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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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Checking In: First Round Wrap-Up

Wheaton North QB John Peltz (4 total TDs this week against Jacobs) tries to escape a Glenbard North defender during the regular season – Photo from the Chicago Tribune

CLASS 5A

#6 Montini 49 #11 Woodstock North 14

Montini scored four touchdowns over a 12 play stretch in the second half to pull ahead from Woodstock North in the Broncos’ 49-14 first round victory.

The Broncos took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Thunder battled back and cut the score to 21-14 in the second quarter. From there though, it was all Montini, as the defensing 5A state champs scored the final 28 points of the game.

Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp had another star performance, hauling in 7 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. The Nebraska-bound senior also had a 52 yard punt return for the game’s first touchdown.

Quarterback John Rhode continued his string of excellent games, completing 17 of his 25 pass attempts for 330 yards and four touchdowns.

Montini advances to the second round where they will play at #3 Sterling 1 pm on Saturday

#8 St. Francis 27 #9 Burlington 10

After losing in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons to Montini, St. Francis broke through to the second round for the first time since 2008 when the Spartans won the Class 5A championship.

Defensive back Michael Hanson’s interception in the third quarter was the key play of the game. Trailing 14-10, Burlington opted not to punt on 4th and 13 from the St. Francis 36-yard line. Rockets QB Ryan Ritchie overthrew his target, and the ball landed in the hands of Hanson, who returned the pick 70 yards for a touchdown that put the Spartans up 21-10.

Running back Jack Petrando led the Spartans with 18 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Nick Donati added two touchdowns, one through the air and another on the ground.

St. Francis faces a tough test in the second round where they will go on the road to face #1 Kaneland at 7 pm on Saturday.

CLASS 6A

#3 Nazareth 35 #14 Deerfield 6

Nazareth running back Joshua Moore ran for 160 yards and four touchdowns in the Roadrunners dominant 35-6 first round win over Deerfield.

The Roadrunners took a 28-0 lead into halftime after holding the Warriors to just 19 yards of offense in the first two quarters. Deerfield scored its first and only touchdown with just 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Nazareth will host Cary-Grove next Saturday at 1 pm in the second round. The Roadrunners will be looking to advance to the quarterfinals for the second time in school history.

#10 Glenbard South 30 #7 Foreman 7

Running back Wesley Sanders scored two touchdowns as Glenbard South defeated Foreman 30-7 in the first round of the class 6A playoffs.

The Raiders played a sloppy game (5 fumbles, just one lost) without their starting quarterback Tyler Padera (concussion) but still dominated Foreman. Glenbard South took a 30-0 lead in the fourth quarter.

The Raiders will host Prairie Ridge next Saturday at 7 pm. The two teams met the first week of the season with Prairie Ridge winning convincingly 55-12.

#2 Prairie Ridge 49 #15 Marmion 0

Things started out well for Marmion, as the Cadets recovered a fumble on Prairie Ridge’s first offensive play of the game. However, the Cadets had a field goal attempt blocked on their ensuing possession, and things quickly went down hill.

Prairie Ridge went on to dominate the first half, taking a 42-0 lead into halftime. Quarterback Nick Nissen (12 carries, 38 yards) ran for four touchdowns. Running back Connor Greenwald added a touchdown and led the Wolves with 144 yards on 11 carries.

Marmion earned just one first down in the game while gaining only 23 yards of total offense.

#8 Lake Forest 55 #9 Fenton 20

Fenton struck first, but the Bison were unable to keep things going, losing to Lake Forest 55-20 in the first round of the class 6A playoffs.

Play-making running back Alan Geneva led the Bison with 10 catches for 97 yards and one touchdown.

Quarterback Sean Havlovic did not play for the Bison due a “school-related incident.”

Lake Forest running back Owen Williams (16 carries, 130 yards) reached the end zone four times for the Scots, who will face #1 Batavia in the second round.

CLASS 7A

#11 Carmel 28 #6 Addison Trail 20

Running backs Jordan Kos and Brian Brennan led the way for Carmel as they upset Addison Trail 28-20 in the first round of the class 7A playoffs.

Kos led the Corsairs with 31 carries for 167 yards and one touchdown while Brennan added 20 carries, 78 yards and two touchdowns. Addison Trail had only given up 48 points in the regular season, and never gave up more than 14 points in a game.

The Blazers drove down to the Carmel 11 yard line late in the fourth quarter in an attempt to send the game to overtime. However, the Corsairs forced two incompletions and time expired.

AT Quarterback Trevor Bermingham completed 19 of his 33 pass attempts for 177 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Carmel will host Crystal Lake South in the second round. The game kicks off at 7 pm Friday night.

#7 Wheaton North 28 #10 Jacobs 0

John Peltz had another strong performance as Wheaton North flew by Jacobs 28-0 in the first round.

Peltz completed 13 of his 19 pass attempts for 277 yards and four touchdowns. The junior added another touchdown on the ground.

Sophomore Matt Biegalski caught 5 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown while senior Johnny Daniels had 3 grabs for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

The Falcons’ defense was able to shut down Jacobs by holding down running back Caz Zyks. The talented back with a sweet name only gained 27 yards on 11 carries.

Wheaton North will face Rockford Boylan, the defending 6A champions, in the second round. That game kicks off at 1 pm Saturday in Rockford.

CLASS 8A

#11 Glenbard North 27 Barrington 21

Glenbard North only completed two passes in their 27-21 fupset win over Barrington, but the second one happened to be the play of the game.

With the scored tied at 21 halfway through the fourth quarter, Panthers quarterback Brian Murphy threw up a prayer into the end zone. The ball somehow fell into the hands of Logan Henshall for a touchdown (also Henshall’s first catch as a varsity player) and the Panthers took a 27-21 lead.

Once again, most of the Glenbard North offensive production came from the Jackson brothers. Junior Justin (17 carries, 95 yards) reached the end zone three times, while senior Phil ran for 122 yards on 21 carries.

The Panthers advanced to the second round where they will host Palatine at 6 pm on Saturday.

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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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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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