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SXU football coach Mike Feminis hugs Amari Venerable after the running back scored the game-winning TD in overtime St. Francis in Joliet last year to qualify for the NAIA playoffs. The Cougars are ranked 11th in the country in the preseason. Photo by Jeff Vorva

SXU football coach Mike Feminis hugs Amari Venerable after
the running back scored the game-winning TD in overtime St. Francis in Joliet last year to qualify for the NAIA playoffs. The Cougars are ranked 11th in the country in the preseason. 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.

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