OK, who‘s to blame for this killer schedule?
As if suburban Chicago‘s DuPage Valley Conference wasn‘t tough enough, league power Wheaton Warrenville South opens its season Aug. 28 against a team (Hinsdale Central) which was a Class 8A finalist last year, then in Week 2 battles the team (Maine South) Hinsdale Central lost to in the title game.
Both are non-conference games, and both are opponents likely to surface in the statewide rankings. Maine South was a MaxPreps Top 25 team nationally last year.
“Hinsdale Central, then Maine South. Bang-bang,” said WW South head coach Ron Muhitch, with a hint of a chuckle in his voice.
Then, add in the Tigers’ annual battle against DuPage rival Naperville North in Week 5, and you can easily see why WW South’s early season schedule ranks among the most difficult in Illinois. And perhaps the most pleasing, as well, depending on how the Tigers survive those first five games.
With a veteran team returning from an 8-2 season, including a seven-game winning streak to begin the 2008 season, expectations are sky high at this west suburban high school, which last won a state championship (8A) in 2006.
Wheaton-Warrenville South vs Naperville North, IL
“I’m real pleased with my kids. Great kids. Great, fun kids,” Muhitch said. “They’re very positive, they work hard. We’re not big, except in the offensive line. But we have a chance to be great, I think, because of the challenge and the fact we have some kids coming back. … I can’t imagine being a senior on this football team and not being excited.”
Among those seniors are Greg McAndrew, a wide receiver, plus Kyle Snow and Dan Holenstein. Quarterback Mark Tracey, and offensive linemen Chris Cortopossi, Rocco Ammons and Nick Immekus are among eight returning starters on offense.
The Tigers will certainly be pumped. Their only mistake during the regular season last year was giving up a 99-yard scoring drive to Naperville North in the fourth quarter of a game played in a downpour. It was the final game of the regular season and decided the league championship. Then the Tigers were upset by Downers Grove North in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs.
WW South has looked impressive in various 7-on-7 passing jamborees over the summer, and the Tigers will open preseason camp on Aug. 12. Less than three weeks after that, the Tigers will find out just how good they may be this season.
“We’ve got a monster schedule,” Muhitch said. “The whole thing that we’ve challenged (the players) to rise up to challenge is the schedule. The schedule represents itself. It represents the very best in Illinois, I think.
“We’ve got a chance to do something in history that has not been done for our program, and that is to play against the very best with a good bunch of kids and see how we can stack up.”
Until that regular season-ending 7-6 loss to Naperville North in the rain, WW South had overwhelmed its opponents with more than 40 points in four consecutive games. And the Tigers were the only DuPage team to hold its opponents to an average of fewer than 10 points a game.
Their season-opener game may be as much a test for Hinsdale Central as it is for WW South. And the same for Maine South on Sept. 4, which lost virtually every starter to graduation but will replace them with a new batch of players who have never lost a game in high school.
Naperville North, an Illinois Top 5 team in MaxPreps' preseason rankings, returns a strong defense, which makes their Sept. 25 meeting with WW South a “can’t miss” classic. Maybe, this time, without the rain.
Recruiting: Lane’s Tomlinson opts for Duke
Laken Tomlinson may be a future doctor locked into an offensive lineman’s body. And that may explain why, with a 3.4 grade-point-average and an interest in studying pre-medicine, the Chicago Lane Technical lineman verbaled Tuesday to Duke University instead of to a bigger football name among his more 20 scholarship offers.
Tomlinson, 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, has brains and brawn. In addition to his Duke offer, high-academic schools Stanford and Northwestern were among those calling. But so were Ohio State, Purdue and Illinois of the Big Ten, and Tennessee of the SEC.
In the end, the classroom outweighed the football field, although several of his offers came from schools with high academic requirements.
Tomlinson‘s final choices came down to Duke, Illinois and Ohio State. Tomlinson has started for Lane since his sophomore season. He is the second Lane senior to verbal to a BCS school this summer. Defensive end Louis Trinca-Pasat committed to Iowa.
* Alex Dragicevich, a guard for Glenbrook North’s basketball team, verbally committed to Notre Dame on Tuesday. He had at least six other Division I offers, including Oklahoma State, Colorado and Oregon State.
“It was a big offer. It was a school close to home, which I was pretty excited about. It’s a good system for me overall,” Dragicevich told the Chicago Sun-Times.
A 6-foot-6 shooting guard, Dragicevich decided on the Irish quickly. He visited the campus Monday, then verbaled to Irish head coach Mike Brey the next day.
Basketball: Illinois recruit Head back at Rich South
Illinois recruit Crandall Head is proving that you can go home again.
Head, who played basketball at Chicago Crane Tech last winter, has transferred to Rich South, where he attended school his freshman and sophomore years and where his family has a residence.
Head enrolled at Rich South last week, according to the Southtown Star.
Head, a 6-foot-3 guard who verbaled to the University of Illinois in his sophomore year, averaged 21.2 points per game last season at Crane.
Rich South was 17-9 last season and has four starters returning. Exactly how Head figures into that lineup will bear watching.
“If he‘s going to come in with a new, revised attitude, that could help our team tremendously,” Rich South head coach Scot Ritter told the Southtown Star. “But I thought we were going to be good anyway. We only lost one starter and we had a very, very good summer.”
Baseball: St. Rita wins Chicago summer championship
St. Rita answered its Class 4A title loss to New Trier by winning the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Phil Lawler Summer Classic.
Mark Payton hit a two-run home run and knocked in another run with a double as the Mustangs (19-2) defeated Sandburg 9-0 in the championship game July 30 at Benedictine University.
Shane Conlon struck out 10 batters over five innings for St. Rita. St. Rita had also defeated Sandburg in the Class 4A Supersectional in June, advancing the Mustangs to the state semifinals.
Paul Bowker, a sports journalist for 25 years who has worked at newspapers nationwide, covers the Chicago area for MaxPreps. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org