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Evergreen Park wide receiver Elijah Matthews catches a touchdown pass over Oak Lawn’s Gavin Butler. Photo by Steve Metsch

Evergreen Park wide receiver Elijah Matthews catches a touchdown pass over Oak Lawn’s Gavin Butler. Photo by Steve Metsch

High School Football: Mustangs buck Spartans into offseason

By Steve Metsch
Correspondent

Coming into the regular-season finale, Evergreen Park knew Oak Lawn needed a victory to possibly make the playoffs.

The Mustangs, most likely already in the tournament but with a chance to improve their seed, had other plans.

“Not on our watch,” senior wide receiver Elijah Matthews said after Evergreen Park defeated the Spartans, 35-13, on Oct. 22 in Oak Lawn.

The Mustangs (6-3, 4-2 South Suburban Red) earned a No. 8 seed in the IHSA Class 5A playoffs and will host Sycamore (6-3) in a first-round game. Oak Lawn (4-5, 2-4) missed the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season.

“We’re a pretty dangerous team,” said Evergreen Park coach Jerry Verde. “We can make some plays.”

Matthews had five receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Verde called him “a special player.”

Mustangs senior running backs James Williams and Michael Torres combined to rush for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Williams carried 13 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Torres added 96 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries.

Sophomore quarterback Deijon Feliciano finished 9-of-12 for 119 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Oak Lawn, which showed steady improvement as the season progressed under first-year head coach Ryan Pattison, led 7-0 after senior Gavin Butler ran 13 yards for a score with 4:38 left in the first quarter.

The teams traded possessions, but a bad snap on a punt from Oak Lawn’s 38-yard line gave the Mustangs the ball at the 15. Williams ran in on the next play for a 7-7 tie.

The ensuing kickoff was returned 90 yards for an apparent touchdown by speedy Spartans junior Ayham Salah. But a holding call wiped out the play.

“Those killed us,” Pattison said of the bad snap and penalty.

FB EP OL Chiquito

Oak Lawn punter Eduardo Chiquito runs with the ball after a bad snap in the Spartans’ loss to Evergreen Park. Photo by Steve Metsch

With 6 seconds left in the first half and a 2nd-and-3 from Oak Lawn’s 40 yard line, Mustang sophomore quarterback Deijon Feliciano lofted a pass to Matthews near the 10 yard line. The 6-foot receiver jumped behind the 5-foot-9 Butler, caught the ball, and ran in for a 14-7 halftime lead.

“That was a heck of a catch,” Pattison said. “That’s a huge blow.”

Verde wasn’t surprised; Matthews and Feliciano practice the play daily.

“He’s been a leader all year,” Verde said of Matthews. “He proves it on both sides of the ball.”

Matthews intercepted a pass in the game’s waning moments.

Evergreen Park outscored Oak Lawn 21-6 in the second half.

While Pattison is disappointed the Spartans did not make the playoffs, he’s already looking forward to next season.

“We have a bunch of kids who care,” he said. “We have a ton of kids playing football for the first time.”

Butler, who plays basketball for Oak Lawn, decided to try football after off-season chats with Spartans receiver Adam Alcantara.

“We challenged ourselves to see if we could turn this into a winning program,” Butler said. “I’m proud to be part of this team.”

Another basketball player, senior Gabriel Duer, had last played football his freshman year. Duer’s play at quarterback and linebacker contributed significantly to the Spartans’ success this season.

In the finale, he ran for 111 yards and was 4-of-11 for 80 yards with a touchdown pass to junior John McGlynn

“Coach Pattison has this team looking good for many years to come,” Duer said.

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Girls Basketball: Shepard, Knights among four area teams to open season at Bobby Bolton Classic


Oak Lawn coach Mark Sevedge helped guide his young team, which features only one senior, to third place at the Bobby Bolton Classic. Photo by Jeff Vorva

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

Four area teams competed in the eight-team Bobby Bolton Classic at Richards, and each showed some bright spots and had some sloppy moments.

That was to be expected. Richards, Oak Lawn, Chicago Christian and Shepard were all opening the season with young teams.

According to their rosters, 15 of 54 players on those teams are seniors and nine are either freshmen or sophomores.

The bad news is that none of them finished 4-0 at the tournament. The good news is that none finished 0-4.

Lincoln-Way East beat Thornton 67-29 in a non-area battle for the championship on Saturday.

Oak Lawn beat Richards, 47-17 in an all-Oak Lawn tangle for third place.

Chicago Christian finished sixth and Shepard took seventh.

Here is a closer look at the four local squads.

 

Oak Lawn
Two Spartans opened the tournament with a pair of double-doubles as the lone senior on the team, Mia Kennelly, had 17 points and 11 rebounds while junior Kate Dillon had 11 points and 10 boards in a 57-38 victory over Shepard.

Both were at it again in the second round in the wi over Richards, with Dillon scoring 19 points and pulling down 10 rebounds while Kennelly finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

In a 62-22 loss to Lincoln-Way East, Kennelly scored half of the Spartans’ points.

In the win over Richards, Dillon led with 16 points and Shatha Abdeljaber added nine.

Richards’ Jada Cork takes contact as she is in the middle of two physical Thornton players at the Bobby Bolton Classic. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Richards
The Bulldogs opened its own tournament with a 43-25 victory over Chicago Christian as sophomore Iyanah Crosby made her varsity debut by hauling down 17 rebounds.

Junior Deniza Fuentes and senior Jada Cork led the way with nine points each.

In round two, the Bulldogs whipped Eisenhower, 63-25 as junior Julie Niemeyer had 15 points and nine rebounds while Crosby had nine points and nine rebounds.

The final round of pool play saw them drop a 44-33 game to Thornton, with Niemeyer scoring 12 points.

Chicago Christian freshman Charity Love moves up court against Eisenhower in the Bobby Bolton Classic. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Chicago Christian
Karl Frixen’s squad is not only young, it was a little out of sorts without having the full team in practice during the preseason as players were involved in cross country and the volleyball team, which had an extended season after finishing third in the state in Class 2A.

The Knights got off to a tough start, scoring a combined 53 points in losses to Richards and Thornton.

Then, against Eisenhower’s Grinnell-style offense, they exploded for 51-16 victory as freshman Charity Love led with 12 points and junior Molly Bugos added nine.

Love had nine points in a 58-29 setback to T.F. South in the fifth-place game.

Shepard freshman Brianna Spain handles the ball in a game against T.F. South in the Bobby Bolton Classic. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Shepard
After two losses, the Astros came close to making it an all-Palos Heights fifth-game affair as they made a furious fourth-quarter comeback in a 49-47 loss to Thornton Fractional South in the third round of pool play.

Gianna Spain led the Astros with 17 points.

They found success in the seventh-place game with a 51-21 victory over Eisenhower. Robin Stevenson had 18 points and Brianna Sweas came up with 10.

Pro soccer report: Red Stars lose Dames after losing in NWSL title game

Rory Dames, shown during the NWSL semifinals in Portland, resigned at the Chicago Red Stars coach a day after the team played in the league’s championship game. Photo by IMI

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

After a bizarre season that saw many of their best players injured for much of the time, a 5-0 loss to open the season and the thrill of making it to the NWSL championship game, Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames announced late Sunday night he was resigning.

“For 11 years, I have dedicated myself to help build the Chicago Red Stars into one of the top international clubs,” Dames said in a statement. “Effective today, I’m refocusing my attention to my family and future endeavors, and I am resigning as coach of the Chicago Red Stars.

“I’d like to thank the Chicago Red Stars organization, the fans and the players who I have had the opportunity to work with in their professional soccer careers. I look forward to watching the Chicago Red Stars and the NWSL continue to grow and evolve while supporting their players.”

The club said it will work to immediately transition his responsibilities to the assistant coaches while the search for a new head coach takes place.

In an odd twist, no specific official from the team commented on the resignation and a news release merely quoted “the Chicago Red Stars” as a whole.

“Under Rory’s leadership we have been a remarkably consistent and excellent club on the field.” the release stated. “We continually evaluate our team and front office environment, and given the dynamic change underway in the league, it is time to begin the next chapter of the Red Stars with a search for new leadership of the team.”

Dames started coaching the team in 2011 and had a 68-43-47 record after the team joined the NWSL in 2013. That included coaching the Stars to a league record six straight playoff appearances.

In a bizarre year for the 10-team NWSL, Dames, Houston Dash’s James Clarkson and Kansas City’s Huw Williams were the only coaches to start and finish their respective seasons.

Williams was reassigned to another position with the team shortly after the season ended, and with Dames’ resigning Clarkson is the only survivor.

The other seven teams had coaches who either resigned, were fired or reassigned.

Dames is a Chicago native who played high school soccer at St. Viator and Saint Louis University. He played professionally for the Rockford Raptors and in 1997 founded the Eclipse Select Soccer Club, which fields more than 60 teams for area boys and girls in the Chicago area.

Oh, there was a game
Dames’ announcement came a day after the team suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to Washington in the NWSL championship game at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville.

Things looked promising when Rachel Hill scored late in the first half.

But at that time, impact players Vanessa DiBernardo and Mallory Pugh were hurt and were not able to play in the second half.

Washington’s Andi Sullivan scored to tie it in the 67th minute and Kelley O’Hara added a goal in the overtime and hung on to claim the title.

NWSL Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman, daughter of former controversial NBA star Dennis Rodman, got the assist on the game-winner for Washington.

In the closing minutes of the title game, Chicago’s Makenzy Doniak’s shot was saved by Aubrey Bledsoe, and the goalie was also able to tip an Arin Wright shot over the bar.

House Keeping
The Chicago House closed the fall portion of the National Independent Soccer Association season with a 3-1 setback to the Cal United Strikers FC Saturday night at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.

Cal scored twice in the first 17 minutes before Wojciech Wojik put Chicago on the board in the 22nd minute.

The House finished with a 7-9-2 mark,, good for sixth in the 10-team league.

The spring season schedule has not been announced but look for the league to resume in May.

St. Rita tops Prospect, advances to second straight state title game

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

After entering the season with huge expectations, St. Rita lost two of its first three games and star senior running back/receiver Kaleb Brown to injury.

While some may have written the Mustangs off, they still believed they had a team that could win a state championship.

“We’ve been able to stick together all year,” senior defensive end Jake Polselli said. “The adversity that we’ve faced these last three years, sticking together has been the main thing.

“We had an unreal group (in the spring). We had arguably the best team in the state.”

Now, St. Rita is one win away from showing it’s the best team in Class 7A.

The host Mustangs rolled to a 42-20 win over Prospect in the semifinals on Nov. 20.

St. Rita (11-2) will take on Wheaton North (12-1) in the state championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium at Northern Illinois University.

It will be the second straight title-game appearance for the Mustangs, who lost to Rochester in the 2019 5A championship game. St. Rita will be looking for its first state title since 2006.

“It’s a credit to our guys, especially after how we started,” St. Rita coach Todd Kuska said. “We were a top-ranked team and all of a sudden, it was like, ‘What happened to St. Rita?’ Well, hey, we’re going to the state championship game.

“Things happened. We regrouped. We’ve played together. Credit to our seniors.”

Brown, an Ohio State recruit, injured his left leg in the first quarter of the season-opening loss to Mount Carmel and missed the rest of the regular season before returning for the second round of the playoffs.

He ran for two touchdowns — a 17-yarder and an 11-yarder — in the first half Saturday night as St. Rita opened up a 35-7 lead before halftime

“I’m 100%,” Brown said. “I’m good. I’m back and better and glad to be back on the field. To end my senior year the right way, it’s unreal.”

While Brown was making big plays offensively, the St. Rita defense was doing its part against Prospect (10-3), as well, scoring a pair of defensive touchdowns in the first half.

Junior Johnny Schmitt returned an interception 7 yards for a TD in the first quarter and senior Jake Polselli took a pick back 22 yards to the end zone in the second quarter.

“I worked really hard in the offseason to make plays in these types of games,” Schmitt said. “It’s great to be out here and I’m so happy to be part of this team.”

Polselli added a second interception in the second half.

“That was great for Jake,” Kuska said. “He’s a senior captain and he came up with big plays. All our guys played hard.”

Polselli’s touchdown made it 28-7 St. Rita with 5:50 seconds left in the second quarter and sophomore running back DJ Stewart capped the dominant half by scoring on a 11-yard touchdown run with one minute left.

Stewart added a 3-yard touchdown run in the second half and finished with 87 yards on 14 carries.

Fellow sophomore Ethan Middleton added 106 yards on just nine carries.

Stewart and Middleton had their roles expand after Brown’s injury and an injury to senior running back Kyle Clayton.

“Without me getting hurt, a lot of that wouldn’t have happened,” Brown said. “It’s definitely a blessing in disguise. They got their mojo going. I like to see my team win. I love it. We’re winning and getting better.

“I’m glad they held it down without me, and now I’m back so I’m glad we can all do it together as a team.”

Crusaders playoff run ends with semifinal loss to Wheaton North

Brian Badke gives his last postgame speech to Brother Rice’s football team after a loss to Wheaton North on Saturday. He is retiring after this season. Photo by Jeff Vorva

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

At age 47, Brian Badke has a lot of good coaching years left in him.

But for now, he is stepping away and putting the whistle in storage.

He has a lot of good spectating years ahead of him that he wants to take care of, first.

The Brother Rice football coach announced before the season that this will be his last, and his final game was Nov. 20 in a 45-27 loss on the road at Wheaton North in the IHSA Class 7A semifinals.

The Crusaders finished 10-3 and Badke ended a 10-year run at the helm with a 74-41 mark. He said he wants to watch his four children play in their sports for awhile.

“I’ll be a dad and a husband,” said Badke, who is sales rep at Proven IT. “I’m going to miss this a lot. I’ve coached for 24 years and that’s a long time. It’s a new phase in my life. You miss a lot when you are coaching.”

His oldest son, Mick, missed the 2021 season at John Carroll University after ACL surgery. His oldest daughter, Bridget, is on Marist’s competitive cheerleading team at Marist and his other daughter, Elizabeth, is on the RedHawks’ sophomore basketball team. His youngest child, Jack, is a sixth-grader at Christ the King.

Badke and the Crusaders were hoping he could go out on top.

The Crusaders had a powerful offense. Not counting a forfeit win over Perspectives, they scored 40 or more points in seven of their nine wins.

Jack Lausch uses a stationary bike to keep his left leg loose during Saturday’s loss to Wheaton North in the Class 7A semifinals. Photo by Jeff Vorva

The Crusaders’ dual-threat quarterback, Jack Lausch, who is heading to Notre Dame next fall to play football and baseball, sustained a left thigh injury in a quarterfinal victory over Mount Carmel. His ability to play in the semis was questionable, as he could not walk earlier in the week, Badke said.

Lausch did play but was unable to run. He threw for 271 yards and did not have a rushing attempt, despite coming into the game with 1,084 rushing yards. His line protected him as he was not sacked by a strong Wheaton North defense.

“It felt great to play but I wasn’t able to run,” he said. “I can’t thank the trainers enough. We made a lot of progress in a week.”

Running back Aaron Vaughn finished his brief career with the Crusaders with 100 yards and three touchdowns. Vaughn played his first three years at Providence before transferring to Rice this year.

The second of his touchdown came on a 6-yard plunge to pull the Crusader to within 24-21 late in the third quarter, but the Falcons (12-1) responded with three scores and earned the right to face St. Rita for the Class 7A state championship at 4 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium at Northern Illinois University.

That was a spot Badke hoped to be in, but it was a rough day all around for the powerful Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference Blue division. Marist and Loyola both lost Class 8A games earlier in the day, to Maine South and Lockport, respectively.

“It’s always great to be practicing on Thanksgiving, but Wheaton North has a great defense and we were still able to score some points on them,” Badke said. “We didn’t get the stops we needed.”

 

THE BADKE FILE
Brian Badke’s career as the Brother Rice head football coach.

2012 – 7-6

2013 – 3-7

2014 – 7-5

2015 – 10-2

2016 – 9-3

2017 – 2-7

2018 – 13-1*

2019 – 8-5

2020 – 4-2

2021 – 10-3

* — Finished second in Class 8A

 

Brother Rice’s Khary Shaw, right, tackles Wheaton North’s Seth Kortenhoeven for a loss in the Class 7A semifinal game. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Girls Volleyball Class 2A State Finals: Chicago Christian takes 3rd place with win over Mater Dei

Chicago Christian players and coaches react to the Knights scoring match point in the Class 2A third-place match on Nov. 13 at Redbird Arena. Photo by Jason Maholy

By Jason Maholy
Sports Editor

Philosophers and believers in analytics can debate the reality of momentum in the context of having a tangible effect on player performance and the outcomes of athletics competitions.

To many if not most sports fans, players and coaches, there is no question momentum is real.

And it flows both ways.

Chicago Christian found itself on the downward side of momentum during its two-set loss to Pleasant Plains in the IHSA Class 2A semifinals. With their dreams of winning a state championship gone, they had roughly 24 hours to shake that sting before they had to get back on the floor and compete one last time.

They bounced back with a strong showing, defeating fellow losing semifinalist Mater Dei, 25-16, 25-14, to take home the third-place trophy on Nov. 13 at Redbird Arena.

It is the first third-place finish in program history. The Knights (35-6) placed fourth in 2007 and bookended a Class 2A state championship in 2010 with runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2011.

In its semifinal loss, Pleasant Plains scored 18 of the last 28 points in the first set. Then, in a tightly contested second set, the Knights led 21-20 before the Cardinal closed matters on a 5-0 run.

Chicago Christian senior Logan Grevengoed hammers a kill attempt during the Class 2A third-place match against Mater Dei. Photo by Jason Maholy

In the third-place match, Chicago Christian came out with energy and scored the first five points, and never led by fewer than four in the first set. In the second, the Knights closed on a 17-6 run and turned an 8-8 game into and 11-point victory.

“Momentum in volleyball is a thing,” Chicago Christian coach Karen Van Assen said afterward. “But, of course, we like it when we’re winning. It’s harder to come back against momentum and work and get those points, but I think it just gave them a little more energy and a little more excitement today. That was the difference.”

Knights senior hitter Logan Grevengoed took the semifinal loss personally. She registered eight attack errors, which matched her kills for the match, as well as two service errors and a receiving error.

“Yesterday was a tough day for me,” she said.

With the loss weighing on her mind, she found some clarity that helped her through the disappointment and to be ready for Saturday’s match.

“I just realized, it’s my last game ever in high school today,” she said. “There’s no reason to be nervous, there’s absolutely no pressure at all, so I just wanted to perform well for my team the last time we were together.”

Grevengoed was not as aggressive as usual in the semifinals.

Junior setter Keely Colyer said that wasn’t the case in the third-place match, in which Grevengoed had eight kills and one attack error.

“I definitely saw a difference,” Colyer said. “Logan wanted the ball. She wanted me to set her up and she wanted to get that kill.”

Chicago Christian players celebrate their third-place finish with Knights fans who made the trip to Illinois State University. Photo by Jason Maholy

Pro Soccer Report: Red Stars stun Thorns, will face Spirit for NWSL title

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

Talk about coming full circle.

The Chicago Red Stars opened the season in May with a full squad and dropped a 5-0 decision at Portland in one of the most lopsided defeats in franchise history.

Then, on Nov. 14, with a team depleted by injuries and illness, they shocked the Thorns, 2-0, in the NWSL semifinals for their first win in Rip City since 2013.

The fourth-seeded Red Stars will take on the third-seeded Washington Spirit for the league title at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 20 at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville.

It will be Chicago’s second title-game appearance in as many seasons, having lost to North Carolina in the 2019 championship match. The league canceled the 2020 season because of the pandemic.

Red Stars coach Rory Dames said six players who could have been in the starting 11 were not available, but the women who replaced them during the course of the season and in the win over Portland have helped the team get this far.

“Resiliency has been one of our main words for the year,” Dames said. “The group bends but they don’t break. They know their roles. They believe in themselves.”

One of the Red Stars’ strongest players in recent weeks, Kealia Watt, left the semifinal game with an injury in the 30th minute. Her replacement, Katie Johnson, scored a goal seven minutes later.

Sarah Woldmoe added a goal in the 59th minute. Goalie Cassie Miller recorded her second straight playoff shutout.

Despite the final score, the Red Stars were outplayed as the top-seeded Thorns had a massive 21-5 shot advantage and had a 435-289 passing advantage. But Miller (seven saves) and the defense were able to overcome barrage and the Red Stars are back in the championship game. They dropped the 2019 title match, 4-0, to North Carolina.

 

That’s the Spirit

Washington comes into the title match 7-0-1 record in its last eight matches, including a 2-1 road win over the second-seeded OL Reign in the other semifinal on Saturday.

During this run, the Spirit also beat the Reign on the road toward the end on the regular season, 2-0.

Much of the winning came after former coach Richie Burke was fired by the league after an investigation into allegations of harassment. Kris Ward took over as interim coach.

“Kris has done an unbelievable job stepping in,” Dames said. “There is a big improvement, and to go into Seattle and win two against the Reign is very hard to do.

“It’s going to be quite a challenge for us.”

The Red Stars have gone 1-1-1 against the Spirit this year.

The first game was a 1-1 draw at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview on June 19, with Morgan Gautraut scoring in extra time to prevent a loss.

The Red Start beat the Spirit on the road, 1-0, on July 1. Mallory Pugh scored the lone goal.

The Red Stars beat the Spirit, 3-1, in Bridgeview Aug. 1. Pugh, Gautraut and Rachel Hill and scored goals.

 

Another celebration in Chicago?

Dames said it would be huge for women’s sports in Chicago if the Red Stars can bring home a championship shortly after the Sky won the WNBA title.

The players agree.

“I went to their final game and it was a pretty cool experience,” midfielder Dannielle Colaprico said. “That was badass. They were a bunch of bosses on the court.

“This is our city and we gotta do it for Chicago.”

Miller is hopeful.

“If we win, I hope we get as big of a parade as they had,” she said.

 

House Keeping

On a cold night, Chicago House AC beat Stumptown, 2-1, at SeatGeek Stadium on Nov. 13.

Rodolfo Sulia scored his first goal and Wojciech Wojcik scored his seventh of the season in the 85th minute to help the House improve to 7-8-2.

The House closes the fall season in the National Independent Soccer Association with a battle against California United at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Bridgeview.

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