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Girls Soccer: Benet’s Season Ends in PKs; St. Francis Earns 1st State Trip

Both teams line up for starting lineup introductions before Tuesday’s game.

Benet held its opponents scoreless the first 285 minutes of the playoffs. 15 more minutes and the Redwings would have clinched a spot in 2A state semifinals.

The Redwings outscored their opponents 24-0 in their first three games, and held a 1-0 lead over St. Francis more than halfway through Tuesday’s 2A supersectional game played at Benedictine University.

But with 15:02 left in the second half, Spartans forward Amanda Gaggioli broke through the Redwing defense, scoring a goal to tie the game at 1-1. The game went to penalty kicks after the score remained tied through the duration of regulation and four ten-minute overtime periods. There, St. Francis outscored Benet 4-2 to earn a berth in the state semifinals.

“We’re not the best penalty kick team in the history of mankind,” Benet coach Bob Gros said. “We’ve worked on it. I’ve tried everything under the sun. But there’s so much psychology involved. There’s a little bit of luck too.”

Sydney Fox’s successful penalty kick sent St. Francis (22-3) to its first ever appearance in the state semifinals. Taylor Bucaro, Kaitlin Bucaro and Gaggioli also made penalty kicks for the Spartans.

“It feels great, it really does. I feel like this isn’t really real right now, but it’s great,” said Gaggioli

The Redwings dominated possession in the first half and outshot the Spartans 10-4 over the first 40 minutes. With 8:54 left in the first half, Jessica Smetana scored after receiving a great pass from Amanda Kaiser. The senior’s shot went off the far post and into the back of the net, putting the Redwings up 1-0.

The momentum shifted in the second half. The Spartans started to play more aggressively and dominated possession of the ball. With just over 15 minutes left in the second half, St. Francis snapped Benet’s 285 minute playoff scoreless streak when Gaggioli scored from 10 yards out after receiving a feed from Kaitlin Bucaro.

“I just saw the pass coming in, and my teammate (Fox) just let it go through her legs. I was open and just put it in,” Gaggioli said.

Worn down by temperatures in the mid-80s, both teams had trouble generating anything in the four overtime periods. St. Francis outshot Benet 5-2 over the last 40 minutes, and the Redwings didn’t get off a shot attempt over the last two overtimes.

Despite being outshot, Gros felt the Redwings had the better chances in overtime.

“In terms of more consistent pressure, I think in the last 40 minutes we had a little bit of an advantage there,” Gros said. “We just couldn’t get it in. You just have one of those days, and it doesn’t pay off.”

Benet finishes the season 18-5-3. The Redwings came into Tuesday’s game unbeaten in their previous 17 games.

St. Francis will play St. Viator at 11 a.m. Friday in the first of two 2A semifinals at North Central College in Naperville. Glenwood will face U. High of Normal in the second semifinal.

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.

St. Francis players celebrate with their friends and family after the game.

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Girls Softball: Carragher’s RBI Triple The Difference As St. Francis Clips Aurora Central

St. Francis’ lineup posted before Monday’s game against Aurora Central.

St. Francis coach Ralph Remus came out to the pitcher’s circle to reassure his players in the midst of a two-run, game-tying rally by Aurora Central Catholic in the sixth inning of Monday’s Suburban Christian Conference game.

“I just told the girls we were still in good shape if we could hold them to three runs,” said Remus. “I knew we were going to score in the seventh. We had the top of the order up and after going through the order three times, I was pretty sure we were going to put the bat on the ball.”

Remus was right. Spartans pitcher Maggie Remus stranded the go-ahead run at third base in the sixth, and catcher Blaine Carragher hit an RBI triple in the seventh as St. Francis held on to beat host Aurora Central 4-3.

“I felt comfortable with her in that spot,” said Remus of Carragher. “She’s the most competitive kid in the world, so I knew she was going to do everything she could to drive the ball.”

Aurora Central (5-7, 2-3) struck first, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Mary Kate Gosselin drove in Jenny Alderman with a triple to deep center field.

St. Francis (12-2, 4-1) quickly responded, scoring two runs in the second inning on an RBI double by Jenna Dama and an RBI triple by Aly Germanos.

The Spartans added an insurance run in the fourth inning when Dama picked her second RBI of the game on an infield single that drove in Ali Dittrich.

The Chargers rallied to tie the game at 3-3 with two runs in the sixth inning. Amber Konen scored on a throwing error before Allie Lundquist tied the game by stealing home on the back-end of a double steal.

The Chargers had the possible go-ahead run at third base with two outs in the inning, but Maggie Remus struck out Aurora Central shortstop Gabi Alfaro to end the threat.

Germanos reached first base on infield error to lead off the seventh inning and Carragher followed with an RBI triple to give the Spartans a 4-3 lead.

“The whole game it felt like our bats were dead, but that last inning we definitely came alive,” said Carragher. “We just wanted to take away their momentum and get ourselves back up.”

Remus made quick work of Aurora Central in the seventh inning, retiring the Chargers in order to close out the Spartans’ victory.

Despite Monday’s loss, Aurora Central coach Jim Hallahan feels good about where his team is headed.

“I’m very optimistic of where we’re going to be at the end of the year,” said Hallahan. “We’re putting the pieces of the puzzle together but I’m very excited about where we’ll be in about three weeks.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Class 5A Playoff Mini-Previews: The Quest For A Montini Three-Peat Begins

The IHSA football playoff pairings were announced Friday night, at about the same time I was watching the most painful football game (or sporting event) I have ever witnessed. Damn you Spartans. Anyway, I’m going to post my thoughts on the match-ups involving the teams I saw this season in person. Here is the first installment of my mini-previews, focusing on the 5A games. I’ll post the mini-previews of the 6A, 7A and 8A games tomorrow.

#6 Montini (7-2, 4-1) vs #11 Woodstock North (7-2, 5-1), Sat. Oct. 29, 1 pm in Lombard

Montini WR Jordan Westerkamp dives for a catch in last year’s Class 5A championship game

Montini, the two-time defending 5A state champion, enters the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the state. The Broncos have won five straight games and have outscored opponents 276 to 50 over that stretch.

The Broncos offense has transformed into a powerhouse since John Rhode took over the quarterbacking duties at halftime of Montini’s week six game against St. Francis. Rhode missed the first five games of the season recovering from a broken right thumb. In just over 10 quarters of play this season, Rhode has thrown for 1,100 yards and 22 touchdowns. Rhode has a strong stable of wide receivers to target. Jordan Westerkamp, a Nebraska recruit, is the star of the receiving corp, but Joe Borsellino and Anthony Taylor are talented weapons as well.

“There is really only one expectation for us, that’s to play in the final game,” said Montini Head Coach Chris Andriano after last week’s 54-6 victory over Wheaton Academy.” We’ve been very blessed with some great kids, great coaching staff, great teams and we’ve been able to be in that game and actually win that game the last two years so that’s our expectation, we want to practice on Thanksgiving day and play on Thanksgiving weekend.”

Montini’s two losses came without John Rhode and at the hands of two 9-0 teams (Loyola and Marian Central).

The IHSA didn’t give the Broncos any favors with their seeding. Despite the way Montini has looked in recent weeks, the Broncos were only given a six seed, and a rematch with 9-0 Marian Central likely awaits in the quarterfinals.

Woodstock North won a share of the Fox Valley Fox division crown this season in only the school’s third year as a varsity squad. The Thunder overcame a 15 point halftime deficit last week in their 47-35 victory over Grayslake North.

The Thunder, led by 5-7 fullback Ryan Wade, are a run-first team. They rushed for 333 yards during the second half of their comeback win last week. Wade had 33 carries for 189 yards in total last week.

PREDICTION:

It’s hard to see Montini losing their first round game, but Woodstock North offense will present a challenge. Montini has done well against strong running offenses this season, defeating Marmion and St. Francis, giving up two touchdowns combined in those games.

Montini 38 Woodstock North 17

#8 St. Francis (7-2, 3-2) vs #9 Burlington Central (7-2, 4-1), Sat. Oct. 29 7 pm at College of DuPage

St. Francis WR Michael Hanson against Marmion

This class 5A 8/9 match-up features two teams with run-heavy offenses entering the playoffs with multi-game winning streaks.

St. Francis heads into the playoffs on a three-game winning streak. The Spartans’ two losses to this season came to two highest ranked 5A teams, 9-0 Marian Central and 7-2 Montini.

St. Francis features a run-first offense, led by running backs Jack Petrando and Jeff Rutkowski. Petrando is more the workhorse but Rutkowski scored four touchdowns (two rushing, two receiving) last week against St. Edward.

Burlington Central, second place finishers in the Big Northern East division, have outscored opponents 151-17 during their current four game winning streak. The Rockets have only lost two games this season by a total of five points.

The Rockets offense is led by running back Joel Bouagron. The 6’1, 205 lb. junior has rushed for 376 yards and five touchdowns over the last two weeks.

PREDICTION:

Burlington Central 28 St. Francis 24

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Searching For Great Moments In Badger History

I’m currently doing some freelance research work for the Wisconsin Radio Network. My job is to find “shining moments” in Badger history to be featured in commercials for the Marshfield Clinic. Once I find the significant games, I have to assemble a fact sheet and find someone involved in the game to be interviewed.

We just finished the ads for the football season, and they will be uploaded to this site week-by-week.

I had to find significant moments/games against Penn State, Michigan State, Indiana and one other game against a team that UW was not playing this year (I chose the 1981 game against Michigan). Here are the “shining” moments I found:

Oct. 26, 1974: Wisconsin defeats Indiana 35-25

Freshman Mike Morgan rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start as the Badgers defeated Indiana 35-25 in Bloomington.

Morgan filled in for all-Big Ten running back Billy Marek who was sidelined by knee and wrist injuries.

Fullback Ken Starch added 99 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Gregg Bohlig completed 10 of his 17 pass attempts for 160 yards.

The Badgers climbed to .500 in Big Ten play. UW lost their previous two games to powerhouses Ohio State and Michigan.

Wisconsin finished the 1974 season 7-4. It was the Badgers first winning season since 1962.

WHO WE INTERVIEWED: I attempted to get a hold of Mike Morgan to no avail. Since we never got in touch with him, we didn’t use this game and we ended up replacing it with the 1997 UW/IU game. Matt Davenport kicked a field goal with four seconds left to give the Badgers the lead and the win. Davenport would go on to kick another game winning field goal the very next week against Northwestern. (Davenport was interviewed)

Sept. 13, 1981: Wisconsin defeats #1 Michigan 21-14

Former UW Head Coach Dave McClain

“It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I’ve never had so much fun coaching as today. I told the squad before the game that nobody outside this locker room thinks we have a chance. Only we know that we can win this game.”

-Wisconsin Head Coach Dave McClain

“Our problems were simple. Our offense wasn’t any good, our defense wasn’t any good, our kicking game wasn’t any good, and our coaching was poor. It’s a miracle we were only beaten by seven points.”

-Michigan Head Coach Bo Schembechler

Wisconsin beat the #1 ranked team in the country for the first time in school history when they defeated #1 ranked Michigan on Sept. 13, 1981 at Camp Randall.

Wisconsin had not defeated Michigan since 1962, and the Wolverines had outscored the Badgers 176-0 in their previous four meetings.

It was Michigan’s first loss in a road opener since Harvard did them in 100 years earlier.

Wisconsin’s defense shut down Michigan quarterback Steve Smith (3-18, 39 yards and 3 INTs) and held star wide receiver Anthony Carter to just one catch.

Meanwhile, the Badgers were able to rack up 439 net yards. Quarterback  Jess Cole completed 8 of his 17 passes for 182 yards and threw touchdowns to Marvin Neal and John Williams. Fullback Dave Mohapp led the Badgers with 19 carries for 87 yards. Running back Chucky Davis rushed for 71 yards and one touchdown.

WHO WE INTERVIEWED: Safety and punter David Greenwood.

Oct. 16, 1982: Wisconsin defeats Michigan State 24-23

Wisconsin held on for victory as safety David Greenwood intercepted a pass on Michigan State’s two point conversion attempt in the final seconds.

The Spartans got the ball back trailing 24-17 with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Late in the drive, Spartans quarterback John Leister escaped a savage rush to hit wide receiver Otis Grant with a 28 yard strike, moving the Spartans to the Wisconsin 10 yard line.

Two plays later, Lesiter found split end Ted Jones alone in the end zone, cutting the deficit to a point, 24-23.

Michigan State head coach Muddy Waters decided to avoid a tie (there was no overtime at the time) by going for two points and the victory.

“There was never a doubt about going for two points. We played to win,” said Waters after the game.

Leister rolled right, and with Grant open deep in the end zone, he under threw the pass and the ball fell right into the hands of Wisconsin safety David Greenwood.

The Badgers escaped with a 24-23 victory

WHO WE INTERVIEWED: We actually we’re unable to do a piece on this game. I got a hold of David Greenwood, but he had no recollection of the game. Instead, we interviewed Greenwood about the 1981 Michigan game. Bill Scott from the Wisconsin Radio Network replaced this game with the 1992 UW/MSU game that took place in Tokyo. The Badgers won that game to clinch a berth in the Rose Bowl. (Barry Alvarez was interviewed)

Sept. 30, 1995: Wisconsin defeats #6 Penn State 17-9

Former Badger QB Darrell Bevell, who is currently the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.

Wisconsin went into Happy Valley and ended the Nittany Lions’ nation-best 20 game winning streak that dated back to the 1994 season. The loss also snapped Penn State’s 12 game Big Ten winning streak.

It was the first time Wisconsin and Penn State had played since 1970, and the first time the two teams had played as Big Ten Conference foes. PSU joined the Big Ten in 1993, but they did not play UW their first two seasons in the league.

Darrell Bevell completed 18 of his 22 pass attempts for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Bevell’s first quarter touchdown pass to tight end Matt Nyquist put the Badgers up 10-0. Nyquist ended the game with 4 catches for 40 yards and the one touchdown.

Bevell later connected with wide receiver Tony Simmons on a 21 yard touchdown pass that put the Badgers up 17-3 early in the fourth quarter.

The game was Joe Paterno’s 500th as a member of the Penn State coaching staff.

WHO WE INTERVIEWED: TE Matt Nyquist; 4 catches, 40 yards, 1 touchdown

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With Rhode Back, Montini Rolls Over St. Francis, 33-14

Montini 33 St. Francis 14

Montini Quarterback John Rhode threw three touchdown passes in his season debut as the Broncos defeated St. Francis 33-14 in Lombard Friday night.

Rhode, a senior transfer from Marian Catholic, missed the first five games of the season as he recovered from a broken thumb. Rhode did not see the field in the first half on Friday either because the Montini (4-2, 2-1) coaching staff wanted to work him in slowly.

However, Rhode quickly made an impact once he took the field. Rhode tossed three touchdown passes in the second half, including two to star wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp.

“It was great to see him come in there and play how he played. He’s the player of the game, being able to come off a thumb injury like that and throw the ball like he did, that’s unbelievable,” said the Nebraska-bound Westerkamp.

Montini head coach Chris Andriano said after the game that Rhode will be the Broncos starting quarterback going forward.

St. Francis (4-2, 1-2) held the ball for nearly seven minutes during a 14-play drive to start the game. The Spartans were unable to get any points out of the drive after they turned the ball over on downs deep in Broncos territory.

Montini running back Dimitri Taylor ran 12 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive, putting the Broncos up 7-0 late in the first quarter.

Mark Gorogianis handled the quarterbacking duties for the Broncos in the first half. Gorogianis connected with Westerkamp on a five yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter that put the Broncos up 13-0.

On the Spartans first drive of the second half, running back Jack Petrando found the end zone from two yards out, cutting the lead to 13-7.

The Broncos quickly responded on their next drive with Rhode’s first touchdown of the season, a nine yard pass to Westerkamp that put Montini up 20-7.

St. Francis cut the Broncos’ lead to six again early in the fourth quarter after Petrando rushed two yards for his second touchdown of the night. Petrando finished the game with 28 carries for 82 yards and the two touchdowns.

The Broncos were once again able to respond with a touchdown on their ensuing possession. Rhode connected with wide receiver Joe Borsellino on a 23 touchdown pass that put Montini up 27-14 with six and half minutes left in the fourth quarter.

“That was really great to see that we were able to offensively put some stuff together and move the ball and score immediately after they had scored,” said Andriano. “It kept us in that comfortable position. When your offense is able to do that, it’s a real confidence and momentum builder for your team.”

Rhode’s second touchdown pass to Westerkamp, a 22 yard connection, put the Broncos up 33-14 with just two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Westerkamp finished the game with 8 catches for 81 yards and three touchdowns.

SCORING PLAYS

FIRST QUARTER

[2:24] MON Dimitri Taylor 12 yard run (PAT good) – 7-0 MON

SECOND QUARTER

[10:05] MON Mark Gorogianis 5 yard pass to Jordan Westerkamp (PAT no good) – 13-0 MON

THIRD QUARTER

[7:26] SF Jack Petrando 2 yard run (PAT good) – 13-7 MON

[6:35] MON John Rhode 9 yard pass to Jordan Westerkamp (PAT good) – 20-7 MON

FOURTH QUARTER

[8:03] SF Jack Petrando 2 yard run (PAT good) – 20-14 MON

[6:38] MON John Rhode 23 yard pass to Joe Boresllino (PAT good) – 27-14 MON

[2:04] MON John Rhode 22 yard pass to Jordan Westerkamp (PAT good) – 33-14 MON

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Week Six Preview #1: St. Francis at Montini

Montini Star WR Jordan Westerkamp

St. Francis (4-1, 1-1) at Montini (3-2, 2-1), 7:30 Friday night in Lombard

HOW THEY GOT HERE

St. Francis –

Week One: 21-14 win vs Riverside-Brookfield

Week Two: 22-21 win at Vernon Hills

Week Three: 24-6 loss at Marian Central

Week Four: 56-12 win vs Wheaton Academy

Week Five: 58-19 win vs Guerin

Montini –

Week One: 26-21 win vs Palatine

Week Two: 41-24 loss at Loyola

Week Three: 13-6 win vs Marmion

Week Four: 21-20 loss at Marian Central

Week Five: 55-14 win vs Aurora Christian

St. Francis and Montini meet this week in a re-match of last year’s first round playoff game that saw Montini hold on for victory on a late goal-line stand. Both squads are fresh off blowout victories last week, and in the case of the Spartans, the last two weeks.

Montini, the two-time defending 5A State Champions, came out of the gate slow, starting just 2-2. The offense, which has been without starting QB John Rhode so far, had trouble getting off the ground until last week when they put up 55 points on Aurora Christian. With Rhode expected back this week, the Broncos hope to build off last week’s offensive explosion. It will be interesting to see how much the Broncos use their “JoeCat” offense with Rhode back behind center. Montini has had a lot of success the last couple weeks when they have put WR Joe Borsellino at QB. Borsellino had 152 yards of total offense and scored four touchdowns (he scored them three different ways: he ran for two, threw for one and caught another) last week against Aurora Christian. The “JoeCat” offense also sparked the late 4th quarter touchdown drive that gave the Broncos the lead over Marmion in week three. With his starting QB back in the lineup, Nebraska-bound WR Jordan Westerkamp should be even more dangerous this week. Westerkamp recently set the state record for most touchdown receptions in a career.

St. Francis has used a bruising, clock-eating offense on their way to a 4-1 start this season. RB Jack Petrando leads the way for a group of runners that tallied 408 rushing yards last week against Guerin. Petrando makes an impact on offense and defense. In the Spartans’ 56-12 victory over Wheaton Academy in week four, Petrando rushed for 124 yards and 4 touchdowns on offense while also returning an interception 69 yards for a touchdown on defense. The Spartans will try to control the game Friday night with their running game. The more clock their offense is able to eat up, the less time Westerkamp and the dangerous Montini offense will have on the field. Marmion executed this strategy against Montini in week three. The Cadets held the ball for the majority of the game, but they were unable to cash in on their long drives with touchdowns and lost 13-6. I believe St. Francis will have the same success at controlling the game with their running game, and unlike Marmion, the Spartans will end at least a couple of their drives with touchdowns.

PREDICTION: St. Francis 28 Montini 24

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