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.

Gordon season ends in forfeit; Catholic League responds

Just out of reach. File photo, Photo Credit: Jane Rickard

Tuesday was a bad day for Gordon football. The Rams (5-5) turned in their equipment after forfeiting to Leo (5-6) in the Catholic League playoffs.

“I’m extremely disappointed because playing in the Prep Bowl was our goal,” admitted Gordon quarterback Julian Russell over the weekend after learning about the forfeit.
“I felt bad for the Gordon Tech people,” Leo head coach Mike Holmes said after learning his squad was reinstated to the playoffs. “I don’t think the coach at Gordon tried to break the rules. They broke a rule and that was the bottom line.”
Gordon beat Leo 14-8 on October 29 to advance to the second round of the Catholic League playoffs. The victory was overturned by the Catholic League on November 4.
The Rams forfeited for using two ineligible players in the win against the Lions. According to the bylaws of the Catholic League, freshmen are ineligible to participate in varsity games against league opponents. Freshmen are allowed to play in the state football playoffs.
Hales (7-4) beat Leo 20-12 last Saturday night.
Paul Rivas and Adrian Salinas came off the bench and played in a reserve role in the win over Leo at Luther North.
In an exclusive with The Welles Park Bulldog, league officials Jim Prunty and Jim Muting explained their decision on Tuesday.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation,” said Prunty who is currently the Athletic Director at St. Ignatius. “I feel bad for Gordon. Paul Chabura is an excellent athletic director and Bill Jeske is a good football coach.”
Prunty was the basketball coach at St Rita while Muting served as head varsity baseball coach at De La Salle.
“It was difficult to make this decision against Gordon,” said Muting who was interviewed on Tuesday afternoon. “I want to say that Paul Chabura (Gordon Athletic Director) does wonderful things for Gordon. He’s a top notch guy. As president of the Catholic League I had to follow what the league rules and bylaws are even though I might have disagreed with the actions taken in filing a protest. I have to leave my personal feelings out of it and have to deal with the rules and bylaws of the Catholic League.”
At an October 19 meeting for league officials Prunty and Muting claim that the Athletic Directorss were told that coaches couldn’t use freshmen in the upcoming Catholic League playoffs because of league rules.
“My athletic director is not an idiot,” said Gordon head football coach Bill Jeske. “Don’t you think he would have told me that freshmen couldn’t play in the Catholic League playoffs. I don’t think anybody is a better representative for Gordon than Paul Chabura (Gordon athletic director). There is nobody I respect more than that guy. Not once in my mind did I think that our AD made a mistake.”
Jeske also mentioned that he was told by Bishop McNamara High School head coach Rich Ziannini during a league meeting that freshmen could play in the Catholic League playoffs and not the regular season. The bylaw just states that freshmen are ineligible to play in varsity games against Catholic League opponents.
Chabura has decided not to comment on the situation for now.
Chabura told parents last week that Gordon was appealing the forfeit.
“Let me make it be perfectly clear that no one at Gordon played freshman to gain an unfair advantage,” stated Chabura in a letter last Friday to parents.
Unfortunately, this episode has become a soap opera. Prunty in an exclusive interview told The Bulldog that he told Leo Athletic Director Ed Adams that freshmen couldn’t play in the Catholic League playoffs. Leo was hoping to add a freshman quarterback to the roster.
Gordon added 13 freshmen for the rematch with Leo while the Lions added 10 sophomores. Leo beat Gordon 39-19 during the regular season.
“I just wish people would tell the truth,” added Jeske on this matter.
Jeske put the blame on himself over the weekend.
“I guess I am fault,” Jeske said on Saturday morning. “I should have checked the rules.”
Jeske is upset with Leo for filing a protest and with Prunty for not informing the school of his conversation with Adams comcerning freshmen participation in the Catholic League playoffs.
“I’d be disappointed if Gordon was blaming me for this debacle,” stated Prunty.
Prunty is disappointed with Leo filing a protest over two players who were just reserves and not starters and had no impact on the game.
“I am disappointed we got to this point,” Prunty said on Tuesday morning. “I would never do that to any school in our league. I wouldn’t have handled it that way. Neither kid had an impact on the game. It would be different if they scored a touchdown or rushed for 100 yards. They played seven downs.”
Based on conversations both on the record and off the record, three things have appeared to be true:

  • Gordon should have done a better job of checking the rules
  • Leo shouldn’t have filed a protest after losing
  • The Catholic League also should have done a better job of dealing with this issue as well since it cones up every season.

“I’m sure we are going to discuss it.” added Prunty on freshmen eligibility in Catholic League football.
“To be honest, according to the IHSA, freshman can play football,” said Muting. “We do have it on our agenda for our next meeting. We go through this issue every year with the Prep Bowl.”
“We are probably the only league in the state that doesn’t allow freshman to play on varsity,” added Holmes.
Jeske is also upset that Gordon’s reputation and his name has been hurt by this incident.
“To be called a liar and a cheater is not the way I was raised or how oI coach football,” Jeske stated before his final meeting with the Rams. I’m heartbroken. My name has been tarnished along with the great name of Gordon and Tom Winiecki.”