That Crete-Monee posted its first shutout of the year in Friday's 56-0 victory over Rich South is not an indication of how good the unbeaten team's defensive unit truly is, according to coach Jerry Verde.
"Our starting defense has given up two touchdowns," Verde said. "Getting kids injured just to put a 'zero' on the scoreboard isn't worth it; if we know we've won handily, that's enough for us. It's nice getting the shutout, but being healthy is more important, and we have been for the most part, this season."
One of the keys to stopping Rich South on Friday was to limit the effectiveness of senior Jaylen Zachery, one of the area's top receivers. Zachery caught four passes against the Warriors for a mere 22 yards. The Crete-Monee defense held the Stars to 65 yards of offense.
"I don't know how many defensive efforts we've had that was better than that," Verde said. "(Rich South) ran a lot of different formations, but we work hard on formation recognition. Linebackers Nyles (Morgan) and Kyle Lewis did a good job for us, and I don't know how many catches (Zachery) had, but Jaylen Dunlap did a nice job on him."
The Warriors have never lost a Southland Athletic Conference game dating back to the SAC's founding in 2009. Crete-Monee has won 19 straight SAC games and 26 conference games dating back to 2007 in the old SICA South. Rich East was the last conference team to beat the Warriors and the Rockets are Friday's opponent.
"We are looking forward to Rich East," Verde said. "Last year they took us down to the last throw, so we will treat it as a playoff game, gearing up for Week 10. We have respect for their program, with a big offensive line that will try to grind the clock on us. So they are going to challenge us. It's going to be a playoff atmosphere next Friday, I think it really will be."
Crete has posted two undefeated seasons in the program's history -- last year and 1952. !~ Vince Vosti
Caravan defense steps up: Mount Carmel has posted back-to-back shutouts, including a 27-0 Catholic League Blue win over St. Rita on Friday.
Caravan defensive back Justin Sanchez, who had a hand in 10 tackles, said the defense knew it had to step up.
"I think we were just prepared," Sanchez said. "We wanted to show we are better than that. We knew St. Rita would be tough, but we just stepped up and made plays. I think everybody took it up a notch because we know we have to be ready for the playoffs."
Senior linebacker Ronan Flaherty said it was also a matter of proving to themselves they could stop a good team.
"The last time we were (at Gately Stadium), we gave up a lot of points to Loyola and lost (30-27 in overtime) and we felt like we had something to prove," Flaherty said. "We came out and played together as a unit and the offense got those two quick scores and that really helped too." !~ Mike Nieto
Warriors build upon last year: Verde said the Warriors learned key lessons from last season's playoff run, that ended in the second round of the Class 6A bracket with a loss to eventual state runner-up Peoria Richwoods.
"We learned a lot, such as not being complacent or running things that are vanilla," Verde said. "We've been expanding our playbook throughout the year, because if we don't do it now, we won't have time to do that later ... and I think we've done a good job of that both offensively and defensively."
Verde said this year's defensive unit compares favorably to last year's unit, which surrendered 51 points in the playoff loss to Richwoods.
"We had very good players last year, but I feel like we have fewer holes this year, especially when we put our starting 11 or 14 players our there," Verde said. "That is a little different than what we had last year." !~ Vince Vosti
On the tube: Friday's Oak Forest at T.F. South game will be shown on Comcast as a "Game of the Week."
It can be found at noon Saturday via tape delay on CN 100.
Tribute to a legend: Mount Carmel public address announcer Jim Civik has been shouting "Hey, Hey" after a Caravan touchdown as a tribute to a Chicago broadcasting legend.
"Jack Brickhouse, and I just want to pay tribute to him," Civic said. "He was a great announcer and everyone who grew up in Chicago knows about Jack's call after the Cubs home run."
Brickhouse, who died in 1998, was the TV voice of the Cubs for years as well as the White Sox, Bulls and other events, including covering political conventions for WGN-TV Channel 9, or as Brick used to say, "WGN-TV, Continental Broadcasting."
He was also the radio voice of the Bears for years with longtime Chicago legend Irv Kupcinet. Kup was known to follow a Brickhouse call with "Dat's right, Jack." !~ Mike Nieto
Rebels prime for Oak Forest: Call 2012 a bounce-back season for T.F. South.
The Rebels went 4-5 and missed the playoffs last year. A 7-1 record entering the final week showdown with Oak Forest guarantees a 13th playoff appearance in the last 15 years for a Tom Padjen-led team.
"We've had great games with the Bengals, and don't expect anything less than that," Padjen said. "We need to improve based on a lot of things (against Argo)."
Padjen is a stickler for details. To the outsider, T.F. South barely broke a sweat in Friday's 39-6 romp over Argo. Senior do-everything Saleem Sanford's 216 yards rushing and 16 receiving came within 30 yards of matching Argo's game total, and Sanford played on offense only in the first half. He grabbed an interception on Argo's first series of the second half to keep his hand in the game.
The Rebels have won seven straight following the opening week loss to Crete-Monee. !~ Tim Cronin
Bloom down to last chance: Playing in Saturday's rain, Bloom Township's offense never got fully on track against Rich East.
The Blazing Trojans managed 127 yards, with just 27 in the second half, when the Rockets came from behind to score a 20-14 victory.
"They out-executed us in the second half, and we didn't come through," Bloom coach Tony Palombi said. "We came out strong, and just kind of faltered in the second half."
The loss prevented Bloom Township from securing its first playoff spot since before the merger of the Bloom and Bloom Trail athletic programs in 1995. The Trojans last made the playoffs in 1989; the Blazers never did.
The Blazing Trojans have one more chance: beat 3-5 Rich Central on Friday night, and Bloom is in for sure at 6-3. Lose to finish 5-4, as Palombi's teams did in 2007 and 2008, and it comes down to playoff points based on opponents' records. Bloom fell short on those occasions. !~ Tim Cronin