Preps Talk

Edgy Tim: Here come the Youngslingers

NBC Sports Chicago

Edgy Tim: Here come the Youngslingers

It's not every day that a high school football team has a freshman quarterback who already has an FBS scholarship offer -- and the attention of Power Five schools from across the Midwest -- on the roster. It's even more rare when that same high school football coach decides to keep his hot shot same freshman gunslinger, or youngslinger if you will, on the bench instead of in the starting lineup.

"It definitely wasn't an easy decision," Nazareth Academy head coach Tim Racki said when asked about why then-freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy sat on the sidelines last season. "But I had to go with my gut, and my gut told me not to throw him (McCarthy) into the fire. Fortunately, J.J.'s parents are awesome people who trusted me and supported my decision last year."

McCarthy (6-foot-2, 180 pounds), who is holding verbal scholarship offers from South Carolina, Iowa State, Cincinnati and Indiana, paid his dues last year for the IHSA 6A state runner-up Roadrunners. He has since taken full advantage of his opportunity. After six games, he has thrown for 1,623 yards and 21 touchdowns with no interceptions. He has only played in 14 quarters so far in 2018.

"I've never had a D-1 quarterback before and now I know what one looks like," Racki added. "At times I forget he's just a sophomore when I watch him play. The football just pops out of his hand. His throws are like a laser beam and he can just do everything you want and need from any quarterback. J.J. also had a big growth spurt since last season and fortunately it's all coming together and working out."

Yet McCarthy isn't the only sophomore quarterback making some noise at the varsity level this season.

Antioch sophomore Athan Kaliakmanis (6-foot-3, 185 pounds), who already has verbal scholarship offers from Iowa, Iowa State, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Central Michigan, started last season as a freshman on the varsity team at Carmel. He decided to transfer back to his home school district last spring along with his brother WR Dino Kaliakmanis. The Sequoits (6-0) are rolling and the duo leads an offense that is averaging nearly 39 points per game.

Earlier this year I watched East St. Louis sophomore QB Tyler Macon (6-foot-0, 180 pounds) lead the Flyers to a triple-OT win over Missouri power Trinity Catholic in front of 8,000-plus fans. Macon has been a huge boost to an already loaded Flyers roster stacked with underclassmen talent. 

Naperville Central sophomore Sam Jackson (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) saw playing time under center last fall at Bolingbrook and transferred to Naperville Central this past spring. Jackson is starting and making an impact at wide receiver for the Redhawks this season and is the heir apparent to Western Michigan commit senior QB Payton Thorne starting next season.


Machesney Park Harlem sophomore QB James Cooper Jr. (6-foot-0, 195 pounds) has the Huskies to a 5-1 record. DeKalb sophomore QB Trenton  Kyler (5-foot-10, 160 pounds) has produced a similar 5-1 record with the Barbs. Providence Catholic (5-1) was getting a nice season from sophomore QB Kevin Conway (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) before suffering a season-ending injury. St. Laurence sophomore QB Darius Wilson (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) has shown real flashes of promise. There are better days to come for the Vikings-- their roster is stacked with underclassmen talent this fall.

Maybe the biggest eye-opening performance this past week came from a freshman. Springfield’s Rashad Rochelle (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) led the Senators (4-2) to a stunning 49-41 upset win over state power Sacred Heart-Griffin (4-2); Springfield defeated the Cyclones for the first time since 1999.

Needless to say, the rise of the “Youngslingers” is upon us in the Land of Lincoln.

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

Who wants it more? 

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area boys basketball fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on Friday night’s "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m on NBC Sports Chicago. The show also live streams at High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago. This week: it's bracket time! We are highlighting some of the 2A boys basketball regional championships around the Windy City.

Which boys basketball sectional title game would you want to see the most?

2A Latin, 7:00 p.m. (poss. teams: Latin, Uplift, Parker, Disnery, Christ The King and ASPIRA)

2A UCCS/Woodlawn, 7:00 p.m. (poss. teams: UCCS/Woodlawn, Leo, CICS/Ellison, Noble/Baker, ACE Amandla)

2A Dunbar, 7:00 p.m. (poss. teams: Dunbar, Urban Prep/West, Chi. Military Acad./Bronzeville, Wells, Phoenix, Horizon/McKinley)

We will update this article after Tuesday's/Wednesday's semifinal games conclude.

To participate in the poll, our fans are encouraged to do the following:

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word!
The poll will start at 12:00 p.m. Monday. We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.

NBC Sports Chicago Preps Basketball Power Rankings: Week 13

NBC Sports Chicago Preps Basketball Power Rankings: Week 13

The latest Preps Power Rankings see a ton of changes this week thanks to a lot of top-25 matchups in the Public League Playoffs. With eight ranked city teams facing up to three games this week, there was a lot to keep tabs on as we're only a week away from the Class 3A/4A boys basketball state playoffs from starting.

Here's a look at the latest Power Rankings as we head into the home stretch. 

1. Curie (29-1) (1) -- The state's best team by a wide margin (based on regular season accomplishments) Curie put the icing on the cake by winning the Public League Playoffs. The Condors have the rare mix of star power and balance as they're the favorites in 4A right now.

2. Morgan Park (26-4) (3) -- Morgan Park finally saw its winning streak snapped during the Public League Playoff finals as they'll be the favorites to win again in Class 3A.

3. Evanston (25-4) (5) -- Beating rival New Trier for another solid win, the Wildkits are rolling as they try to make it back down to Peoria. 

4. Bloom (23-3) (6)  -- Solid wins over Thornton and Rich South during the week as Bloom prepares for a postseason being a hunted team.

5. Simeon (16-14) (15) -- Figuring things out after an up-and-down season, Simeon broke through with a win over rival Whitney Young before giving Morgan Park a huge scare in the semis.

6. Bogan (22-3) (2) -- The Bengals fell to Orr in the Public League Playoffs as they'll try to regroup for the Class 3A playoffs.

7. Whitney Young (22-7) (4) -- Whitney Young fell to Simeon in the Public League Playoff semifinals as the Dolphins continue to lack major tournament titles this season.

8. Orr (19-11) (14) -- The Spartans made a huge impression by knocking off Bogan in the city quarterfinals as they Class 2A champs will be a tough out in the state playoffs.

9. Geneva (27-1) (9) -- Quietly, Geneva continues to pile up wins as they have 12 straight after their only loss to Lake Park. 

10. Lincoln Park (20-7) (10) -- The Lions fell in the Public League Playoff quarterfinals to Morgan Park as they prepare for the State Playoffs. 

11. Providence-St. Mel (23-6) (16) -- Monster week for Providence-St. Mel by handily beating St. Rita and also holding off Leo. They look like the team to beat in Class 1A. 

12. Bolingbrook (19-6) (17) -- Sweeping Homewood-Flossmoor should give Bolingbrook a ton of confidence as the Raiders are 

13. St. Viator (23-5) (23) -- The Lions look like they're back as point guard Trey Calvin's return makes them a 3A favorite. The win over Marian Catholic was huge.

14. Marian Catholic (24-4) (7) -- Falling on the road to St. Viator in ESCC play, the Spartans finish the regular season with Joliet Catholic. 

15. St. Rita (21-8) (11) -- The Mustangs saw their recent hot-streak stopped by Providence-St. Mel but they bounced back with an important Catholic League win over DePaul Prep.

16. OPRF (17-8) (19) -- OPRF maintained its pace with a tight win over Downers North. This week sees Proviso East and the West Suburban title game.

17. Farragut (17-7) (18) -- The Admirals lost in the quarterfinals of the Public League Playoffs to Curie as Aaron Strong and company will be tough in 3A.

18. Homewood-Flossmoor (19-7) (8) -- Homewood-Flossmoor lost again to Bolingbrook while also dropping a game to Maine South. The Vikings don't have a top-25 win since December.   

19. York (26-4) (20) -- Earning two wins in conference play, York continues to beat the teams they should.

20. St. Laurence (24-5) (22) -- Three wins for the Vikings last week after some recent losses. St. Laurence remains an intriguing Class 3A team. 

21. Riverside-Brookfield (25-4) (24) -- Twelve consecutive wins for the Bulldogs as they now have the most regular-season wins in school history.

22. Benet (21-7) (NR) -- Back in the Power Rankings after a notable win over Stevenson, the Redwings get a crack at St. Viator in ESCC play this week.

23. Stevenson (23-4) (12) -- After a strong North Suburban overtime win over Waukegan, the Patriots finally fell to Benet on the road.

24. Waukegan (23-5) (13) -- Senior Bryant Brown became the Bulldogs' all-time leading scorer last week, but the Bulldogs fell to Stevenson in overtime during the week.

25. Maine South (21-9, 5-5) Peaking at the right time, Maine South has eight straight wins -- including a notable win over Homewood-Flossmoor over the weekend.