Blackhawks

Mount Carmel pounds Simeon

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Mount Carmel pounds Simeon

By Mike Clark

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Even if the results were there for Mount Carmel the past two weeks, something was clearly missing.

Though the Caravan was getting healthier with the return of mainstays like linebacker D.J. Romero and more diverse with the emergence of Vince Speller on offense, the formula wasnt complete.

We thought our enthusiasm in the Providence game and the Brother Rice game, it seemed a little down compared to what its been in the past, quarterback Don Butkus said. Thats what wet tried to emphasize, playing with enthusiasm, playing Mount Carmel football. Being fast, energetic. getting to the ball.

I thought the defense really accomplished that.

The numbers proved it, too. The Caravan didnt give up a play for positive yardage till early in the second quarter, when it was up by four touchdowns and well on the way to a 41-6 win over Simeon Friday night in Class 8A second-round action at Gately Stadium.

Butkus threw two touchdown passes to Speller and ran for another score for Mount Carmel (10-1), which goes on the road next weekend to play the winner of Saturdays Lyons-OFallon game. Simeon (8-2), which had won eight straight since an opening loss to Loyola, drops back into the Prep Bowl playoffs.

The tone for this game was set early by Mount Carmel on both offense and defense.

Butkus raced 79 yards down the left sideline on the second play from scrimmage to set up his own two-yard touchdown run on the next play.

Our dive fake ... sold it, Butkus said of the long run. Their safety ended up flying all the way up to the line of scrimmage. I tried to take advantage of it.

After Simeon went three-and-out, Mount Carmel again needed just three plays to score, this time on a 19-yard run up the middle by Draco Smith (10 carries, 66 yards).

Speller then picked off Simeon quarterback Elcee Burke (6-of-12, 70 yards) on the next play from scrimmage and eight plays after that.

Matt Domer (five carries, 58 yards) went 15 yards for a 21-0 Caravan lead with 3:57 left in the first quarter.

Butkus (seven carries, 82 yards; 57 yards passing) hit Speller with scoring passes of 16 and 30 yards in the second quarter, sandwiched around another TD run by Domer of 12 yards. It was 41-0 at halftime and the only score of the second half was Darnell Cockrells late touchdown run for Simeon.

Vince is a hell of an athlete, a big body, Butkus said. We just try to put him where hes going to be able to make plays. A lot of guys are starting to key on Jason Gasser, Mount Carmels leading receiver. ... Being able to hit Vince with two touchdown passes hopefully will open things up for us.

Speller, whos committed to Eastern Illinois as a cornerback, was glad to help out however he could.

We knew Simeon was going to come out and punch us in the mouth, Speller said. We had to throw the first punch.

Drake Caggiula on what it’s like to play alongside Blackhawks idols Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews

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USA TODAY

Drake Caggiula on what it’s like to play alongside Blackhawks idols Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews

Drake Caggiula has been with the Blackhawks for only three weeks. But he's quickly worked his way up the lineup.

On Sunday in a nationally-televised game against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, Caggiula found himself in a dream scenario. He was promoted to the top line with Jonathan Toews, which happened to be the same game the Blackhawks captain was reunited with Patrick Kane. 

Why was it so special for Caggiula? Because these are two players he looked up to as a kid.

"You come to the rink and you see your number next to two Blackhawks legends, it's a pretty cool thing," Caggiula said. "It's a little extra special for me because I grew up idolizing those two players. The biggest reason why I went to North Dakota was because of Jonny Toews. And I used to watch Patty Kane's highlights on YouTube and then go in my basement and try to copy them. It's pretty special to come in the room and see your name is beside theirs."

Most young players would be starstruck. Maybe Caggiula was. But he knew he needed to get past that phase quickly in order to be effective on their line.

"It was a pretty special thing for me to play with them," Caggiula said. "But at the same time you just got to remember you're playing hockey, you're on the same team and you have a job to do. You can't get caught up in that starstruck moment. You've got to make sure you're doing what you're capable of doing. That's just playing the game the right way and try not to get caught up in who you're playing with."

It's safe to say Caggiula didn't get too caught up in it. He turned in his best performance in a Blackhawks sweater in that 8-5 win over the Capitals, and did so while logging 16:40 of ice time. Oddly, he didn't make it on the score sheet despite linemates Kane and Toews combining for 10 points (five goals, five assists).

But he deserved to be.

"He played a perfect game," Kane said of Caggiula. "Won a lot of battles, did a lot of good things. It's unfortunate that he didn't show up on the score sheet more than he did, but he played a great game for us. It takes commitment and courage to try for those 50-50 battles, to go to the net to screen the goalie and I'm coming in there and I'm just shooting it on net trying to pick a corner and he did a great job to screen."

Toews concurred, and envisioned Caggiula's style of play working well with his going forward.

"He's got a lot of skill and he's not afraid for his size to be strong with the puck in the lane and traffic," Toews said. "I told him he needs to be a little more selfish when he has a chance to score. Don't hesitate to shoot the puck. I thought he was a good complement for myself. He's one of those types of guys I enjoy playing with."  

Caggiula isn't a stranger when it comes to playing with star players. He played in Edmonton with Connor McDavid, who became a close friend of his. And the two produced together. 

In the 141:31 minutes they spent at 5-on-5 together, the Oilers controlled 57.7 percent of the shot attempts and had a plus-2 goal differential, according to naturalstattrick.com. When Caggiula was away from McDavid, that percentage dipped to 46.3 and a minus-7 goal differential. 

Playing with McDavid is a little different than playing with Kane and Toews as a linemate, but the main goal is the same for Caggiula: get them the puck.

"Connor plays with a lot of speed," Caggiula said. "And his passing ability is so high end that for the most part I would just try to play a fast game with him and create space for him, and win loose pucks for him as well. But he's such a good passer that I just tried to put myself in good shooting opportunities and I ended up on that line with him being a shooter more than anything. The biggest part of my game is creating good forechecks, creating second opportunities and trying to have the puck a little more on my stick. And if we do turn it over, just find a way to get it back."  

That's what Caggiula brings on a line with Kane and Toews. While those two work their magic with the puck, Caggiula's job is to make sure they keep it. And when they don't have it, be aggressive in getting it back. Then go straight for the dirty areas to make life difficult on their opponents.

"I wouldn't say I'm necessarily a driver of the line, but I can definitely complement them and find ways to create open ice for them, create space for them, create time, create second opportunities by winning loose puck battles," Caggiula said. "They're obviously extremely skilled and extremely smart players, and if I have to go out there and do some of the dirty work and get in front of the net and take a few checks or whatever, I'm more than happy to do that. You're playing with some of the greatest players in the world right now, and you want to do whatever you can to stay there."

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Bears add another pair of players following Mitch Trubisky to the Pro Bowl

Bears add another pair of players following Mitch Trubisky to the Pro Bowl

Add two more names to the list of Bears Pro Bowlers this season.

Offensive linemen Cody Whitehair and Charles Leno Jr. are also heading to Orlando to help lend some protection to Mitch Trubisky, who was named as a replacement to Rams QB Jared Goff Monday.

Leno takes the place of Saints tackle Terron Armstead and Whitehair is replacing New Orleans center Max Unger for this weekend's exhibition game.

Whitehair and Leno have been staples on the Bears offensive line, starting every game the last three seasons (Whitehair at center or guard, Leno at left tackle). 

Whitehair, 26, was a 2nd round selection in 2016 while Leno, 27, was a 7th round draft pick in 2014 in Phil Emery's last draft as Bears GM.

Both players were a huge part of a line that paved the way for Trubisky and Co. to pass for 3,747 yads and rush for 1,938 yards with 44 total offensive TDs.

The complete list of Bears players going to the Pro Bowl after a 12-4 season now sits at: Trubisky, Whitehair, Leno, Tarik Cohen, Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson. 

This is the first time the Bears have had 8 Pro Bowlers since 2007 (following the 2006 season). They previously had 9 selections in the Super Bowl championship season of 1985 and 11 Pro Bowlers in 1942.

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