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High School Boys Volleyball: Marist on the cusp of another trip to state

By Randy Whalen
Correspondent

Marist is one win away from another trip to the state tournament and the chance at a second consecutive title.

But they will first have to get past another perennially elite program to get there.

The RedHawks will play Lincoln-Way East on on Tuesday, June 14 for the Marist Sectional championship in matchup of the two most recent state champions.

With the 2020 season canceled because of the pandemic, Marist won the last boys state volleyball championship in 2019, following the Griffins’ run to the title in 2018.

The RedHawks advanced to the sectional title game via a two-set vanquishing of Homewood-Flossmoor, 25-26, 25-10, on June 12. Marist (27-3) never trailed and was tied only once, when it was 1-1 during the opening set. Ahead 5-3, senior right side hitter Nyherowo Omene (8 kills, 2 aces) had back-to-back kills to trigger a 5-1 burst as the RedHawks pulled away.

They opened the second set with the first five points, raced out to a 10-2 lead, and coasted.

H-F (14-12) was playing in its first sectional since 2016.

Senior outside hitter Kyle Pietrzak (7 kills, 2 blocks), sophomore middle hitter Mike Uldrych (5 kills, 2 blocks), senior setter Neil Riggio (15 assists), and senior libero Matt Monahan (12 digs) were also big for the RedHawks.

“We’re definitely happy it worked out and we have to use our home court to our advantage,” Omene said. “Our goal is just to get one or two percent better every match. We don’t give ourselves that tangible goal of a state championship. We just want to get better every time.”

Marist coach Jordan Vidovic agreed.

“We just want to feed of the consistency that we’ve worked on,” he said. “We just want to visualize, use our variety, and help each other out. We just have to trust each other and not get caught up in something else.”

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High School Football: Jake Maziarka runs for 4 TDs in Sandburg’s win over Stagg

By Jason Maholy
Sports Editor

During the week heading into Sandburg’s matchup with Stagg, Eagles coach Troy McAllister’s message to his players was to not take the winless Chargers for granted.

The Eagles were coming off the program’s most significant victory since at least 2015, a 30-27 triumph over powerful Lincoln-Way East in a game they entered as a heavy underdog. One week later, they were facing a Stagg program that came into the matchup with 20 consecutive losses.

McAllister’s point of caution was reiterated, albeit not by himself, when the Chargers scored on their third offensive play to knot the score at 7-7 four minutes into the game.

But the Eagles responded in grand fashion, scoring 45 unanswered points before halftime and locking down on defense, and rolling to a 59-14 win in Palos Hills.

“This was a trap game,” McAllister said afterward. “We were Lincoln-Way East’s trap game and Stagg was ours. [A victory] means the world to us and they’ve got nothing to lose, and the mindset all week was ‘don’t take them lightly, let’s get after it.’

“Other than that first touchdown they scored, the rest of the game we took care of business.”

Sandburg (3-4, 1-2) has won two straight heading into a South Suburban Blue matchup with Homewood-Flossmoor (4-3, 1-2). The Eagles would likely earn a playoff berth with wins in their final two games.

Stagg will travel to Bradley-Bourbonnais, where they will try to break into the win column for the first time since a 36-16 victory over Little Village in Week 1 of the 2019 season.

The teams traded touchdowns on their opening drives. Sandburg senior running back Jake Maziarka ran for the first of his four touchdowns to stake the Eagles a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game. The Chargers pulled even barely more than a minute later when Lebarion Gilmore hooked up with TJ Griffin for a 48-yard score.

McAllister said the play resulted from a blown coverage and got the attention of his defense.

“Sometimes you hate having that happen, but it was a wake-up call for sure,” he said.

On Sandburg’s ensuing drive, Maziarka scored on a 10-yard run on 4th-and-3. Before the half was over he would add touchdown runs of 6 and 5 yards, with those being part of a 35-point second-quarter outburst that initiated a running clock at the start of the second half.

Sandburg senior defensive lineman Nathan Gibbons sacks Stagg quarterback Lebarion Gilmore during the Eagles’ win over the Chargers. Photo by Jason Maholy

Maziarka finished with 12 carries for 100 yards, and consistently broke tackles to gain yards after contact. After playing wide receiver his junior season, his skill set opened eyes in summer camp, prompting McAllister to move him to running back, filling a position of need for the Eagles.

“He’s a fast, agile player, but when he see something in front of him he tries to run it over,” McAllister said of Maziarka. “He’s become a very versatile back for us, which is what we needed from him his senior year.

“The first couple weeks of camp we were trying to figure things out, and we thought he was pretty good when he runs with the ball, and he has a big frame and he’s nice-sized kid with some good speed. It was pretty straight-forward what to do with him.”

The Eagles’ big second quarter was punctuated by a 36-yard touchdown run by Christian Evans. The junior quarterback took the snap with 6 seconds remaining on the game clock, ran up the middle, then cut left across the grain and toward a field of green along the sideline as he turned up-field. No Stagg defender was within five yards of him until he got to the end zone, with zeros on the clock.

McAllister said the plan had been to kick a field goal.

“[Evans] was going to run 5 yards and take a knee, but he just saw it open on that side of field,” McAllister said. “He said, ‘Coach, I had to go [for the touchdown].’”

Evans completed 12-of-17 passes for 141 yards and tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jake Wantroba. He added seven rushes for 75 yards and a score.

Wantroba caught six passes for 67 yards. Also for the Eagles, Sanad Alshubbak kicked a 42-yard field goal and junior running back Katrell Thompson had a 1-yard touchdown run.

For the Sandburg defense, junior linebacker John Thompson returned an interception 16 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles recorded four sacks, two by senior defensive lineman Nathan Gibbons and one each by Alex Szczeniak and Jaylen Wright. Joe Shelton forced a fumble that was recovered by Dylan Schick.

For Stagg, junior running back Aiden Taylor had a 6-yard touchdown run.

Stagg senior wide receiver TJ Griffin sprints toward the end zone for a touchdown during the Chargers’ loss to Sandburg on Oct. 8. Photo by Jason Maholy

High School Football: Kendrick Washington’s 3 TDs lead streaking Shepard past Oak Lawn

By Steve Metsch
Correspondent

Although it is possible handful or two of teams will get into this season’s playoffs with four wins, no team that can still get five wins is looking at that as a realistic scenario.

Shepard is one of those teams looking at itself as one-and-done, and has had that mindset since a loss to Richards dropped the Astros to 0-4. After two straight victories, they came into last week’s matchup with Oak Lawn seeking to continue the streak, and hopefully run the table to get to five wins.

The Astros are in position to do that after defeating Spartans, 46-15, on Oct. 8.

Leading the Astros (3-4, 3-1) was the X-factor. That would be Kendrick Washington.

The speedy and elusive senior — the reigning South Suburban Red player of the year — figured heavily in the outcome. For the third straight game, Washington scored three touchdowns. And each was spectacular.

Washington was at quarterback when he scored on a 77-yard run 51 seconds into the game.

“I saw the hole,” Washington said. “It went from there.”

A 2-point conversion on a sneaky snap to lineman Jeremy Rowlett gave Shepard an 8-0 lead.

Washington’s next touchdown came in the second quarter and pushed the lead to 32-15.

Oak Lawn senior quarterback Gabriel Duer had just scored on a 1-yard keeper and threw a 2-point conversion pass to junior John McGlynn with 5:48 left in the third quarter to draw the Spartans within 10 at 25-15. Washington put an immediate damper on the comeback attempt when he returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a 32-15 lead with 5:36 left in the third quarter.

Oak Lawn coach Ryan Pattison thought the Spartans had grabbed the momentum when Duer scored.

“Then, No. 1 (Washington) takes it back to the house.”

Washington wasn’t done.

Oak Lawn’s Gavin Butler scores a touchdown against Shepard. Photo by Steve Metsch

With the Spartans driving, Duer heaved a pass into the end zone on 4th-and-13 from Shepard’s 15 yard line. The ball floated past the intended receiver and into the waiting hands of Washington, who dipped and darted a school-record 108 yards for his third touchdown. It gave the Astros a 39-15 lead with 2:11 left in the third quarter.

Washington’s grit impressed Shepard coach John Rone.

“All the second-half stuff this young man did was after he took a helmet to his (right) knee,” Rone said. “We weren’t sure at halftime if he was going to come back. He played through pain and did awesome.”

Washington must be constantly accounted for, Pattison said.

“His speed — it’s so hard to mimic at practice,” he added. “He’s a great player.”

Shepard scored its second touchdown 13 seconds after Washington’s 77-yard run. Oak Lawn had recovered an onside kick at its own 45, seemingly in good shape. But on the drive that followed, Astros defensive lineman Jamil Jones stripped the ball from running back Nicco Reyes and scored.

A 30-yard field goal by junior Zander Soltysiak made it 18-0 with 2:11 left in the first quarter.

Spartans senior Gavin Butler scored on a 4-yard run to cut the lead to 18-7 with 8:14 left in the second quarter, but Shepard senior running back Xavier Rogers (7 rushes, 75 yards) answered with a 13-yard run for a 25-7 halftime lead.

Shepard junior quarterback Quran McLellan (5-for-8, 45 yards) closed the scoring with a 7-yard run with 3:18 left in the game.

The Astros, who have game remaining against Reavis (3-4, 1-3) and Argo (3-4, 1-3), are thinking playoffs.

“With this coach, anything is possible,” Washington said, referring to Rone.

Pattison hopes his team learned a lesson. The Spartans (3-4, 1-3), who are trying to advance to the postseason for the first time since 2009, have games remaining against Argo and Evergreen Park (4-3, 2-2).

“We’ve got to learn to fight down the stretch,” Pattison said. “They fought like their backs were up against the wall, and we didn’t fight that way.”

High School Football: JCA beats Rice in battle of top-rated teams

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

Brother Rice quarterback Jack Lausch has put up some impressive running and passing numbers in both wins and losses this year.

The Crusaders, who were ranked No. 1 in the state by the sportswriters in the Associated Press poll heading into Friday’s action, had a 49-46 setback to Class 8A No. 1 team Loyola in Week 4 of the season and Friday night dropped a wild 56-49 loss to Class 4A No. 1 team Joliet Catholic Academy at Tom Mitchell Field in Chicago.

In both losses, Lausch, who is headed to Notre Dame to play both football and baseball, and the Crusader offense shined.

In the Loyola loss, a Chicago Catholic League Blue/East Suburban Catholic Conference Blue game, he threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 156 yards and three more scores.

Against JCA, he threw for 416 yards on 24-for-37 passing and three touchdowns and ran for another score. His rushing numbers (14 carries, 34 yards) were down thanks in part to losing 22 yards on second-half sacks. He hit teammate Da’Kobie Wordlaw nine times for 224 yards.

Running back Aaron Vaughn finished with 133 rushing and 42 receiving yards as the Crusaders (5-2) racked up 583 yards in the defeat.

“It’s good to know we can move the ball on other defenses,” Lausch said. “But the win is the most important thing and that’s something we’ll fix, and we’ll be ready come playoff time to win those games.”

Rice had a 14-0 lead before JCA touched the ball thanks to two touchdowns sandwiching a successful onside kick. The Hilltoppers recovered from that went went to work.

The Crusaders finished their regular season home schedule with the loss and close the season at Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights on Friday and at Marist in a huge rivalry game on Oct. 22.

Since the Illinois High School Association bases its seedings on records, the Crusaders will not be picking up a No. 1 seed but figure to still have an upper-level seed when the brackets are announced Oct. 23.

The Crusader defense will have to tighten up against elite teams.

In wins over Hillcrest, Benet Academy and De La Salle, Rice gave up just 26 points. But in a win over traditional power Mount Carmel and the losses to Loyola and JCA, they gave up 138.

Joliet Catholic’s Jordan Anderson is covered by a Brother Rice defender after a second-half run. Anderson kept the defense busy all night with 316 yards on 30 carries. Photo by Jeff Vorva

JCA (7-0) racked up 687 yards with Illinois-bound running back Jordan Anderson piling up 316 yards on 30 carries with six touchdowns while Vinny Iannantone added 20 carries for 138.

Joliet quarterback Aidan Voss threw for 91 yards and ran for 66 more. He and Lausch were once teammates on a youth baseball team and their fathers Jonathan Voss and John Lausch played on JCA’s 1987 Class 5A championship team.

Before the game, retiring Crusaders coach Brian Badke was honored with a plaque for coaching in his final regular-season home game.

 

Retiring Brother Rice coach Brian Badke receives a plaque on Friday night for his final regular season home game. Photo by Jeff Vorva

 

College Football: Olivet tops Saint Xavier in offensive showdown

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

The number 13 was not lucky the second time.

For the second time in as many home games, St. Xavier University faced the 13th-ranked team in the nation in NAIA play according to the coaches polls. While they stunned 13th-ranked St. Francis, Indiana, 38-0, on Sept. 25, the 18th-ranked Cougars had their troubles Saturday with 13th-ranked Olivet Nazarene and dropped a 45-38 battle at Bruce Deaton Field.

The loss drops the Cougars to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Mid-States Football Association Midwest League.

“Well, our playoffs start now,” Cougars coach Mike Feminis said.

The NAIA will take the league champion and a committee decides on who fills out the rest of the field.

“We wanted to win all of our games, but now it’s do-or-die,” said quarterback Stuart Ross, who threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 39 yards and a TD.

 

SXU running back Amari Venerable lunges forward for a touchdown reception in a 45-38 loss to Olivet Nazarene. Photo by Jeff Vorva.

The Cougars visit Missouri Baptist Saturday and host Trinity International on Oct. 23 and Judson on Oct. 30. They close the regular season at St. Ambrose and at St. Francis, Illinois.

None of those teams are currently ranked so it appears the meatiest part of SXU’s schedule is over.

SXU had leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 21-14 but ONU (4-1, 2-0) answered back each time and took a lead of 24-21 at halftime.

Tigers quarterback David Hutton, who entered the game with 1,042 passing yards in four games, was injured late in the first quarter and left the game. Freshman backup Cameron Crouch stepped in and threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns while Jalen Dunnigan had four catches for 203 yards and three TDs.

“I would have never guessed we could give up that many points in a million years,” Feminis said. “This is the opposite of how I thought this was going to go.”

SXU outgained Oliver 490-486. Running back Amari Venerable had 98 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown and caught two passes for 13 yards and a touchdown. Justin Pringle had eight catches for 120 yards.

“Our defense has carried us all year and our offense has lagged behind,” Ross said. “It’s nice to see points put up on the board but I just wish it would have been a win.”

While the defense had eight tackles for losses for 27 yards, it only had one quarterback hurry and no fumble recoveries or interceptions.

 

Offensive neighborhood
Deaton Field and Tom Mitchell Field are within plain sight of each other and there was a lot of offense at both of those places in a 24-hour period.

On Friday night, Joliet Catholic Academy beat Brother Rice, 56-49 at Mitchell Field and Saturday’s 45-38 SXU game seemed like a defensive battle compared to that one.

Friday night’s game featured 1,270 offensive yards and Saturday’s game had a mere 976.

 

It’s your funeral (home)
The best name of the game on Saturday belonged to Olivet Nazarene freshman Blake Lamb from Lebanon, Ohio.

Just a few blocks west of Deaton Field is the Blake-Lamb funeral home, which is well known on the South Side of Chicago and in some southern suburbs.

SXU defensive players Caleb Marconi (left), Peyton Nigro and Tyler Barnette descend upon Olivet Nazarene quarterback David Hutton. Hutton was injured on the play and did not return. Photo by Jeff Vorva

High School Boys Soccer: Argo and Reavis draw in rivalry match at SeatGeek

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Neither team got the chance to lift the trophy that was supposed go to the winner, but Argo and Reavis players left with some special memories from a game played last week at SeatGeek Stadium.

The Argonauts and Rams played to a 2-2 tie in a fun atmosphere in Bridgeview on Oct. 7.

“This means everything,” Argo coach Carlos Marquez said. “A lot of these kids live right down the street. They walk by here or drive by here on their way to school. When we presented this idea, they were all for it.

“We wanted to do it for our seniors, especially. This is something they’re never going to forget.”

The draw left the South Suburban Red championship in limbo, though it put Argo (9-3-4, 7-1-2) in command. The Argonauts would have clinched the title with a win, while Reavis (9-4-3, 6-0-4) could have taken over first place with a victory.

The tie left Argo in control of its own destiny, needing a win Oct. 12 against Oak Lawn to seal the championship.

“They put pressure on us, but at the end it was a good feeling because, in the end, we’re still on top in the conference,” Argo senior Mohamed Ahmed said. “Hopefully we’re going to beat Oak Lawn and win the conference.”

Ahmed opened the scoring in the ninth minute when he took a pass from Michal Gacek, sprinted down the left side of the field and ripped a shot from 15 yards inside the far post.

“It was the best feeling when we entered on the field and when I scored, that was the best feeling of my life,” Ahmed said. “I’ve never felt anything like that before. The fans were screaming and it was so exciting.”

Ahmed then set up Gerard Kleczewski for a goal in the 17th minute to extend the Argo lead to 2-0.

“We’ve been struggling on the attack these last two weeks,” Marquez said. “We felt like we lost games we shouldn’t have lost, so we’ve been working on the attack and our play in the final third.

“We knew playing on this big field that there were going to be big spaces and if we could combine and find those passing lanes, we’d be able to create some opportunities to score. We did a good job of doing that early in the game.”

Reavis battled back. After Argo was called for a handball in the box, Pedro Guzman converted the ensuing penalty kick to make it 2-1 in the 24th minute.

Then freshman Krystian Paluch tied it with 33:08 left in the match.

On a corner kick, Emanuel Montero’s cross found Guzman in the middle of the box. Guzman sent a header toward the goal and Paluch was able to redirect it into the back of the net.

It was the second goal of the season for Paluch, a defender.

“It’s the best feeling,” Paluch said. “It’s fun to make a good defensive play, but scoring goals, you can’t explain that feeling, especially doing it in this environment.

“Professionals play on this field. It’s pretty much a dream come true. It’s crazy when you think about it.”

The Rams continued to put pressure on the rest of the way, but could not find another goal to take the lead.

“In the first 15 or 20 minutes, we were nervous,” Paluch said. “We had butterflies in our stomach. In the last 20 minutes, we were dominating. I think we should have won. We should have put one more in the back of the net.”

Pro Soccer Report: House wins first game at home; Milazzo scores first pro goal

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

It was a weekend of firsts when it came to the area’s professional soccer teams.

The Chicago House won its historic first home game Saturday at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview with a 1-0 triumph over San Diego 1904 FC.

Sunday night, Orland Park’s Tatumn Milazzo, a defender who doesn’t get many offensive chances, scored her first professional goal on the road in the Chicago Red Stars’ 3-2 loss to OL Reign at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington.

Chicago’s Ian Cerro slides into San Diego goalie Alfredo Cortez after kicking the ball into the net for the only score in a 1-0 House victory Saturday night. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Early score

The House’s Ian Cerro scored in the second minute of the National Independent Soccer Association game and that was all the scoring needed on the night as the House enjoyed its first two-game winning streak in franchise history.

Chicago (3-5-2) beat San Diego on the road, 2-0, the week prior.

“I’m just happy that we got our first home win and I’m glad I was able to contribute to that goal,” Cerro said. “I’m excited because the club deserves this and the fans deserve this home win.”

Goalie Michael Novotny nailed down his second straight shutout.

The House moved to eighth-place in the 10-team league while San Diego (2-7-1) fell to 10th.

 

Orland Park’s Tatumn Milazzo react after scoring her first professional goal Sunday night in the Red Stars’ 3-2 loss to the OL Reign. ISI Photo

Mighty Milazzo

Milazzo, an Andrew High School graduate and an National Women’s Soccer League rookie, came into the game in the 64th minute and found the back of the net with a top-corner shot in the 69th minute of Sunday’s National Women’s Soccer League match to close the gap at 3-2.

Earlier in the game, Mallory Pugh scored her team-high fourth goal to put the Red Stars ahead 1-0, in the 14th minute but the lead was short-lived.

Solidarity

This was the Red Stars’ first game back after the league postponed its Oct. 2-3 weekend schedule because of the trauma caused by sexual misconduct events involving coaches.

The two teams stopped play during the early stage of the match to lock arms in unity.

“It’s powerful – it’s a powerful moment and a powerful statement,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said.

“It’s been emotional, and I just want to say thank you to those girls who came forward because I feel like they did that to protect us and to protect every player that plays in this league,” Red Stars forward Kealia Watt said. “That is incredible. It must have been so scary for them to come forward like that. We’re so grateful and we are playing for them.”

Crunch time

The Red Stars (8-8-5, 29 points with three matches to go) fell to seventh place in the 10-team league. The top six teams make it to the playoffs.

Just three points separate third-place Houston (32 points) and the Red Stars with three teams in between.

The Reign improved to 12-2-7 and is in second place behind Portland by one point.

Schedule switch

The Red Stars had their postponed Oct. 2 match against Orlando rescheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 13.

That was the night the House was slated to play Chattanooga at SeatGeek Stadium. The House changed plans and will play that game on Wednesday, Oct. 20.

“From the day we decided to call SeatGeek Stadium home, we committed to being the best tenants and neighbors that we possibly could be,” said House CEO Peter Wilt. “We stand and support the Chicago Red Stars during this challenging situation in the NWSL.”

After the Wednesday game, the Red Stars host Kansas City at 7 p.m. Saturday in the last regular-season home game of 2021.

Chicago’s Derek Huffman moves the ball against San Diego in a 1-0 victory in Bridgeview. Photo by Jeff Vorva

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