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High School Football Class 5A Quarterfinals: Pick-6 spells doom for Nazareth in loss to Fenwick

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Nazareth senior lineman Adam Fuechtman pressures Fenwick senior quarterback into an incomplete pass during the Friars’ 28-17 win on Nov. 13. Photo by Steve Metsch

By Steve Metsch
Correspondent

Nazareth made it the Class 5A football quarterfinals with a solid defense and an impressive freshman quarterback.

In the end, however, that defense buckled and that quarterback looked like his age against a Fenwick team with 30 seniors on its roster. Friars senior defensive end Suleiman Abuaqel picked off a Logan Malachuk pass and returned it for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and the Roadrunners never got any closer as they fell, 28-17, on Nov. 13.

Nazareth’s season ends after a run in which they closed the regular season with four straight wins to make the playoffs, then advanced to the quarterfinals.

Fenwick (10-2) has a semifinal date with Sycamore.

“They’re probably going to win it all,” Malachuk said. “That defense. We hit two bombs, and they were still right there.”

Malachuk was 11-for-21 for 221 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions. None was costlier than the one on the play that opened the fourth quarter.

The Roadrunners (7-5) trailed 21-17 and had first-and-10 at Fenwick’s 39. The fans in La Grange Park were roaring.

Then, Abuaqel intercepted Malachuk’s screen pass over the middle and ran 55 yards the other way to give Fenwick a 28-17 lead with 11:46 to play.

Malachuk never saw Abuaqel

“That was on me,” he said. “I thought I could fit it in there. That was just a bad play all together.”

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Nazareth senior Peter Roll bats a would-be touchdown pass away from Fenwick senior Cameron Coppage. Photo by Steve Metsch

Abuaqel, who notched his first pick-six, said he saw a running back from the corner of his eye.

“So I just slid a little bit to the left, and the ball came right to me,” he added.

Malachuk threw touchdown passes of 44 and 51 yards to junior Justin Taylor. The first gave Nazareth a 7-0 lead, the second cut the deficit to 21-17.

Nazareth led 10-0 early after Zach Hayes kicked a 31-yard field goal with 1:52 left in the first quarter.

Fenwick cut the lead to 10-7 when quarterback Kaden Cobb (21-of-24 for 144) scored from six yards out with 10:11 left in the second quarter.

With 45 seconds left, Cobb found Max Reese with a 19-yard touchdown pass to give Fenwick a 14-10 halftime lead.

Fenwick went up 21-10 with 7:32 left in the third, when Reese took a direct snap and flipped to Cobb, who found wide-open Patrick Durkin from 3 yards out.

Moments later, Malachuk showed what the Roadrunners can look forward to next season.

After Malachuk dropped and recovered the snap at Nazareth’s 49, he lofted the ball to Taylor around Fenwick’s 40. Taylor caught the ball and scored to cut the deficit to 21-17 with 6:48 left in the third quarter.

“We practice that every day,” Racki quipped. “He really grew up a lot this year. A freshman quarterback in the quarterfinals. He shouldn’t be hard on himself.

“Today doesn’t define us. This was a very successful season. After Week 1, I was, ‘Are we in a rebuild?’ When you get to the quarterfinals, that ain’t no rebuild.”

Taylor (4 catches, 113 yards) vowed he and the team will use the loss as fuel for next year.

Fenwick outgained the Road Runners, 368 yards to 282, and made 23 first downs to Nazareth’s nine.

Fenwick had 214 yards rushing. Danny Kent gained113 on 23 carries, and Cobb added 60 on 13. Nazareth managed just 52 yards rushing.

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Nazareth junior running back Kaleb Miller looks for room against Fenwick senior Denium Juette. Miller had 20 yards of five carries. Photo by Steve Metsch

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Area Sports Roundup: Sandburg golfer Jillian Cosler opens high school sports season with a bang

By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

The 2022-23 high school sports season opened with a bang.

Practices were allowed to begin on Aug. 8 and the IHSA unleashed boys and girls golfers on Aug. 11; and there was some excitement the next day.

Sandburg’s girls golf team participated in the Prep Tour Showcase at Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur and senior Jillian Cosler tied for second with a one-under par 71.

Nicole Johnson of Edwardsville was the champ in the 89-golfer field with a 70. Cosler tied Stevenson’s Allie Santos and Glenbrook North’s Martha Kuwahara for second, one shot back.

Cosler was coming off a 79-79 performance at Cog Hill, where she participated in the Girls Junior PGA Championships the first week of August. While she didn’t make the cut for the finals, she said the tournament was a great experience.

“It was crazy being there,” she said. “Cog Hill is where I practice and I like to call it my home base there in the summer. So, seeing all of the other girls traveling from Japan and Kenya and seeing how many girls were there, while I was 15 minutes away from home, was crazy.

“Then showing up at the range and seeing all of the different swings of the top golfers in the nation was eye-opening. It wasn’t nerve-wracking but it inspired me to get better. I know there is so much more that I can do.”

Cosler is following a long line of strong Sandburg golfers that coach Todd Allen has mentored. She has verbally committed to playing college golf Bradley.

 

Trinity gets votes in soccer

Trinity Christian College was one of three teams in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference to earn votes in the women’s national soccer rankings by NAIA coaches, along with defending CCAC Tournament champions St. Ambrose and regular-season title holders Judson.

Last season, the Trolls placed second in the conference, reaching the tournament final before making a semifinal appearance in the National Christian College Athletic Association National Championship.

Two-time CCAC Player of the Year Brianna Uhl returns to Trinity after leading the league with 32 goals in 2021, second-most in the NAIA. Joining Uhl on the 2022 squad is fellow All-CCAC first team selections Demi Scibetta and Litzy Corona as well as last year’s second-team honoree Selah Hopkins.

 

SXU picks Harkness

Jim Harkness has been named the new head coach of the Saint Xavier women’s soccer team. He becomes the sixth head coach for the program that started playing in 1997.

Harkness was an assistant coach for the Cougars’ men’s soccer team from 2005-12 and helped SXU win back-to-back Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championships in 2010 and 2011. The team appeared in the NAIA Opening Round during those seasons.

Before joining the Saint Xavier men’s soccer staff, Harkness was the head coach for the Moraine Valley Community College’s women’s soccer team from 2000-04.

He was an assistant coach at Brother Rice from 1996-2000. Harkness played soccer collegiately at Eastern Illinois from 1990-94 before turning pro and playing for the Chicago Power and Detroit Rockers of the National Professional Soccer League. He also played for the Chicago Stingers of the United Systems of Independent Soccer League.

Pro Soccer Report: Chicago Fire to play four matches at SeatGeek

By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

Before soccer fans could blink their eyes, SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview has been tabbed to host four Chicago Fire games.

SeatGeek was the MLS club’s home from 2006 until 2019, when it moved to Soldier Field. Conflicts with Soldier Field’s prized tenants, the Chicago Bears, and damage to the playing surface after concerts have prompted the Fire to move three games to Bridgeview. The team announced last week it would also host a friendly at SeatGeek against Leon FC of the Mexican Premier League.

The fun starts Sunday when the Fire hosts New York City at 5 p.m. The match was moved at the last minute because of concerts at Soldier Field and their impact on the field.

“We understand that relocating a home game is a significant challenge for our fans,” said Ishwara Glassman Cherin, the Fire’s president of business operations. “After consulting with the league office, it was determined that a change of venue was necessary for this match to ensure that both teams are competing in conditions that are consistent with league standards.

“We look forward to providing a great environment for our fans to enjoy the match and cheer on our team as we continue to push for a playoff berth.”

The Fire opened the season 3-1-5 before going into a tailspin that endured until June 29 and a shocking win over Philadelphia.

Now that it is back in contention for a playoff bid, each of these three MLS games is important. The Fire has MLS games at SeatGeek on Sept. 10 and the regular season finals on Oct. 9.

The match against Leon will be Sept. 24.

León has won the Primera División de México/Liga MX title eight times. The club qualified for the Champion’s Cup in 1998 until it was eliminated in the semifinal. The team has been a consistent contender for the Primera División since 2002.

The Fire is 102-54-74 in Bridgeview. It played one game there last year and won, 2-0, over New York City and later that night fired coach Raphael Wicky.

 

Red Stars fall to sixth

The bad news for Chicago Red Stars fans is that the team lost 1-0 to Angel City on Aug. 14 to fall to sixth place in the NWSL.

The good news is that there is such a jumble near the top of the standings that they are just as close to second place as they are to seventh. The top six teams make it to the playoffs in the 12-team league.

Heading into this week, Portland (7-1-7) was leading the league with 28 points, followed by Houston, San Diego and red-hot Kansas City (25 points each) bunched up behind the Thorns. The OL Reign was fifth with 24 points and the Red Stars (6-4-5) are in the precious sixth spot with 23.

Angel City, which scored in the 47th minute Sunday on a Savannah McCaskill goal, is seventh with 21 points.

 

On the road

The loss in Los Angeles opened a stretch of four games on the road for the Red Stars.

They visit North Carolina Aug. 20, Louisville Aug. 27 and OL Reign Sept. 9 before returning home to face Houston Sept. 17 at SeatGeek Stadium.

The Red Stars are not getting overwhelmed with the tough road task.

“When we have a string of games like this, we try not to think about it,” Red Stars player Arin Wright said. “We don’t say it out loud and verbalize it. It’s more so taking it game for game and look at what we can get excited about and get amped for the next game and not think ahead.

“When you do that, things start to crumble.”

 

BACK AT THE GEEK

Chicago Fire games to be played at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview this season:

Date Opponent Time

Aug. 21 NYC 5 p.m.

Sept. 10 Miami 7 p.m.

Sept. 24 Leon 3 p.m.

*Oct. 9 New England 1:30 p.m.

* — MLS season finale

‘Coach Q’ era begins at Brother Rice

By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

You might say the man they call “Coach Q” was as cool as a Q-cumber on the first day of high school football practice for the 2022 season.

As an assistant coach, Casey Quedenfeld helped Episcopal High School in Texas win a private school state championship in 2019.

He also was an assistant coach at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, where he learned the craft from Marvin Sanders, who coached at USC and Nebraska.

So, on Aug. 8, when football practice started all around the state, the new Brother Rice head coach sported a shirt that said “One Team, One Way, 100 MPH.”

Yet, minutes before the start of practice, he was calm about the new journey he was about to take. For some, the difference between being an assistant coach and being the boss is huge.

But Quedenfeld was matter-of-fact about how he felt before leading his troops in the first practice.

“It’s just football,” he said. “I’ve had great mentors who have kind of prepped me for this. In all seriousness, it’s nothing new or anything that I’m not accustomed to doing before.”

Quedenfeld is one of four new head coaches at area schools. There were also changes as Argo, De La Salle and Riverside-Brookfield.

Of those four, Brother Rice had the most success in 2021. Former Crusaders head coach Brian Badke bowed out after leading his team to a 10-3 record and reaching the Class 7A state semifinals.

Before the first practice on Tom Mitchell Field on a rainy late afternoon, Quedenfeld spent some time in a classroom with the defense. Last year’s defense gave up 56 points to Joliet Catholic, 46 points to Loyola, 45 to Wheaton North in the semifinals and 36 to Mount Carmel.

Those totals do not exist for Quedenfeld.

“I’m not really worried about what they did last year or two years ago or 10 years ago,” he said. “I’m not really worried about that at all. My philosophy is that I only know what I know, and I’m coming in here to try spread what I know to these young men and the gentlemen who are coaching alongside me. I’m not worried about how many points they gave up last year.”

One of the anchors on this year’s defense is Trey Pierce, an Evergreen Park resident who has committed to Wisconsin.

Casey Quedenfeld directs his first practice at Brother Rice on Monday afternoon. Photo by Jeff Vorva

On offense, replacing Jack Lausch at quarterback will be a challenge. Lausch, who originally planned to walk on to the Notre Dame baseball and football teams, accepted a scholarship offer to Northwestern. His passing and running ability will be missed, but juniors Ryan Hartz, Jake Dugger and Marcus Brown will battle it out at that position in camp to replace him.

Returnees to watch include linebacker Henry Ivers and wide receivers Rickey Taylor, Owen Lyons and Marty O’Keefe.

Texas and California are hotbeds for high school football and Illinois can hold its head high as well. Quedenfeld didn’t want to compare and contrast the talent in the three states but said all are strong.

“In Texas, communities surround themselves in high school, especially in public schools,” he said. “In California, the private schools in Southern California are serious. At Brother Rice, the administration is taking it serious and I wouldn’t have moved if they weren’t serious.”

 

Changing of the Guard

Area football coaching changes for the 2022 season:

School New coach Former coach

Argo Phil Rossberg Tim Connelly

Brother Rice Casey Quedenfeld Brian Badke

De La Salle Marty Quinn Mike Boehm

Riverside-Brookfield Sam Styler Brendan Curtin

Ricky Smalling, left, and Dino Borrelli — two star players on the 2016 Brother Rice team – take in the action Monday during the first day of practice. Borrelli is serving as the quarterbacks coach for the Crusaders. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Area Sports Roundup: Saint Xavier football tabbed 11th in preseason rankings

By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

Saint Xavier’s football team has something to feel lucky about.

The Cougars are ranked No. 11 in the preseason NAIA Football FirstDown PlayBook Top 25 Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

That’s a number to which people around the school have taken a liking.

“Hopefully 11 is our lucky number and maybe it’s an omen,” said Cougars head coach Mike Feminis, who is coaching in his 24th season at the private university in Chicago. “Preseason No. 11 and this year’s NAIA National Championship will be on December 17, exactly 11 years to the day when we won the championship in 2011.

“In some ways it feels like yesterday, yet it was so long ago. I truly believe we’ve got a group that can make a deep run, but there’s a ton of work to be done between now and mid-December, and I can’t wait.”

The Cougars moved up one spot after being ranked No. 12 in last season’s postseason poll in December. SXU won the Mid-States Football Association Midwest League in 2021 for the fourth time in five seasons. It was the program’s eighth Midwest League crown overall.

The defense should be in good shape. Saint Xavier brings back 2021 NAIA All-American Honorable Mention senior defensive lineman Jaleel Holloway (Crete-Monee), who is coming off a season in which he had 32 tackles (11 solos), a team-best 10 tackles for loss and five sacks.

Also coming back is 2021 MSFA Midwest League First Team selection senior linebacker Joey Markasovic (Providence Catholic), who led SXU with 80 tackles (39 solos) and ranks 10th in program history with 275 career tackles.

On offense, junior running back Amari Venerable (Crete-Monee), a 2021 MSFA Midwest League First Team member, is back. Venerable ran for 872 yards on 158 carries and scored 10 rushing touchdowns last season.

Also back is sophomore offensive lineman Colin Cox (Joliet Catholic Academy), a 2021 MSFA Midwest League Second Team member.

Calling the signals again will likely be 2021 MSFA Midwest League Second Team member junior quarterback Stuart Ross (Springfield Southeast), who was ranked No. 4 in the NAIA in completion percentage at 66.3 percent (189 for 285) to go with 1,962 yards and 16 touchdowns. He led the MSFA Midwest League in completion percentage, completions, passing yards and touchdown passes.

The Cougars opens the season at NCAA Division II University of Indianapolis at 5 p.m. on September 3.

They host St. Thomas University (Florida) in their home opener at noon on September 10 at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field.

 

NIL hits home

It’s not just the big Division I schools who are taking advantage of the name, image and likeness rules that allows college students to earn money for commercial endorsements and other deals.

Trinity Christian College agreed to a partnership with Opendorse, the leading NIL marketplace.

Trinity becomes the first non-NCAA Division I program in the Chicago area to develop an NIL partnership with Opendorse, and is the only Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference program to partner with the company.

“We’re extremely excited to be on the forefront of the changing NIL landscape in college athletics, and Opendorse has been a leader in that arena since the beginning,” said Trinity Athletic Director Wendy Reid. “Through our partnership, TCC student-athletes will have the ability to grow their individual brands while having a company like Opendorse come alongside and offer their support and expertise.”

Opendorse will provide athletes the ability to connect with supporters for NIL deals while remaining compliant under NAIA guidelines.

As part of the agreement, Opendorse will provide TCC student-athletes educational resources, generate the necessary tax documents and provide a social media audit. TCC athletes also gain access to the Opendorse marketplace, where businesses and supporters can offer partnership opportunities and complete payments.

“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for me and my teammates,” said Braxton Miller, a junior guard with the Trolls’ men’s basketball program. “These types of relationships will open doors for us in ways that just weren’t there before. I’m thankful to be a Troll, and for this new partnership.”

 

Big-time baseball

Local players are making impacts in professional baseball.

Mike Massey, a Palos Park native and Brother Rice graduate, was called up by Kansas City for the second time this season will likely stick around for a while.

Massey, a second baseman, was first called up in mid-July when several Royals players who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 were not allowed to make a trip to Toronto. He played in three games and went 2-for-4 against the Blue jays on July 16. He was brought back last week after the trade deadline and went 2-for-3 against the White Sox in Chicago. He also had two hits, two RBIs and scored three runs against Boston on Aug. 7.

Meanwhile, Orland Park resident and Marist graduate Jack Brannigan cracked his first professional home run on Aug. 6.

Brannigan, who was recently drafted in the third round by Pittsburgh, homered for Class A Bradenton of the Florida Gulf Coast League in his debut for the Mauraders in a 9-6 win over Fort Meyers.

 

Facing the best

One of the top area high school golfers, Sandburg’s Jillian Cosler, got a chance to face some of the best golfers in the country as she competed in the Girls Junior PGA Championship, which wrapped up Thursday at Cog Hill Country Club in Lemont.

Cosler didn’t make the final cut, but fired twin rounds of 79 in the tournament, which was won by Jacksonville, Florida’s Kaitlyn Schroeder, who had a 14-under in four rounds.

Pro Soccer Report: Milazzo’s first goal at SeatGeek helps Red Stars snap skid

By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

At one time in early July, the Chicago Red Stars were tied with San Diego for the most points in the NWSL.

For most of the month they hung around second place, but after ending July with a two-game losing streak, they entered Sunday’s home game against Gotham FC in fifth place.

Thanks in part to a goal from Orland Park native Tatumn Milazzo and another from rookie Ava Cook, the Red Stars got a great jump on August with a 2-0 victory in front of an announced crowd of 5,078 Sunday at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.

The header in extra time in the first half was Milazzo’s second career NWSL goal and first at SeatGeek Stadium, where she usually has a team full of fans in the stands.

“I got to see them on the sidelines [minutes after the game] and they were screaming and yelling, and that was really fun,” she said. “My mom and sisters and grandparents were here, and my high school principal and one of my middle school teachers were here. They were excited.”

The Red Stars improved to 6-3-5 and moved into fourth place. Gotham fell to 4-8-0.

Chicago’s Yuki Nagasato (left) stays close with Gotham FC’s McCall Zerboni on Aug. 7. Zerboni came under fire last week for comments she made that offended an American Indian player. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Watch what you say

Gotham’s McCall Zerboni came under fire for what, to some, was an innocent comment, but angered others.

After a match against Houston on July 31, Zerboni talked about players blending in by saying “You’ve got to have enough Indians, there can’t be too many chiefs.”

That didn’t sit well with some people — especially Angel City’s Madison Hammond, who claims to be the only Native American playing in the NWSL.

“I’ve spoken with McCall and I know she didn’t intend harm, but phrases like ‘too many chiefs,’ ‘pow wow,’ ‘sitting Indian style’ and many more are rooted in brutal racism and are way too common in our everyday lexicon,” Hammond said in a tweet. “They may seem to be harmless, but they’re not.”

Gotham issued a statement denouncing the comment and Zerboni apologized on Twitter, saying, “im sorry if anything I’ve ever said has offended any1. The last thing I would ever want 2 do is hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel unloved.”

 

Next up

The Red Stars play four games in a row on the road including Sunday’s matchup at Angel City (5-5-3).

Their next home game will be Sept. 14 against Kansas City.

 

Going Gaga

When the Chicago Fire play games in Bridgeview on Aug. 21, Sept. 10 and Oct. 9, area fans will get a chance to see a young goaltender who is literally going places.

Gabriel “Gaga” Slonia, 18, was transferred to Chelsea FC in the English Premier League for a multi-million transfer fee on Aug 2.

The Addison native will stay with the Fire for the rest of the 2022 season but will be considered on loan.

It’s the most expensive transfer for a player in Fire history, and Slonia is the youngest Fire player to sign with a team in a top-five European league.

“Gaga is a role model to many aspiring footballers in Chicago and this transfer demonstrates that a player can progress to the first team from our academy before joining one of the biggest clubs in the world,” Fire Sporting Director Georg Heitz said in a news release.

 

Fire II loses

The Fire II lost a road game to St. Louis CITY2, 2-1, Aug. 6 in an MSL NEXT Pro game.

Missael Rodriguez scored his second goal in as many games for the Fire (4-9-5, 19 points), but St. Louis scored a pair the rest of the way to secure the victory.

The Fire II finish a three-game road trip with a game against the New England Revolution II on Sunday.

Zoe Morse of the Red Stars gets ready to boot the ball downfield Sunday in a 2-0 win over Gotham. Photo by Jeff Vorva

46th Junior PGA Championships begin Tuesday at Cog Hill

Two of golf’s major junior championships return this week when the 46th Junior PGA Championships tee off Tuesday at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Palos Park.

The championships run until Friday. This is the first time both the boys and girls championships are at the same venue since 2017.

Sandburg’s Jillian Cosler, of Orland Park, is among the field of 156 top female junior golfers competing for the Patty Berg Trophy. The girls division features six of the top 10 junior players according to the Rolex AJGA Rankings highlighted by No. 3 Leigh Chien, No. 5 Jasmine Koo and No. 6 Bailey Shoemaker.

In the field of 156 top male junior golfers competing for the Jack Nicklaus Trophy will be three of the top 15 junior players: No. 4 Nicholas Gross, No. 12 Byungho Lee and No. 13 Henry Guan.

Included in the two fields are 100 golfers committed to play at the collegiate level, as well as 26 Illinois natives.

The Junior PGA Championships are where the best in the world get their start. Among the previous winners are Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk, Inbee Park, Dottie Pepper, Yuka Saso, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Lexi Thompson and Tiger Woods.

The 2021 Boys Junior PGA Championship saw champion Caleb Surratt post a third-round record 62 on his way to the title. Anna Davis’ seven-shot lead earned her the 2021 Girls Junior PGA Championship. Surratt is headed to the University of Tennessee this fall. Davis, who is the No. 2 in the latest Rolex AJGA Rankings, will miss the 2022 championship to take part in the AIG Women’s British Open.

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