn runs the LWE offensive, a group that's stacked with skills and speed. They're highlighted by senior four star-ranked WR/RB AJ Henning (Michigan). They have a stable of quality running backs and an experienced offensive line. On defense, they have playmakers in senior DE Sean McLaughlin (Northwestern) and senior DE Adrain Wilson (Bowling Green). Bolingbrook (3-0) and head coach John Ivlow has the Raiders playing well. The Raiders will establish the run game with senior QB Devyn Suggs (Yale), with senior OL John Williams (Cincinnati) out in front. Don't overlook senior WR Antonio King plus and TE Trevor Borland (Buffalo). The 'Brook defense also hsa speed and playmakers. Junior S Justin Walters is already drawing major Power Five scholarship offers and recruiting attention. Can the East defense take away the Raiders running game? Can the Bolingbrook defense limit the big plays? Could the kicking game/special teams be a big factor here?
EDGY's Pick: Lincoln Way East 28 Bolingbrook 21
IC Catholic Prep at Bishop McNamara, 7:15 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Defending Class 4A state champion IC Catholic Prep, coached by Bill Krefft, has a certain familiarity with Metro Suburban Blue foe Bishop Mac. The Knights have relied on a one-two punch of senior QB Danny Cronin's running and passing abilities. Junior Kyle Franklin remains one of the top running backs in Chicagoland. Bishop McNamara and Hall of Fame head coach Rich Zinnani also boasts a one-two punch on offense with QB Ty Hiller along with RB/LB Owen Jackson. RB Manny Harris is another name to watch for the Fighting Irish. Last possession wins?
EDGY's Pick: IC Catholic Prep 35 Bishop McNamara 34
Raby at Phillips, 7:30 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Raby is coming off a 35-2 loss to Solorio last week. Head coach DeAngelo DeReef and the Raiders will need to be able to get the offense going against CPL powerhouse Phillips at Mandrake Park Friday night. Phillips head coach Troy McAllister is looking to get another strong performance this season from his Wildcats. QB Terryon Thrower has been a key playmaker through the first three games. They feature a deep backfield that includes senior RB Rashaun Thompson and RB Tyler Clark. Senior ATH Ronald Pledger (Western Michigan) is another impact player with big play potential.
EDGY's Pick: Phillips 46 Raby 6
(25) Notre Dame at (10) Providence, 7:30 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Notre Dame made a big statement last week in beating Marist 21-14. The Dons, with Hall of Fame head coach Mike Hennessey, utilized a strong defensive effort along with steady play from junior QB Anthony Sayles and senior RB Julian Schurr in the victory. Providence Catholic also pulled off an impressive 34-22 road win over Brother Rice last Friday. Junior QB Kevin Conway ran for three touchdowns and passed for. The Celtics also limited the Crusaders offense and made key stops when they were needed. Can the Notre Dame defense slow down a balanced Providence offense-- and also defend the very large Celtics receiving group? Can Providence get the football back from the Dons' ball control offense?
EDGY's Pick: Providence Catholic 21 Notre Dame 13
(2) Loyola at (7) Mount Carmel, 7:30 p.m. #SENDEDGY
EDGY's Take: Loyola was able to pull away last Saturday in beating St. Rita 24-7. The Ramblers offense got a big game from RB Vaughn Pemberton. Coach John Holocek's defense forced a handful of key turnovers in the win. Mount Carmel is coming off a solid 27-20 win over Montini. Junior QB Justin Lynch continues to impress this season running the Caravan's offense. Junior RB/LB Kenenna Odeluga and senior OL/DL Jalen Grant are names to watch for the guys in brown and white. Can the Loyola offense get on track early and often? Can Mount Carmel's spread offense dent the always tough Loyola defense? Should be a good one on the South Side.
EDGY's Pick: Loyola 27 Mount Carmel 21
Marist at (13) Brother Rice, 7:30 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Forget the fact that both teams are coming off tough Week 3 losses. Nothing gets the blood boiling more on either sideline than the annual South Side Super Bowl when Marist takes on Brother Rice in the Battle of Pulaski Road. Marist (2-1) and head coach Ron Dawczak will utilize the Redhawks' dual quarterback system with senior Hayden Mikesell and sophomore QB Dontrell Jackson Jr. Senior WR AJ Markett should make play and junior OL Pat Coogan anchors the line. Brother Rice (2-1) has a big time game breaker in junior RB Willie Shaw. The Crusaders have struggled to get the play-action passing game in gear. The Rice defense has been a strength. Senior DT Justin Jefferson, senior S Giacomo Iraci and junior ILB Myles Jones will make the tackle sheet often. Can Brother Rice get its passing game in gear? Can the Marist offense kick things into a higher gear?
EDGY's Pick: Brother Rice 21 Marist 20
Viewers' Choice Game of the Week
Payton vs Clark at Rockne Stadium, Thursday 4:15 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Clark head coach Kevin Simmons has the Eagles (2-1) playing well so far this season. Their only loss came in Week 2 to suburban St. Viator. Payton (3-0) is also rolling. The Grizzles have a deep and experienced roster, led by senior QB Sage Schlinder along with RB/DB Damien Goodman. Can Clark's defense slow down an explosive Payton offense? A win here is big for either side. It's shaping up to be a four team race (Back of the Yards and Kenwood are the others) in the CPL Illini Prairie State conference this season.
EDGY's Pick: Payton 35 Clark 27
Consider this a presentation of the best-case outlook for a Bears’ offense that’s slogged its way through two ineffective games to begin the 2019 season.
It doesn’t mean it’ll definitely come true. But this is the line of thinking being presented around Halas Hall this week: This offense is close to clicking, and when it does click, it’ll be spectacular.
Digging deeper into that glass-half-full thought, it can be explained by this simple truth: The Bears haven’t found their offensive identity yet.
That lack of an identity has shown up in the different personnel packages coach Matt Nagy used over the first two games. The Bears are running fewer 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers) and 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two receivers) packages than they did in 2018, for example.
Also: They’ve already run 22 plays out of 20 personnel (two running backs, no tight ends, three receivers). In 2018, the Bears ran only six plays using 20 personnel; only the Bears and New England Patriots have run more than four plays out of 20 personnel in 2019.
“I think when you are where we are at in the last two games and trying to figure out, massage and find out exactly what your identity is, you play through personnels,” Nagy said. “You play through matchups. You play through how guys are playing and how coaches are coaching, myself. So you play through all of that and try to put that puzzle together and then what you do is hope that you continue to stack wins and then you kind of morph by Week 6, Week 7 and you say, okay, you know what, we went through all of that and now know who we are and now let’s go ball out.”
The Bears did this a year ago, though not to as extreme of an extent. They ran just as much 11 personnel in Weeks 1-3 as they did in Weeks 4-17 (with Week 4 being that offensive explosion against Tampa Bay) but wound up using less 12 personnel from Week 4 on than they did over the first three games. A large part of that was personnel-driven, though: The Bears quickly figured out Dion Sims wasn’t cutting it as a “Y” (in-line) tight end, and didn’t have much flexibility to plug in trustworthy receivers behind Allen Robinson/Taylor Gabriel/Anthony Miller.
Perhaps the perceived improvements made to the Bears’ roster in 2019 — David Montgomery, Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson — have allowed Nagy to try more things than he was able to early in the season last year. That could be a double-edged sword, though, as the Bears’ offense showed more signs of life early in 2018 than 2019’s group has.
Perhaps, too, the absence of Trey Burton in Week 1 and the gradual integration of him back into the offense in Week 2 has hurt the Bears’ chances of finding that identity. The more Burton plays, the better shot the Bears may have at getting their offense to click.
“You just gotta believe this week is gonna be the week,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “So we haven’t been executing the way we want to. There is definitely some things that we are missing on film but we’re coming together and we’re correcting them.
“The most important thing to me is that my guys still believe in me. I believe in myself and we’re one unit. We’re together. We’re sticking together and we’re gonna do what we gotta do to correct it and we gotta believe that this offense could explode at any minute because of the playmakers and the special guys we have in the locker room.”
So in the confines of playing games without an offensive identity, a team can have more receptions by running backs than wide receivers through two weeks, a clear sign of a team lacking any sort of rhythm or explosiveness:
Through Week 2, here is the distribution of receptions by each team.— Anthony Staggs (@staggsNFL) September 19, 2019
Nearly 43% of the Bears completions have gone to their RBs. Yuck. pic.twitter.com/uLuxMiaU11
Again, this is the optimistic viewpoint, one carrying the implication that the Bears' offense will be fixed once Nagy, Trubisky, etc. can settle on an identity marrying playcalling and execution. Trubisky said he and Nagy are working through that process, with the quarterback acting as a conduit for his playmakers to his coach.
"I talk the most with coach about what guys are comfortable with, what they’re feeling, what they like and what they don’t like and just where we’re at as an offense and where we wanna go," Trubisky said. "So we kind of had this last year in the beginning of the season where we had some offensive struggles on third down, not clicking, and we got a couple guys in some new spots and obviously we added some new pieces so we’re not clicking the way we want to.
"... I think we have that faith and that strong core that believes if we just continue to do our jobs, like work even harder, get in the film room a little more and study our game plan and just go out there and play the game that we know how to do, and make sure that I am doing my job and getting the ball to the playmakers that we can be the explosive offense that we saw at times throughout last year and that the offensive struggles or whatever you want to call it is a thing of the past. Hopefully that is not us anymore."
The glass-half-empty view of the Bears' offensive issues is troubling, though: Has the league figured out Nagy and Trubisky? Are the Bears' weapons not as good as we thought? Has Trubisky somehow regressed?
While Weeks 1 and 2 have been dismal, it's too early to answer any of those questions in the affirmative. Two weeks is not enough time to slam the panic button, even if it's fair to be moving toward it.
So all the Bears can do right now is trust and believe that this thing will get fixed. It's early enough in the season to hang on to that hope, and lean on the crutch of not having an identity yet.
But the clock is ticking. And it won't be long before the Bears run out of excuses.