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A football frenzy
Forget-them-nots, Meteors, tripleheader at Gately make for fine trifecta

November 8, 2007

Last week, I put together a list of Public League, Catholic League and DuPage Valley Conference football players who had played in high school since the state playoffs began in 1974 and had played at least one regular-season game in the NFL.

Boy, did I miss a bunch. After receiving a record number of e-mails from fans, I have some well-deserved additions.

Among the missing Public Leaguers were Senn's Matt Gay, who caught a pass from Joe Montana with the Kansas City Chiefs, Lane Tech's Cyron Brown, Julian's George Streeter and Chris Washington, Curie's Victor Adeyanju, Englewood's Johnnie Harris and Bogan's Frank Hartley.

In the Catholic League, Leo had a number of players, including Chris Watson (Eastern Illinois), who played for the Denver Broncos; Harold Blackmon (Northwestern), who played for the Seattle Seahawks; and Jason Jefferson, who played for the Buffalo Bills.

Among the Mount Carmel additions are Darrell Hill, Frank Cornish and former Bears offensive lineman Steve Edwards. Mendel produced Greg Smith and the late Steve Wilburn, Brother Rice had Paul Hutchens and former Bears punter Dave Finzer played at Loyola.

There were others who played in preseason games or were on taxi squads but never were credited with playing in an NFL game.

De La Salle on the rise

The restructured Catholic League and an outstanding coaching job by Dan O'Keefe have combined to make the resurgence of De La Salle one of the best stories of the football season.

After going through a brutal schedule in the Catholic Blue that included games against Mount Carmel, Loyola, Brother Rice, St. Rita and Providence, the Meteors and Fenwick moved to the Catholic White when the league split into three divisions this season.

O'Keefe guided De La Salle to a 7-2 regular-season record and has helped them to two playoff victories. The Meteors, who host Carmel in a Class 7A quarterfinal Saturday, have lost to only Mount Carmel (38-35 on the last play of the game) and St. Rita.

''Our No. 1 goal was [to win the] conference and to make the playoffs,'' O'Keefe said. ''Last year in the Blue, we played a very tough schedule with teams that were very senior-heavy. We brought back 17 guys that started as juniors.''

Two of De La Salle's top guns are running back Cordero Gaston, the Catholic White player of the year, and Elliott Brown, a superior athlete who plays everywhere. In one series against St. Rita, Brown played quarterback, running back and receiver. He threw, ran and caught the ball.

Gaston's performance against top-ranked Mount Carmel says it all. He carried 32 times for 294 yards and three touchdowns.

''Cordero was kind of overshadowed as a junior by the big-time players in the Blue,'' O'Keefe said. ''He rushed for 900 yards as a junior, but there were a lot of great defensive players, and it was hard for him to make headlines. But he is something to watch. He spins off people and jumps over others.''

Big Saturday on tap

If Ed McMahon was doing ''Star Search'' -- the ''American Idol'' of an older generation -- for football, he could camp out Saturday at Gately Stadium.

I know I will.

At 1 p.m., Maine South and its high-powered offense featuring quarterback Charlie Goro, receivers Danny Benson and Joey Orlando and running back David Chao faces Mount Carmel's option attack triggered by Jordan Lynch.

Maine South's coaching staff has more ways of getting the ball to Benson than I can count. Maybe the Bears should look to do the same for Devin Hester.

Lynch might be one of the best signal-callers that coach Frank Lenti has had at Mount Carmel.

''Jordan makes good decisions,'' Lenti said. ''He really understands how to play the game. And if someone wants to put all their defenders in the box, he can throw it.''

At 4:15 p.m., a Public League Prep Bowl playoff game will pit Robeson against Simeon.

Talent, you ask? Robeson's Brandon Green and Johnny Johnson are headed to Minnesota, and Simeon's Jack Ramsey and Nate Palmer are Illinois-bound.

And at 7:45 p.m., Morgan Park will face Wheaton Warrenville South, which hasn't lost since the 2005 state semifinals at Lincoln-Way East.

Morgan Park needed a miracle finish to win at Glenbard West last Saturday and got it, starting with a blocked field goal by Jeremy Johnson. The Mustangs will have to be near-perfect in this one.

Defense has been the team's strength, led by Johnson, Craig Drummond and Jonathan Ridgner. But Morgan Park's offense will have to be sharp, too. The Mustangs will need big games from its huge line, which averages more than 300 pounds, running backs Dominique Bell and Preston Griffin, quarterback Victor Scott and receiver Desmond Powell.

The Tigers give away nothing in speed. Mike Piatkowski's top receivers are Chris Schweighardt and Mike Sloboda.

The difference might be the kickers -- Morgan Park's Ricardo Duran and Wheaton Warrenville South's Dan Conroy.

It should be a great day -- and a long one.