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

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7


Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.