Preps Talk

High School Lites IHSA state finals preview: Class 1A-4A

High School Lites IHSA state finals preview: Class 1A-4A

CSN Chicago (CSN), the television home of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Championships, will be airing live coverage of the 2016 IHSA Football State Championships on Friday, November 25 and Saturday, November 26 from Memorial Stadium in Champaign. In addition, every IHSA Football State Championship telecast on CSN, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, will be streamed LIVE on CSNChicago.com and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones. Highlights and postgame reaction from all eight games will be presented in a special state championship edition of High School Lites, Saturday at 10 p.m., immediately following the 8A title game.

Class 1A

Forreston (13-0) vs. Decatur St. Teresa (12-1), Friday, 10 a.m.

EDGY's Take: Forreston and head coach Dennis Diduch will run the football right at St. Teresa via the Cardinals’ no-huddle, Wing-T offense. All-State junior running back AJ Christensen (1,109 yards rushing 17 TDs) is the headliner in the backfield, but he is one of several quality backs that the Cardinals will use. The Forreston defense has allowed just 68 points all season and their secondary has been a big key to success in the postseason. St. Teresa and first year head coach Mark Ramsey might be new to the school, but he has over 30 years of coaching experience. He brings along a veteran staff as well. The Bulldogs want to get standout sophomore All-State running back/safety Jacardi Wright (2,485 yards rushing 39 TDs) the ball often. Senior quarterback Ryan Fyke (126-of-207 passing for 2,074 yards and 25 TD's) is more than capable of keeping the opposing defense honest. St. Teresa senior All-State lineman Sam Lugenbill leads a very strong linemen group on both sides of the football. Best matchup to watch? The Forreston offensive line against the St. Teresa defensive line.

EDGY's Pick: Forreston 34, St. Teresa 27 

Class 2A

Deer Creek-Mackinaw (12-1) vs. Maroa-Forsyth (12-1), Friday, 1 p.m.

EDGY's Take: These two teams run completely different styles of football, especially on offense. Dee-Mack and head coach Job Linboom want to run the no-huddle power running attack. Look for All-State fullback Jared Reese (1,951 yards rushing 29 TD's) to get several touches. Dee-Mack will also rely on big, experienced offensive and defensive lines. Keep an eye on junior All-State lineman Hunter Mull. On the other sideline will be head coach Josh Jostens and the Maroa-Forsyth Trojans — and they’re quite familiar with the state finals (five other appearances since 2006 with two titles). The Trojans will run a high-tempo spread offense. Quarterback Tyler Ray (149-for-233 passing, 2,293 yards 32 TDs) is a key and also keep an eye on running backs Jaxson Nelson (1,119 yards rushing 15 TDs) and Deondre Gregory (772 yards rushing 8 TD). The Maroa-Forsyth defense is speed-based, relied on by a very strong and experienced core of linebackers including senior Wes Livingood. Can the Maroa defense get the football back from the Dee-Mack offense? Can the Dee-Mack defense slow down the Trojans’ high flying offense?

EDGY's Pick: Dee Mack 28, Maroa-Forsyth 27

[RELATED: CSN to carry live coverage of the 2016 IHSA Football State Championships Nov. 25 & 26]

Class 3A

IC Catholic (13-0) vs. Carlinville (12-1), Friday, 4 p.m.

EDGY's Take: IC Catholic and head coach Bill Krefft are seeking their third state football title. The Knights offense has been exceptional all season behind senior quarterback Luke Ricobene (134-of-200 passing for 2,247 yards and 27 touchdowns) and running back/defensive back Jordan Rowell (2,025 yards rushing 34 TDs). The Knights also possess a very good offensive linemen group led by senior Jimmy Kenneally and senior Robert Vitek. Carlinville and head coach Chad Easterday will try to capture the school's first state title after placing second in state twice (1978 and 1993). The Cavaliers will give the football to All-State running back Jacob Dixon (2,995 yards rushing 45 touchdowns) early and often. The play-action passing game is very capable with quarterback Adam Walton (113-of-187 passing for 1,660 yards 17 TD's). Can the Cavs’ defense slow down the IC offense? Can the Knights handle Carlinville’s speed?

EDGY's Pick: IC Catholic 41, Carlinville 20

Class 4A

Johnsburg (13-0) vs. Rochester (12-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Johnsburg was able to take full advantage of several Phillips turnovers for a thrilling, 23-20, semifinal win last Friday. The Skyhawks, coached by Dan DeBoeuf, will make their first state title game appearance in school history. All-State running back Alex Peete (2,295 yards 37 touchdowns) will get a lot of looks. Senior lineman Joe Moore (6-foot-3, 260 pounds), an Air Force verbal commitment, is a name to watch along with junior quarterback/linebacker Riley Buchanan (1,556 yards passing 18 TDs). Rochester and head coach Derek Leonard has the Rockets playing in their sixth 4A state title game over the past seven years. They feature a wide open spread passing game led by senior quarterbacks Nik Baker (2,418 yards passing 28 touchdowns) and Josh Grant (1,177 yards passing 21 touchdowns). Keep an eye on the Cox twins: wide receiver/defensive back Avante Cox (68 catches for 998 yards 19 TD's) and Deante Cox (6-foot-0, 170 pounds). A downfield target will be 6-foot-6 senior WR Collin Stallworth (47 catches 1, 078 yards 14 TDs). Can the Johnsburg defense contain Rochester’s big play offense? Can the Rochester defense slow down Johnsburg’s running game?

EDGY's Pick: Rochester 35, Johnsburg 17

Saturday's slate of games:

Class 5A: Vernon Hills vs. Peoria, 10 a.m.
Class 6A: Prairie Ridge vs. Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, 1 p.m.
Class 7A: Plainfield North vs. East St. Louis, 4 p.m.
Class 8A: Loyola vs. Maine South, 7 p.m.

Basketball coaching legend Gene Pingatore dies

Basketball coaching legend Gene Pingatore dies

Legendary high school basketball coach Gene Pingatore—the winningest boys basketball coach in Illinois history—died on Wednesday night at the age of 83.

St. Joseph won two state championships (1999, 2015) under Pingatore, while also capturing six sectional championships during a high point from 1982 to 1988. During his tenure, Pingatore helped produce three McDonald’s All-Americans and led the Chargers to nine state appearances.

On February 11, 2017, Pingatore collected his 1,000th win—his overall record was 1035-383—and is still to this day the only Illinois high school basketball coach with over 900 wins. The legendary coach also helped guide some of the state’s greatest talents along their way to stellar careers. Among Pingatore’s star pupils are Indiana Hoosiers great Daryl Thomas, 2010 John R. Wooden Award winner Evan Turner and NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas.

He was also well known for his important role in the critically acclaimed “Hoop Dreams”, the 1994 documentary that followed high school athletes William Gates and Arthur Agee as they chased their dreams of being NBA players, while also dealing with the socio-economic difficulties of traveling from inner-city Chicago to Westchester, Illinois every day for school. According to the Sun-Times, Pingatore was coaching this past weekend at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout. 

In his 50 years of coaching at St. Joseph, Pingatore made an indelible mark on many lives and the St. Joseph community at-large.

Lincoln-Way East's AJ Henning commits to Michigan

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NBC Sports Chicago

Lincoln-Way East's AJ Henning commits to Michigan

Lincoln-Way East 4 star ranked running back AJ Henning (5-foot-10, 183 pounds) today gave the University of Michigan his verbal commitment.

"At the end of the day Michigan was just the best overall for me," Henning said. "Michigan has stuck with me in this process for a long time including when I was injured and never backed off. Michigan also recruited me but also  got to know my family well which really made a strong impression on me."

Henning, who narrowed down his final list of schools to Michigan. Georgia, Notre Dame and Penn State new that Michigan was his school after his recent official visit. 

"When I made my official visit to Michigan is when I knew that I found my school. I was able to just get a great feel for the coaches and the guys on the team on my official visits. I just felt that I will be a great fit at Michigan socially, athletically, academically and that I really fit in well with the guys on the team. After my official visit I knew that Michigan was the place I needed to be."

Henning, who ended up selecting Michigan over scholarship offers from 33 FBS schools  is bit thrilled and relived to have announced his college choice.

"It's definitely a relief, but just being able to be recruited and offered scholarships from 33 different schools is a true blessing. I'm just glad I found a home in Michigan."