Bears

St. Edward tackling its assignments

St. Edward tackling its assignments

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
12:05 PM

By Erik Jacobsen
YourSeasn.com

St. Edwards defense provides a lesson in what teamwork is all about.

The Green Wave entered the season lacking size and experience on defense, but that hasnt stopped the unit from becoming the areas stingiest squad, statistically speaking.

Going into Saturdays showdown against Mendota (6-4) in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs, St. Edward (8-2) boasts a defense that is holding opponents to 10.7 points per game. The 107 points allowed by the Wave this season is more than 50 points fewer than the next area team.

Those accomplishments seem even more impressive when it is taken into account that St. Edwards defense returned only four starters from last season and primarily uses a group of 12 players who average about 180 pounds.

So what is the key to success? Coach Mike Rolando says it is all about the players understanding the teams system.

All the guys are very coachable, Rolando said. They understand their assignments within the defense and they dont try to make too much happen. They understand that their job may not be to make tackles, but to contain or to not let receivers behind them.

The big thing is they understand each others roles and they count on each other to get the job done. Theyre not selfish and they dont go outside of their own discipline to try to make plays.

Rolando admits that the defense was a big question mark coming into the season.

Senior defensive tackle Derek Porto, junior defensive tackle Evan Finnane, senior linebacker Jon Keokanlaya and senior safety Sam Pozezinski were the only returning starters for the unit, meaning there would be several new faces at every level of the defense.

It didnt hurt that the incoming junior class was fresh off an undefeated sophomore campaign, but questions still remained.

Any time you make the leap from the sophomore level to the varsity level its a huge disparity in the speed and the physicality of the game, Rolando said. We were hoping theyd be able to play at this level, but when they make that jump you just never know.

It didnt take long for the juniors to assert themselves and take on leading roles.

Junior linebackers Luke Duffy and Mark Sink rank as the teams top two tacklers with 90 and 79, respectively. Junior defensive end Zack McQueen has a team-high seven sacks while junior cornerback Ryan Johnson and junior safety Sean Richmond are tied for the team lead in interceptions with two apiece.

We knew that our defense was going to mainly be made up of juniors, said Sink, the son of Hampshire defensive coordinator Rod Sink. We knew we had to step up and play big and play for our seniors. We didnt want to let them down.

Junior cornerback Matt Brockner (44 tackles) is another key piece to the puzzle along with Finnane, who is the only junior on the team in his second varsity season. Finnane has 54 tackles, six sacks and six forced fumbles.

Given the production of the Class of 2012, its safe to say defense wont be a major concern going into next season.

Luckily were at this point where were in November and were not thinking about next year yet, Rolando said. But in the back of your mind you do catch yourself thinking That (junior-dominated defense) does bode well for the future.

Rolando adds that the success of the juniors is in part due to the leadership provided by the teams seniors, who also play an important role.

Keokanlaya (73 tackles), Porto (four sacks) and Pozezinski (11 pass deflections) have all stepped up their games this season. Meanwhile, senior defensive end Kevin Danikowski has taken his game to a whole new level.

Danikowski didnt get much playing time last season, but he doesnt come off the field this year. In addition to his 64 tackles and five sacks on defense, he also starts at offensive tackle.

Senior linebacker Bobby Waclawik (58 tackles) is yet another important contributor for the Wave, which gets a boost from the scouting and preparation of defensive coordinator Marc Rusinko and the rest of the coaching staff.

Coach prepares us well, Porto said. We always change things up depending on what the offense on the other team does, and we watch a lot of film to get ready.

St. Edward allowed a season-low 69 yards in last weeks win against Chicago Uplift, which marked the first playoff victory in program history. The Wave hasnt allowed more than 29 points in a game this season, and in its eight victories it hasnt given up more than 14 points.

Along the way St. Edward held three opponents scoreless, including back-to-back shutouts in Weeks 2 and 3. Not since 1984 had the program accomplished such a feat, which proved to be a sign of things to come for a Wave team that is setting the bar higher than ever this year.

We strive to get a shutout every game, Keokanlaya said. We want to set an example and play hard-nosed defense every time out.

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

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USA TODAY

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

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AP

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.