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Saturday on CSN: High School Lites - IHSA Semifinals

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Saturday on CSN: High School Lites - IHSA Semifinals

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest IHSA semifinal football playoff games across Chicagoland and beyond on High School Lites, Saturday at 11pm. In Class 8A, can Palatine keep the magic alive and slay another giant in #1 ranked Loyola Academy? Also, in a game that can be seen on CSN Chicago and NBC Live Extra, can Waubonsie Valley advance by beating Marist on Chicago’s South Side? In 7A, can Cary-Grove win a slugfest against Glenbard West in Glen Ellyn? In 6A, can Prairie Ridge win on the road against power Montini Catholic? Catch highlights from games in 3A through 8A on this Saturday IHSA playoff edition of High School Lites.

Class 8A

Loyola (12-0) at Palatine (10-2), 5:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Loyola Academy was able to beat H-F 34-28 last Saturday as the Ramblers put together a 97-yard touchdown drive in the 4th quarter to advance. Loyola will look to its shotgun spread offense led by senior QB Emmett Clifford, senior RB Dara Laja and Northwestern commit WR Eric Eshoo. Palatine has simply played its best football all season in the playoffs. The Pirates needed to rally in last week's 28-24 win over Brother Rice. Palatine will rely heavily on senior QB Zach Oles (2,302 yards rushing, 20 TD; 2,063 yards passing, 19 TD), who is a threat with both the pass and the run at all times. Can the Palatine offense dent a very strong Loyola defense? Can the Loyola offense avoid turnovers and can the Pirates defense force some three and outs?

EDGY's Pick: Loyola Academy 31, Palatine 20

Waubonsie Valley (8-4) at Marist (8-4), 6:00 p.m. on CSN and NBC Live Extra

EDGY's Take: This matchup features two lower seeds who have caught fire at the right time. Waubonsie Valley and veteran head coach Paul Murphy entered the postseason after having lost its last two regular season games and drew a lowly #30 seed. The Warriors have gotten it done behind the running of senior RB Max Irhy and credit the offense in their refusal to give the football back quickly to opposing teams. Their defense is stingy as well. As for Marist? Head coach Pat Dunne has been lighting up the scoreboard once again behind the Redhawks spread passing game. Like Waubonsie Valley, Marist also entered the playoffs on a two game losing streak. For QB Brendan Skalitzky (3,412 yards 36 passing TD's) has been having an All-State caliber season. His main target has been senior RB Darshon McCullough (South Dakota State). Can the Marist defense get the football back from the Waubonsie Valley offense? Could rough weather be a factor here? 

EDGY's Pick: Waubonsie Valley 28, Marist 27

Class 7A

Cary-Grove (11-1) at Glenbard West (12-0), 1:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: If you like the running game and old school hard-hitting physical football, this is the game for you. Cary-Grove and head coach Brad Seaburg will run their triple option offense as junior FB/LB Ty Pennington (1,255 yards rushing 21 touchdowns) is the featured back. Glenbard West and head coach Chad Hetlet will establish the run first with Vanderbilt commit senior RB Sam Brodner (1,332 yards and 40 touchdowns). They will mix in the play action passing game, led by senior QB Brian Cochrane. Can Cary-Grove run the football consistently against the Glenbard West defense? Can the Glenbard West offense keep the Trojans offense on the sidelines? This game has the makings of being one of the top games statewide on Saturday.

EDGY's Pick: Glenbard West 17 Cary-Grove 14

[MORE PREPS: Edgy Tim's candidates for Player of the Year in Illinois]

Libertyville (12-0) at Bradley-Bourbonnais (9-3), 3:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Libertyville and head coach Mike Jones has been one of the favorites since the preseason to advance deep in the 7A field. So far, so good for the Wildcats. Libertyville senior QB Riley Lees (2,156 rushing yards 29 TD/1,663 passing yard 26 TD) has been one of the most electric players in the state in 2015. Lees runs the Wildcats shotgun read option attack and is a big time threat with the run. He has also proven his underrated passing ability in the postseason. Bradley and head coach Mike Kohl has been terrific so far in the playoffs. The Boilermakers have gotten contributions on offense from both the passing game led by QB Owen Starr and WR Camron Harrell along with the running game led by RB Noah Fritz and RB Donnie Ringo. Can the Boilermakers defense contain Riley Lees? Can Libertyville defend both the pass and run threat from Bradley? Can Libertyville play well on the road?

EDGY's Pick: Libertyville 27, Bradley-Bourbonnais 21

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge (11-1) at Montini, 1:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Prairie Ridge and head coach Chris Schremp is back making a deep postseason run. The Wolves feature a speedy triple option offense that has averaged 46 points per game so far in the playoffs. The Prairie Ridge offense starts with sophomore QB Samson Evans, who has game breaking ability on every carry. RB Nate Griffin is another big time runner for the Wolves.  Montini Catholic and veteran head coach Chris Andriano can also score some points when required. The Broncos attack starts with senior QB Justin Blake, who has amassed over 2,300 yards of total offense. Blake has a ton of weapons including junior RB Prince Walker and senior WR Tyler Millikan. Can the Montini defense slow down the option game from Prairie Ridge? Can Prairie Ridge defend the entire field against the Montini offense? 

EDGY's Pick: Montini Catholic 37, Prairie Ridge 35

Crete-Monee (10-2) at Hinsdale South (9-3), 6:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This matchup features two teams that look very similar on both sides of the football. Crete-Monee and head coach John Konecki is still coming off a stunning 38-35 win over Sacred Heart-Griffin. The Warriors offense is led by senior RB Clint Ratkovich, who will also see snaps under center along with sophomore QB Isiah Rucker.  Crete-Monee has a ton of speed in the offensive skills area, including senior WR Landon Lenoir (SIU), WR Kevin Pate and sophomore RB Xavier Ledet. Hinsdale South and head coach Mike Barry might have one of the state's most balanced and productive offenses. Senior QB Sean McCormack (2,810 passing yards 33 TD) and senior RB Marcus Curry (1,202 yards 15 touchdowns) give the Hornets offense sting, while senior DE Josh King (Michigan State) is the top ranked recruit in Illinois for the Class of 2016. Can Hinsdale South continue to move the ball at will this week like they have all postseason long?

EDGY's Pick: Hinsdale South 38, Crete-Monee 35

Class 5A

Nazareth (10-2) at St. Laurence (10-2), 1:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Nazareth Academy and head coach Tim Racki look to make a repeat visit to the IHSA state finals after winning the Class 6A state title a season ago. The Roadrunners once again have some impact names to watch. That list includes senior WR/DB Julian Love (Notre Dame), junior RB Ivory Kelly-Martin, senior OL/DL Matt Prendergast (Lehigh) and junior OL/DL Devonte Dunn. St. Laurence and had coach Harold Blackmon has the Vikings in the state semifinals for the first time since 1979. The Vikings’ offense has also been a strength with QB Alex Martinez and RB Fayezon Smart. Can the Vikings defense find an answer for the Roadrunners’ multiple weapons? Can the Roadrunners ‘D slow down the Vikings offense? The key matchup here could be in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

EDGY's Pick: Nazareth Academy 34, St. Laurence 17

[MORE PREPS: Stanford, Oregon, Wisconsin courting Thomas Schaffer]

Lincoln-Way West (10-2) at Champaign Central (11-1) 2:00 p.m. at Centennial High School

EDGY's Take: Lincoln Way West and head coach Dave Ernst got a huge game last Saturday from senior RB Gabe Montalvo, with a credit to the oversized Warriors offensive line, in a 40-13 win over Peoria. Lincoln-Way West features three D-1 caliber offensive linemen in senior Justin Witt (NC State), Bryan Brokop (Nebraska) and junior Nate Henry (6-foot-4, 310 pounds). Champaign Central and head coach Nate Albaugh has the Maroons in the state semifinals for the first time in school history. Champaign Central is a run-first offense that can spread the wealth. They feature hard running FB Matt Brown along with QB Walker Stillman and a speedy group of wing backs. Can Champaign Central's defense match-up against the extra large Lincoln-Way West offensive line?  Can the Warriors defense slow down a highly productive Maroons offense

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way West 35, Champaign Central 17

Class 4A

Marengo (12-0) at Phillips (12-0), 5:00 p.m. at Gately Stadium

EDGY's Take: Marengo and head coach Matt Lynch took full advantage of nine Rockford Lutheran fumbles in its 38-28 win last Saturday. Most impressive was the Indians defense, which held the state's all time leading career rusher James Robinson to just 108 yards. The Indians are a pass-heavy team with QB Zach Knobloch and a strong group of offensive skills led by RB Jarren Jackson and WR Cration Nice. Phillips, coached by Tim McAllister, are knocking on the door once again. They’re hoping to make a back-to-back Class 4A state title game appearance with a win on Saturday. The Wildcats are led on offense by senior QB Quayvon Skanes (UConn) plus junior RB Kahmari Mosby and a big and physical line on both sides of the football. Can the Indians throw the football consistently against the Wildcats defense? Can Phillips offense spread the field and make the Marengo defense cover the entire field? Could weather be a big factor?

EDGY's Pick: Phillips 38, Marengo 21

Class 3A

Bishop McNamara (11-1) at IC Catholic Prep (11-1), 4:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This game is a rematch from Week One as Bishop McNamara beat Immaculate Conception 49-32. Bishop McNamara and head coach Rich Zinanni will look towards senior RB Jonathon Ware (Central Michigan) to lead the way. QB Kobe Shutter is also very capable in the play action passing game. Immaculate Conception and head coach Bill Krefft also has a top-flight running back in junior Jordan Rowell, who has been drawing considerable recruiting interest this fall. Can the Fighting Irish beat the Knights for a second time in 2015? Can Immaculate Conception's defense slow down Jonathon Ware this time around? What adjustments can IC make this time around against Bishop Mac?

EDGY's Pick: Bishop McNamara 35, Immaculate Conception 27

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: