Loyola

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

viewers_choice_game_of_the_week_basketball_002.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?              

NBC Sports Chicago and Wintrust present our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of passionate high school basketball followers. Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive and appears in the MyTeams app.  High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago. 

This week's schedule features several games with teams battling for first place in their respective conferences. We're going to spotlight a few of them:

Niles North at Highland Park, 7:00 p.m.

St. Viator at Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m.

St. Ignatius vs. Loyola, 7:00 p.m. (at Loyola University)

To participate, our fans are encouraged to do the following:

**Follow our NBC Sports Chicago preps Twitter page: @NBCSPreps.

**Note the pinned tweet that is atop the feed.

**Vote for the game you want NBC Sports Chicago to cover Friday night.

**Spread the word!

The poll will start promptly at 12:00 p.m. Monday. We will make an announcement with the official results on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights, all season long.

Edgy: Selecting the team of the decade is no easy task

prairie_ridge.png
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Edgy: Selecting the team of the decade is no easy task

Here we are, nearing the end of a decade. In that span, which IHSA football team stands above all the rest. Can it even be narrowed down to a top five? I tried. It's not an easy task. However, everyone seems to have fun with topics like these, so why not? 

First, a ground rule or two. I decided to look strictly at the IHSA state championship winning teams from 2010 through the 2018 season. My approach? I basically just went back and looked into each year's top teams (eight classes) and then looked into which teams truly stood out about the others. Another rule: they all needed to have unblemished 14-0 season records.

Making a list of this nature is a challenge. That said, you need to somehow have a criteria that will at least allow you to make a distinction to separate teams from a very crowded pack. In many cases, there are multiple teams from the same season that deserve the honor. 

So with all of this in mind...here are my Top 5 state championship 'Teams of the Decade' for IHSA football--

1. 2015 Loyola Academy: The 2015 team was the first such Ramblers group to go undefeated en route to a state championship. The Ramblers had a very balanced offensive attack led by QB Emmett Clifford, RB Dara Laja and an offensive line anchored by the Badovinac brothers (Sam and Jack). On defense, they allowed just 123 points all season long. The unit was anchored by DL Ben Leroy (NIU). This team was tough, hungry and physical on both sides of the football. 

2. 2010 Warrenville Wheaton South Tigers: The Red Grange Tigers, coached by Ron Muhitch, had one of the state's most explosive offensive attacks that year. The offense was led by QB Reilly O'Toole (Illinois), Titus Davis (Central Michigan) along with RB Matt Rodgers. Their huge offensive line anchored by Luke Luhrsen (Kansas). 

3. 2016 East St Louis Flyers: This offense was also highly explosive. East St. Louis was led by QB Rey Estes (Minnesota) along with a Player of the Year in WR/S Jeff Thomas (Miami Fla.). Interestingly, a handful of players from the 2016 roster are on the current Flyers' team, which plays in the state semifinals on Saturday. Current WR Lewaun Powell and OL Javonyez Spraggins both were freshmen starters on that title team that defeated Plainfield North in the championship.

4. 2010 Rochester Rockets: Head coach Derek Leonard has had several outstanding state championship teams, but the 2010 team was Rochester's first state title group. They set the tone for a tremendous run for the program. This Rockets group could have completed at the higher classes quite well. They were led by QB Wes Lunt (Oklahoma State/Illinois), DE/TE Riley McMinn (Iowa), WR Zach Grant (Illinois) and LB Garrett Dooley (Wisconsin). 

5. 2017 Prairie Ridge Wolves: Prairie Ridge has had some great teams over the past decade. But for my money, the 2017 6A state title team was something special. No one was able to find a way to win better than QB Samson Evans (Iowa). The remaining roster was strong and included OL/DL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa) along with several other key names including RB Zach Gulbransen, FB Jackson Willis, S Drew Fryer and MLB Jacob Ommen. 

Others who I gave serious consideration? 

2011: Bolingbrook 13-1, Montini Catholic 12-2
2012: Crete-Monee 14-0
2013: Mount Carmel 13-1, Sacred Heart Griffin 14-0 
2014: Stevenson 14-0, Providence Catholic 13-1, Nazareth Academy 14-0, Sacred Heart Griffin 14-0
2015: Glenbard West 14-0
2016: Prairie Ridge 14-0, Maine South 11-3
2017: Lincoln Way East 14-0, IC Catholic Prep 14-0
2018: Loyola Academy 11-3, Nazareth Academy 13-1 

Offense wins IHSA football games...defense wins championships

defense_2.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Offense wins IHSA football games...defense wins championships

Every once in a while I come up with a decent idea for our weekly @NBCSPreps live Twitter segment— like this week's topic: “What are the top defenses that are still alive in the IHSA state playoff field?”

However, sometimes these "great" ideas become a bit harder the longer you look at them. This was definitely the case with this week's segment. 

While we only are allowed to list 13 teams for consideration for these segments (due to space restrictions) I came up with at least a handful of other teams who also could make the final cut of what was shown on the big board. 

Look, any team that makes it to the second round of the playoffs is good and they, more than likely, have a good defense. 

But in my mind, it's much more than just points allowed that separates the very good from the great defenses. 

For me, a great defense is a mindset. It's an attitude. A swagger. And they’re all present in that unit's play for each down.

An example? 

Warren Township’s entire defense plays with a mindset and a mentality that they are going to destroy everyone in front of them. And over the past two years in particular, in more cases than not, the Blue Devils defense has succeeded. Sure, Warren has also has its share of marquee names, starting with Iowa State commit DT Willis Singleton Jr., senior LB Juan Delacruz and junior LB Malachi McNeal. That said, the unit as a whole here is simply stronger than the individual parts. 

There are several other top teams left in Class 8A that are right there with the top defenses across the state. Take Loyola. 
The Ramblers also take on that same mindset and the personality mentioned above. Loyola coach John Holocek has a defense that, year in and year our, keep them in every game this season. The consistency over the years has been something to behold.

Lincoln-Way East head coach Rob Zvonar just seems to reload year in and year out with a brand new group of talented, speedy and highly intelligent kids on the Griffins‘ defense. Of course, having elite talent helps. East features two D-1 defensive ends in Adrain Wilson (Bowling Green) and Sean McLaughlin (Northwestern). The remainder of the Griffins’ defense is more kids who are simply  blue collar types— unheralded names who just show up and grind week in and week out. 

Then there is Glenbard West. Chad Hetlet's defense is nicknamed “The Hitters.” What else do you need to know? The Hitters play with a combination of speed and physicality you just don't see very often. When Hetlet's defense performs to his lofty standards, you can guarantee football in Glen Ellyn well into late November. 

While South Elgin (9-1) is still searching for respect from a rankings standpoint (keep those emails and DM's coming, fans) and while head coach Dragan Teonic teams have been more known for having a wide open offense, the Storm's defense in 2019 has been equally as strong than the offense. If you allow just 45 points in 10 games like the South Elgin defense has, I couldn’t care less about the teams you’ve played. Your defense is exceptional. 

In Class 7A alone you have teams such as Phillips, Mount Carmel, Willowbrook and Lake Zurich who all feature terrific defenses week in and week out. In Class 6A, while downstate Glenwood (10-0) has an offense that seems to get the hype, did you realize that the Titans ‘D has allowed just 105 points in 10 games so far this season? 

We can debate this all day and night long and that's fine. But all I know is that teams with the best defenses will be holding first place trophies on Thanksgiving weekend at NIU.