Ask our prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner about fall sports teams
It's time to tackle some high school questions, so we will get started. Thanks to everyone who has participated.
Good Afternoon and great job on covering all the prep sports. I have two quick questions dealing with cross country. When did the number of team advancing out of the regionals change from five to seven? and do you feel letting seven teams advance delutes the field? In some cases there were only seven or eight teams which basically meant all runners got to advance to regionals.
Hi David. The cross-country changes were implemented for this year. There are now fewer regionals, so that means more teams at each site. For example, last year when SJ-O hosted a regional at Kickapoo, I believe there were nine schools entered. This year, the meet was shifted to PBL and 15 schools had entries (13 had full teams). With that change, they allowed two additional schools to advance to the sectional round. Generally, I'm against expansion because it waters things down (i.e., more classes for basketball). However in this case, I don't have a problem with it. In theory, there are more schools competing for the sectional spots before, which justifies the additional two schools qualifying. Now, if it turns out a lot of regionals have only seven or eight full teams, then that would be a different story.
Why the lack of coverage of DHS in the gazette for football playoff pairings. They have been one of the better teams the last three year (two semifinal games in two years, 8-1 this year) and yet they do not get any mention in the paper whereas an area team that didn't get in the playoffs gets talked about. What gives??
Hi Eastside Vike. We probably should have had more on Danville than we did, but there were a number of playoff qualifiers that we didn't profile in great detail. We anticipate more notes and stories in the Vikings in the next couple of weeks. There are too many teams qualifying to do something on all, and our space was limited, so we did what we could. We haven't forgotten about the Vikings.
St Thomas More @ Unity. This is a much anticipated matchup, as these two local teams have never played each other. Fanbases have been wanting this game for years. Rivalry has developed through basketball. What is your take on this game, and how do you forsee it playing out?
Hi Rocket Fan. The playoffs are the only way these schools will play in football, at least for the foreseeable future. Conference schedules have the nine regular-season games locked in. Certainly an 8-1 team playing at home will be the favorite over a 5-4 team playing on the road ... but having said that, let me offer this reminder: St. Thomas More is the only school which has defeated 8-1 Momence this year. I think this game has the potential to be closer and more competitive than the majority of games between 8-1 and 5-4 teams, but I consider Unity the favorite. The Rockets have too many weapons and too much speed to discount. I think both teams have an above-average passing attack and can rely on it, when needed. It will be important to keep turnovers to a minimum and win the field-position battle. High school teams that have to drive 90-plus yards to reach the end zone are less likely to do so as often as teams needing to go 55 or 60 yards. St. Thomas More is used to playing bigger schools in the playoffs (4A in 2008 and 2009) so I don't expect them to be intimidated by a Unity team which is in the playoffs for an 18th consecutive year.
Fred, How do you think Can Mammen at Urbana stacks up with other QB's in the Big 12? Obviously Hightower at Danville and QB at Normal West are very good.But for Cam to perform as he has at Urbana the last 2 years he hasn't had the Players around him as the other 2.
Hi Tom. You ask a very interesting question. I think as far as a pure running quarterback, Danville's Dennis Hightower is the best of the three you mentioned. I think as far as a pure passing quarterback, Alex Jefferson from Normal West would get the nod. As far as an overall quarterback who is adept at both running and passing, I give the edge to Cam Mammen. Now, lets look at it this way. If Mammen had the line and the receivers at his disposal that Jefferson has at Normal, would he do as well or even better? That's hard to say, but I believe possibly he would. But in a historic perspective, it's pretty outstanding for Mammen to break the single-season passing record two years in a row. Urbana has had a football program for more than 100 years, starting it up in 1908 so it speaks of his abilities to be that successful, especially as a sophomore last year and as a junior this year.
Do you think the Danville Vikings can finally get over the hump and get all the way to Champaign or at least a return to the semi-finals?
Hi Viking fan. In a short answer, No. The semifinals are a possibility, but the quarterfinals could be the biggest obstacle this year. And, that is assuming Danville wins what could be a rematch with Normal West in the second round on the road. You'd certainly have to consider the Vikings underdogs in that game, if it happens. Crete-Monee could be a very, very formidable quarterfinal opponent. I see where the school has gotten votes as the No. 1 team in Class 6A the second half of the season. The danger in looking ahead like this, however, is to discount the first-round foe, which is Springfield. The Senators might be 5-4, but the losses are to a 9-0 team, two 8-1 teams and a 7-2 Rochester team where they scored 35 points. In my mind, this game is the one to be concerned about right now because for one of these two schools, there won't be a second playoff game.
With the regular season complete. What players are at the top of the list for Player of the Year?
Hi Viking Fan. I was just thinking about that very question this morning. I haven't had the chance to discuss the subject with my colleagues and receive their input, but three names come quickly to mind. I will list them alphabetically, since that is the best way at this point. Unity quarterback Taylor Black is an adept and accomplished runner and passer. He passed for a school-record 350-plus yards in week 9 and is at, or near, 1,000 yards rushing for one of the state's premier Class 3A programs. Danville's Dennis Hightower has to be considered even though his passing numbers have dropped sharply from 2010. To do what he has done the last two weeks when everyone in the stands, even the 3-year-olds, know who will be carrying the ball is impressive. The third candidate in my mind is T.J. Onstott, from Tuscola. He's a lineman on offense, but a linebacker on defense who goes sideline to sideline, making stops and delivering hard hits. Tuscola is a 1A team in the playoffs, but have played mostly 2A and 3A teams to reach the postseason. There are others who could wind up in the conversation, and I'm sure will be considered, but those are strictly my opinions as of now.
Fred,Urbana didn't make the Playoffs or have a Winning record which does happen for different reasons.One was Cam Mammen getting his ankle stepped on early in the game.Even though he was in lots of pain he finished playing the game. He could only Pass ,couldn't Run or Punt.But he played his heart out with lots of determination and pain.He broke his own Passing Record throwing for 262 yards. He needs only 80 yd's to break Preston Williams 111 for Total Offense at Urbana. He needs only 261 Passing yards to break Bryan Banks for the all time Twin city Passing Record which should happen next year. He has already received Letters from 3 Major University's. One being Nebraska which he was asked to come this weekend and be on the sidelines for the Nnebraska vs Michigan State Game.Nebraska has made contact with Cam every week for over 2 months. As I know he will be up for the challenge.With him having 1 more year at Urbana it could be the year they have been waiting for,
Hi Tom. No doubt, Urbana's offense was limited in the finale after Cam Mammen's ankle injury. Those things happen and you always hate to see it, especially in a game where there is so much at stake. I don't say this to be disrespectful to Mammen as a football player, but I am not yet convinced he is better at football, or has a brighter future in football than he does in wrestling. I may be proven wrong as I was a while back when Purdue signed this basketball player named Brian Cardinal to a letter of intent and I didn't think he would make it there. He not only thrived, but has now been an NBA player for a decade. What Nebraska and the others in the recruiting battle obviously recognize is what a great athlete Mammen is. Colleges can't get enough of those. By this time next year, he will have set the bar very high for future Twin City quarterbacks when it comes to seeking career (and season) records in football. Even though Urbana's final football record this year shows only one more win than in 2010, the Tigers were clearly a much better team than a year ago. I fully expect to make that same statement 12 months from now.
Fred,It looks the IHSA stacked the Playoff pairings similar to 3 years ago. All 4 Big 12 Teams in the same Quandrant.Only 1 can make it out.Don't be surprised if Peoria Richwoods plays Danville to move on.
Hi Tom. I won't be surprised. At least not totally. I could see Richwoods getting past Normal Community this week, which would likely match them with unbeaten Crete-Monee in the second round. That game would be in Peoria, but I don't think I would favor the Knights in that one. Of course, that's why they play the games because anything truly can happen. I have no doubt that there will be outcomes this weekend that leave us wondering, "how did that team manage to win?"
After seeing a healthy Brian Jennings against Urbana, with 20+ Carries, how do you see MacArthur doing in the Playoffs?
Hi Big T. Well, the Generals are 5-0 when he gets at least 20 carries, so follow that pattern and good things could happen! Realistically, going on the road to Springfield to play 9-0 Sacred Heart-Griffin is a monumental challenge. The Cyclones have allowed only four TDs the past four weeks and haven't had a game closer than 28 points since Week 1, when they dealt Chatham Glenwood its only loss thus far. This is a matchup of two former Capitol Conference teams. That brings back memories, but most are about how dominant Griffin was and still is. With a win this week, MacArthur could make some noise. However, I can't predict a win.
We need to shut this down for this week. We look forward to more questions next week. Please check back.