Saturday on CSN: High School Lites - IHSA quarterfinals


Saturday on CSN: High School Lites - IHSA quarterfinals

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest IHSA quarterfinal football playoff games across Chicagoland on High School Lites, Saturday at 11 p.m. In Class 8A, can Homewood-Flossmoor keep the Drive alive and beat Loyola Academy on the road? Naperville Central suffered its lone defeat against Waubonsie Valley. Can it get revenge on the Warriors in Saturday’s rematch? In 7A, can Cary-Grove take its ‘ground and pound’ on the road and win in Batavia? In 6A, does the final story of Lincoln-Way North's final season extend to the semifinals, or does Hinsdale South close the final chapter in Phoenix football history? Catch highlights from games in 4A through 8A on this Saturday IHSA playoff edition of High School Lites.

Class 8A

(8) Homewood-Flossmoor at (1) Loyola, 1 p.m.

EDGY's Take: The 8A showdown that many fans across the state have wanted to see all season long is here. Homewood-Flossmoor (10-1) head coach Craig Buzea will look to his quick strike and explosive offense to counter the stout Loyola defense. Keep an eye on HF senior QB Bryce Gray (Notre Dame baseball commit) and senior twin running backs Devonte and Deante Harley-Hampton, who will be asked to dent one of the state's top defenses. Loyola Academy (11-0) head coach John Holocek will look to get his offense in gear behind senior QB Emmett Clifford, senior RB Dara Laja and a group of big and physical receivers, led by senior Eric Eshoo (Northwestern). Whose defense can rise to the challenge this week? Everyone will talk about the HF offense against the Loyola defense, but for me the key matchup is the Ramblers offense against the Vikings defense. 

EDGY's Pick: Loyola Academy 24, HF 21

(6) Naperville Central at (30) Waubonsie Valley, 1:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This game is a DuPage Valley Conference rematch from back in Week 4, a Waubonsie Valley 15-14 upset win over the visiting Redhawks (10-1). Waubonsie Valley head coach Paul Murphy will give the football to senior RB Max Irhy early and often. Irhy will run behind a solid Warriors offensive line, and QB Jack Connolly is more than capable of keeping the Redhawks defense honest with the playaction pass. Naperville Central went back to work after that loss to Waubonsie Valley (7-4) and hasn't looked back since. Senior QB Connor Joyce has been a huge part of the Redhawks' success since the loss to Waubonsie Valley. Paired with an already strong running game, the Redhawks are going to be tough to defend. Can Naperville Central slow down the Warriors running game this time around and get the football back to its offense? 

EDGY's Pick: Naperville Central 21 Waubonsie Valley 14

(5) Brother Rice at (13) Palatine, 2 p.m.

EDGY's Take: How about those Pirates? Palatine (9-2) and head coach Rick Splitt have won five straight games and are playing great football at the right time of the season. Palatine will rely on senior QB Zach Oles, who is a threat at all times with the pass and the run. Oles also has plenty of targets in WR Matt Lamm along with RB Josh Turner. The Pirates also have a knack of winning close games this season. Brother Rice (10-1) and head coach Brian Badke will look towards senior QB Cam Miller and a potent shotgun spread offense. Keep an eye out for junior WR Ricky Smalling for the Crusaders. Can Palatine slow down the Rice spread passing attack? Can the Crusaders defense get a handle on Zach Oles?

EDGY's Pick: Brother Rice 34 Palatine 31

Class 7A

(5) Cary-Grove at (4) Batavia, 1 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Cary-Grove (10-1), coached by Brad Seaburg, was supposed to be in a reloading mode this season after making it to the 7A state title game a year ago, and obviosuly the Trojans didn't get the memo.  Cary-Grove junior FB/LB Ty Pennington is the main ball carrier in their power running game and he’s also a terrific defender. Batavia (10-1) and head coach Dennis Piron struck Simeon early with the big play in last week's 35-14 win. The Bulldogs are getting a big season from senior QB Kyle Niemiec who is a threat with the run and the pass. Batavia also has an impressive group of tall and speedy receivers including junior TE Glenn Albanese. Can the Batavia defense get the football back to its offense early and often? Can the Cary-Grove defense contain the Batavia balanced offense and also avoid giving up the big play? 

EDGY's Pick: Cary-Grove 27 Batavia 21

Class 6A

(13) Hinsdale South at (1) Lincoln-Way North, 6 p.m. 

EDGY's Take: This game could easily wind up being one of the top games across the state on Saturday. Mike Barry has his Hornets (8-3) are on a two year run. Keep an eye out for senior QB Sean McCormack along with senior RB Marcus Curry. The Hornets offense can hit teams equally well with the run and the pass, while the defense is anchored by senior four star ranked DE Josh King (Michigan State). Lincoln-Way North and head coach George Czart has directed the Phoenix well this season despite the closing of the school in the balance at the end of this school year. Lincoln-Way North (11-0) features a balanced offense behind QB Ryan Arthur plus WR Drew Slager, WR Jaylin Branch and RB Joe Peters. Can the Phoenix defense slow down  the multiple weapons from the Hornets offense? Can Hinsdale South's defense get a handle on the Phoenix passing game? 

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way North 28 Hinsdale South 27 OT

Class 5A

(3) Joliet Catholic at (7) Nazareth, 1 p.m.

EDGY's Take: These two East Suburban Catholic Conference foes will square off in a game that will have a much bigger feel on Saturday in LaGrange Park. Joliet Catholic (10-1) took a 31-0 halftime lead then hung on for dear life to beat the Road Runners 38-35 back in Week 7. Joliet Catholic, who features big and physical offensive and defensive lines, will run the football early and often. Keep an eye out for JCA senior RB Michael Johnson, sophomore RB Ke'von Johnson plus QB Cade Earl. Nazareth Academy (9-2) brings plenty of talent to the table. Keep an eye on senior WR/RB/DB Julian Love (Notre Dame) and junior RB Ivory Kelly-Martin. Did Nazareth find something they can exploit from their Week 7 loss to the Hilltoppers? Will we see the ‘first half’ or ‘second half’ JCA team this time around against Nazareth?

EDGY's Pick: Joliet Catholic 35 Nazareth Academy 27

(3) Peoria (10-1) at (7) Lincoln-Way West, 3 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Peoria and head coach Tim Thornton has done a terrific job of bringing the Lions program to the forefront of Class 5A. The Lions have some serious firepower with sophomore QB Coran Taylor and with WR Jamir Whitelow. The injury list for Peoria (10-1), however, is growing and standouts RB Kenten Watkins and OL Jeff Scott remain questionable for the Lions on Saturday. Lincoln-Way West (9-2) and head coach Dave Ernst received good news last week when injured QB Connor Lowman returned from injury. That said, the Warriors want to run the football first with RB Gabe Montalvo and an NFL-sized offensive line anchored by senior OT Justin Witt (NC State) and senior OG Bryan Brokop (Nebraska). Can Peoria match up with the size of LWW? Can West slow down/keep up with the Lions explosive offense?

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way West 31, Peoria 21

(8) Tinley Park at (5) St. Laurence, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Expect a ton of offense here as Tinley Park (9-2) and head coach Nick Johnston will look toward RB Lamont Brooks and QB Dan McCullough to lead a very potent attack. St. Laurence (9-2) also has some weapons on offense including QB Alex Martinez and junior RB Fayezon Smart. Both schools are making their deepest IHSA state playoff run since 1986, as Tinley Park in 1986 wound up winning the Class 4A state football title. Last possession wins here?

EDGY's Pick: St. Laurence 41 Tinley Park 38

Class 4A

(4) Geneseo at (1) Phillips, 7 p.m. at Gately Stadium

EDGY's Take: Phillips head coach Tim McAllister (11-0) has been looking hard at how to better defend Geneseo (10-1) and its power veer option attack. Geneseo and head coach Larry Johnsen has run the same offense --and has worn the same Green Bay Packers influenced uniforms-- for years with tremendous success. Phillips will look towards senior QB Quayvon Skanes (UConn) along with a team loaded with skills and speed. The Wildcats defense is also big, quick and physical. Watch out for senior DT Amir Watts. Can the Wildcats solve the Maple Leafs punishing running attack? Can the Maple Leafs run and stay with the Phillips skill players?

EDGY's Pick: Phillips 21 Geneseo 20

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North


Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

NBC Sports Chicago’s John "Moon" Mullin talked with The MMQB's Albert Breer, who shared his thoughts on where the Bears stand — and if they’ll be able to compete — in a highly competitive NFC North.

Moon: The Bears have made upgrades, but they’re in the NFC North and not many divisions are tougher, given the strength at quarterbacks.

Breer: Yes. You look at the other three teams, and they all very much believe they’re in a window for winning a championship. The Packers are going through some changes, but they’ve gotten Mike Pettine in there as defensive coordinator and a new general manager who was aggressive on draft day. I know that internally they feel that’s going to give them a boost, and bringing Aaron Rodgers back obviously is the biggest thing of all.

Minnesota, all the things they did this offseason, signing (quarterback) Kirk Cousins, (defensive lineman) Sheldon Richardson, and they were knocking on the door last year.

The Lions have been building for two years under (general manager) Bob Quinn and (new coach) Matt Patricia, who lines right up with the general manager — the two of them worked together in New England. They really believe that Matthew Stafford is ready to take the sort of jump that Matt Ryan made in Atlanta a few years ago, where you see that mid-career breakthrough from a quarterback that we see sometimes now.

It’s one of the toughest divisions in football, and every team in the division believes that it’s in the position to contend right now.

Moon: We didn’t see a lot of Mitch Trubisky — 12 games — so it sounds possible that the Bears could improve and still lose ground.

Breer: The Lions were pretty good last year. The Vikings were in the NFC Championship game. And who knows where the Packers would’ve been if Rodgers hadn’t broken his collarbone. The biggest change is that Aaron Rodgers will be back, and that’s the best player in the league. It was a really good division last year, and you’re adding back in a Hall of Fame quarterback.

As far as the Bears, there’s going to be questions where the organization is going. It’s been seven years since they were in the playoffs. I think they certainly got the coach hire right. This is a guy who I know other organizations liked quite a bit and was going to be a head coach sooner or later.

And I think he matches up well with Mitch. I think the Bears are in a good spot, but as you said, they’re competing in a difficult environment, so it may not show up in their record.

Moon: A lot of love for the Vikings after they get to the NFC Championship and then add Kirk Cousins.

Breer: A lot of people look at Minnesota and think Kirk Cousins’ll be a huge improvement. And maybe he will be. I think he’s a very good quarterback, top dozen in the league. But Case Keenum played really, really well last year, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting anything out of that position last year.

The NFC right now is clearly the strength of the league. If you picked the top 10 teams in the league, you could make a case that seven or eight of them are in the NFC. I think there will be NFC teams that miss the playoffs who could be in the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC. There’s a little bit of an imbalance there.

Moon: Trubisky projects as part of a wave of new quarterbacks league-wide, a sea change in the NFL.

Breer: The interesting thing is that this is probably as stable as the league has been at quarterback in a long time. There’ve been questions where the next great quarterbacks will come from, but I don’t know that there’s a team right now in the NFL like you looked at the Jets or Browns last year, where you say that team is definitely drafting a quarterback in 2019.

Everyone either has a big-money veteran or former first-round pick on their roster. One team that doesn’t is the Cowboys, but they’ve got Dak Prescott who’s played really well. Every team in the league has some stability at the position. I think the position is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, and you’ve got a lot of good young prospects.