By John Montgomery

The high school football season began with Mt. Carmel(10-4) beating Simeon(10-4) at Soldier Field in August. The season ended with Bolingbrook(13-1) beating Loyola (13-1) 21-17 at Champaign in the Class 8A championship game.
In our area, the two biggest stories occurred off the field. Gordon(5-5) forfeited to Leo(5-6) in the Catholic League playoffs while Lake View linebacker Ashley Diaz missed the season due to health issues.
In the Prep Bowl at Soldier Field, Brandon Greer rushed for 221 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Caravan to their 11th city championship. Simeon fell short despite 205 yards passing from backup quarterback Elcee Burke.
Mt Carmel has won 11 Prep Bowls and 10 state football championships. This past year saw Mt Carmel head coach Frank Lenti become the state’s winningest man on a high school sideline in Illinois. Lenti will enter 2012 with 313 wins and only 58 defeats.
In our neighborhood, Gordon made the Catholic League playoffs despite suiting up only 22 players. The Rams were hoping to advance to the state football playoffs.
Leo beat Gordon 39-19 at Luther North in an embarrassing loss for the Rams during section play.
The Rams were ready for the rematch as they stunned Leo 14-8 limiting Keith Harris to 23 yards on 12 carries and more importantly no trips into the end zone at Luther North.
The thrill of victory turned into the agony of controversial defeat six days later as Gordon forfeited for playing two freshmen in the win over Leo. Leo re-entered the playoff and was beaten by Hales(7-5).
Under Catholic League rules, freshman are ineligible to participate against Catholic League opponents. Freshmen can play in the state playoffs. This rule might be changed after the outcry over this forfeit.
On the field, Lane(3-6) endured its third straight losing season. Taft(7-3) won the Big Shoulders section over Foreman(7-3) and Mather(6-3).
Diaz missed the season for Lake View(7-2), who won the section title after losing season opener to Gordon 54-0.
Eventually Mt Carmel would meet and beat Simeon in the Prep Bowl.
Most people still don’t think it’s fair for the Catholic League and Public League teams that lose in the state playoffs to re-enter Prep Bowl playoffs.
In the state playoffs, could Maine South(10-1) win a fourth straight title? The Hawks were upset by Stevenson(9-3) in the second round of the Class 8A tournament. Maine South could be a factor again in 2012 with Matt Alvitti returning for his senior year at quarterback.
Fans, coaches, and media were anticipating a rematch between Loyola(13-1) and Maine South in the semifinals of the 8A playoffs. Maine South had beaten Loyola in back-to-back years enroute to state championships.
Stevenson stunned Maine South so the next best matchup would Loyola-Bolingbrook in the title game at Champaign.
Bolingbrook(13-1) won its first state football title beating Loyola 21-17 on Saturday to close the book on football 2011. Junior quarterback Aaron Bailey had two touchdowns and 149 yards rushing to lead the Raiders. A dramatic game despite the weather conditions and five turnovers by Bolingbrook.
Another game that would be interesting to spectators was Montini clashing with Joliet Catholic in the Class 5A championship. Montini(12-2) beat Joliet Catholic 29-28 in the 2009 Class 5A final.
The rematch wasn’t a disappointment as Montini won its third straight state football title 70-45 over the Hilltoppers(11-3), who have won 13 state football championships. Montini’s Jordan Westerkamp caught five touchdown passes from quarterback John Rhode. Westerkamp, who will attend Nebraska, had 11 receptions for 331 yards. The Broncos overcame a stellar performance by Joliet Catholic junior Ty Isaac. Issac rushed a state record 515 yards and six touchdowns in the loss.
Dakota(12-2), Morrison(13-1), Aurora Christian(13-1), Rochester(12-2), Prairie Ridge(13-1), and Rockford Boylan(14-0) left Champaign with state football championships.
Now, my choices for Player and Coach of the Year. The Player of the Year in our area is Gordon quarterback Julian Russell. Russell finished his senior year with the Rams by rushing for 763 yards and 15 touchdowns. Isaac is my pick for Player of the Year in the Chicago area. Isaac ran for 51 touchdowns and 2,629 yards.
My selection for Coach of the Year in our area of Chicago is Taft’s Matt Walsh. Walsh has revived the program at Taft winning the section title this past season while making appearances in the state playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
The choice for Coach of the Year in Chicago area is Prairie Ridge’s Chris Schrempf. Prairie Ridge won the Class 6A title over the weekend by beating Peoria Richwoods. The school located in Crystal Lake won its first state football title after losing in the semifinals in 2010 to Rockford Boylan.
More high school sports next week including Gordon’s Catholic League opener against Loyola in basketball.



By John Montgomery

What a difference a year of experience on a football field can make for Gordon’s Julian Russell. Last year, Russell was learning a new offense at quarterback while adjusting to life on the varsity team.
Russell rushed for 974 yards, but Gordon finished 2-7 while trying to learn Navy’s option offense.
“I was comfortable last year,” Russell said. “It’s really no difference (to me).”
“He makes this offense go,” admitted Gordon offensive coordinator Chris Haas. “He can do things that are not in this offense. If we go to the playoffs, it’s going to be on him. He sets the pace. He sets the tone in practice everyday. He’s a thousand times better passing the ball. We can throw the ball(if necessary).”
Russell had a great opening day rushing for 149 yards and four touchdowns to lead Gordon past Lake View 54-0 on Saturday at Lane Stadium.
“He worked hard in the offseason,” Gordon head coach Bill Jeske said after the win. “(Julian) has worked on his quarterback skills. He’s the real deal. He’s a hundred percent better throwing the ball.”
Gordon jumped out to a 26-0 lead in the opening quarter by taking advantage of three turnovers while limiting Lake View to zero yards of total offense.
“They just didn’t come to play,” said Lake View head coach Mike Menczynski.
Russell started his day by scoring on a 44-yard run in the opening offensive series of the 2011 season.
Gordon didn’t need the passing game on this day as the Rams rushed for 295 yards while Lake View could generate only 26 yards of total offense and completed only one pass.
Russell had a 27-yard touchdown pass to Scott Calderon called back on an illegal motion penalty.
Russell had a good game, but Gordon received contributions from its offense and defense. Four different players scored touchdowns in the season opener.
“We have a lot of weapons,” stated Russell in his orange shoes.
Russell wasn’t the only player looking forward to opening day. Lake View’s Ashley Diaz was hoping to make her varsity debut at linebacker for the Wildcats.
Diaz will miss the entire season for medical reasons after failing a team physical in July.
“She understands the game more than most of our players,” Menczynski said on Diaz who played on the sophomore team last year. “For her first year playing linebacker she did well. She’s disappointed (about not playing this season). It’s only a game.”
Things weren’t much better for Lake View in the second quarter as Russell raced into the end zone on two long plays.
Russell scored twice in that opening quarter along with teammates Jorge Garcia and Habeeb Durojaive.
Jeske is expecting big things from Russell and his teammates in 2011.
“I expect him to win the Lawless Award(given to Catholic League Player of the Year),” proclaimed Jeske. “I’m expecting us to go to the state playoffs.”
Gordon has only 31 players, and Jeske will rely heavily on his 16 seniors to carry the burden of bringing the Rams back to postseason play.
The next challenge for Gordon will be trying to slow down De La Salle sophomore Mikale Wilbon. Wilbon rushed for 262 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Meteors(1-0) past Lane 35-7.
Lake View will face Kennedy on Thursday at Winnemac Stadium.

Riley O’Toole tops in football: Montgomery

Time to look back at the 2010 football season.

Fans couldn’t be too surprised at the success of Curie. Curie had a talented trio of Maurice Fleming, Kevonta McIntrye, and Brandon Barker.

This reporter was impressed after watching Curie beat Lane 37-7.

The Condors (9-6) eventually won the Public League beating perennial contender Morgan Park 40-34 in one of the most exciting title games ever at Gately Stadium.

Curie’s dream season ended in a 6-0 loss to Fenwick(8-5) in the Prep Bowl last Friday at Soldier Field. Curie was making their first appearance in the city championship game.

Curie had chances to win this contest gaining over 250 yards. Curie drove inside the Fenwick 20-yard line five times and failed to score.

This was a physical game as Fleming was knocked out of the game twice.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to celebrate in our circulation area. No area team had a winning record and all four squads failed to make the playoffs.

My choice for Player of the Year in our area is Lane running back Fred Williams. Williams was one of the few bright lights in as 4-5 season for the Indians who were adjusting to a new coach and new offense.

Amundsen (2-7) received great fan support despite playing atough section against Morgan Park, Hubbard, and CVS.

A storyline for next year will be Lake View linebacker Ashley Diaz. Diaz played on the sophomore team and has caught the attention of the CHICAGO FORCE women’s football team.

Lake View won only once in 2010 after losing nine players.

Another player to watch next season will be Gordon quarterback Julian Russell. Russell rushed for 871 yards on a 2-7 team. The Rams were unable to make the big play in critical situations this past season.

The news on the North side wasn’t all bad as Senn (9-1) made the state playoffs and lost to Grayslake Central in the opening round.

Will a Public League team ever win a state football championship? Simeon(11-1) certainly showed they had the right stuff after upsetting Mt Carmel in the opening game at Soldier Field. Simeon lost in the state quarterfinals to Lake Zurich 17-14.

My choice for Player of the Year in the Chicago area is easy. Wheaton South quarterback Reilly O’Toole had a magnificent season throwing 42 touchdown passes to lead the Tigers(14-0) to their seventh state football title.

Many fans and observers wondered how Maine South would do after the graduation of running back Matt Perez. All Perez did in 2009 was rush for 34 touchdowns to lead Maine South to back-to-back state titles.

Maine South (12-2) won its third straight Class 8A state title over Mt Carmel (11-3) last Saturday night in Champaign.

The Hawks lost their first two games of the season. The Hawks have won three straight titles with three different quarterbacks.

The future looks bright with sophomore Matt Alvitti.

My choice for Coach of the Year in the Chicago area is Homewood-Flossmoor’s Craig Buzea. HF went from 1-8 to 10-3 and a berth in the state football semifinals where they were beaten by Mt. Carmel.

Congratulations to eight state football champions.

Finally, team to watch in basketball will be Simeon. The player to watch will be Anthony Davis who plays for Perspectives in the Public League and the 6-10 senior who is going to Kentucky is considered one of the top players in the country.

Lake View ends season with 21-0 loss; Sophomore class promises better 2011

Next year starts now for Lake View High School (1-8, 0-7). The Lake View Wildcats ended their season by losing 21-0 to Foreman High School (6-3, 5-2) in the Big Shoulders section finale at Hanson Stadium Thursday.

Lake View is hoping for better things in 2011 with 20 players returning. The Wildcats were derailed this year when eight players didn’t play forcing head coach Mike Menczynski to use four different quarterbacks.

Foreman has to be excited about next season after watching the performance of junior Sergio Serrano. Serrano completed 18-of-26 for 266 yards and two touchdowns.

“We played a lot better” in the second half, said Menczynski. “But for every good play, two or three bad plays. It’s not just a yard loss, it’s a fumble, it’s an interception, it’s an injury. It’s not small mistakes. It’s big mistakes.”

“We wish we were going to the (city) playoffs,” admitted Foreman head coach Earnest Wilson. “We made too many mistakes. I’m proud of them, but I thought we could beat Lake View. I don’t want to sound arrogant.”

Foreman and Lake View play in the Big Shoulders section of the Chicago conference, which has its own playoff. Wilson will find out this week if his team makes the Chicago playoffs since generally only the top two teams from each section advances. Senn High School (9-0, 7-0) and Taft High School (7-2, 5-2) made the state playoffs that start this weekend. Taft beat Foreman 28-20.

The Wildcats were able to move the football against Foreman generating 212 yards of total offense. Lake View couldn’t finish drives while they were unable to contain Serrano.

“We were in cover three,” said Menczynski after the loss. “I don’t know how you get beat deep? They were wide open. It was a passing drill for them.”

“He played pretty good,” said Wilson on his quarterback’s performance. “He still made some mistakes. We are looking for big things from him next year. He had some good moments.”

Serrano was outstanding in the first half completing 11-of-15 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns as Foreman took a 14-0 lead.

Lake View was fortunate to be in the contest since Dawaun Stevenson missed two field goals for Foreman.

The Wildcats did play better in the second half on offense and defense. Lake View generated 135 yards in the last two quarters and failed to find the end zone.

“I think they realized it was the last two quarters of the season,” said Menczynski.

One player to watch out for next season is sophomore linebacker Ashley Diaz. Diaz started for a 3-2 sophomore team, and Menczynski admitted he will give Diaz a chance to be a starter or part-time player in 2011.

Lake View’s season was a mixed bag. The Wildcats only win was against Kennedy High School. In section play, Lake View went 0-7 and lost close encounters to Schurz High School, Clemente High School, and Prosser High School.

Senn (9-0) was the class of the Big Shoulders section going unbeaten while scoring 412 points in nine contests. Senn will face Grayslake Central High School (5-4) in the state playoffs this weekend.

One has to wonder, would Lake View be preparing for the playoffs if Menczynski hadn’t lost eight players?

Ashley Diaz: Dedicated, smart, potential football leader

Ashley Diaz, ready for her chance. Photo Credit:Steve Stearns

The first game of any football season is difficult. Now, imagine playing your first competitive game of football at any level.

Lake View’s Ashley Diaz played linebacker and started last week in a loss to Uplift.

“I was pretty nervous,” admitted Diaz. “It was hard during the first two quarters but after awhile I was getting the hang of it. It was pretty scary. It was fun because you are meeting people that are not on your team. It was fun to play.”

Diaz tried out for the sophomore team and made her first appearance last week at Clarendon Park. Diaz is hoping to play on varsity next season and play for the CHICAGO FORCE after high school.

Diaz received high praise from her coaches.

“I thought she did a tremendous job,” said sophomore coach Ryan Goldflies. “She was a defensive captain. She ran the defense and got everybody on the same page. She read the plays well.”

“She played well,” said Lake View head varsity football coach Mike Menczynski. “She’s a smart player. She knows her assignments.”

Diaz was no different than most other kids in Chicago. Diaz grew up watching and playing football with her friends. Diaz is an avid fan of the Chicago Bears and Ohio State.

Diaz might have made her debut as a freshman, but the school didn’t have enough equipment.

Coaches believe that Diaz can contribute at the varsity level.

“She’s exceptional on and off the field,” added Goldflies. “She gives 110 percent in every drill. She is the total package as a football player. If we had a full team like her we would dominate.”

“She seems very dedicated to the game,” Menczynski said. “She has held her own in practice so far. She’s one of our smarter football players on the team.”

Diaz was in the stands last Thursday to watch Clemente (3-2,2-1) beat Lake View 26-20. This has been a tough season the Wildcats (1-4, 0-2) who lost eight starters due to injuries before the season began.

Lake View blew a 14-0 lead in the loss to Clemente.

Diaz dreams of playing at Soldier Field in the Prep Bowl.

“I would love to play at Soldier Field,” said Diaz who hoping to become a detective. “This is a great team. I love this school.”

Diaz credits her teammates with helping her learn the game. There is  a difference between playing and watching the sport.

“They have been really nice,” said Diaz. “They are teaching me all of the things I have to learn. I take precautions. I do all of the things my coaches tell me and I won’t get hurt.”

Diaz enjoys the many challenges of playing football.

“I love the adrenaline rush,” said Diaz. “Catching the football, hitting people, making touchdowns, getting fumbles, it’s amazing.”

Mencyznski is just trying to keep his current team focused after injuries derailed this season.

“A few kids stepped up,” stated Menczynski before his team faced Clemente. “It was a good opportunity for them to play. They enjoyed the challenge.”

“I think she has the potential to be a leader on this team the rest of her tenure at Lake View High School,” said Goldflies on his starting linebacker.