Here's one change IHSA needs to make
Spraying to all fields ...
All jokes aside, I have to admit that I'm beginning to feel a little bit older as I begin my 36th year covering high school athletics.
Before I start to hear any "how old is he?" comments in reference to the late talk-show star, Johnny Carson (today's athletes please ask your parents about him), let's just say that I have seen my share of last-minute comebacks, game-winning kicks, clutch defensive stops, buzzer-beating 3-pointers, last-second takedowns, walk-off base hits and wire-to-wire finishes in my time.
But no matter how many games I have attended, there are still plenty of things to learn.
I can still see things happen for the very first time, whether it's watching a baseball team hitting back-to-back-to-back home runs to covering a recent football game that included a pair of female players -- Carmel's Jillian Walsh and St. Charles East's Elle McCaslin, both place-kickers.
Those are the things that keep this grizzled veteran scribe excited about high school sports.
Change needed: Watching St. Charles East's volleyball team drop a 2-set match to unbeaten powerhouse Benet Academy last week made me believe perhaps the time has come for the IHSA to separate the private schools from the public ones.
"When you can recruit, it makes it a lot easier," Saints coach Jennie Kull following the match. "That's the frustrating thing. It's getting kind of tiresome because the rest of us have to wait until we get somebody come through (our doors) and they just go out and find someone.
"It gets frustrating but I like to play them. They're well-coached and I think it helps us see where we're weak and what we need to work on."
Here's some additional proof -- the last time a public school won the Class 4A volleyball state title was in 2010 (Lyons).
On the 3A side, private schools have captured 10 of the last 11 state volleyball championships.
It seems to me like the court is tilted pretty heavily in a certain direction.
Stars rally: I wouldn't exactly call it a "save your season moment," but St. Charles North certainly figured out a few more things about its football team during last weekend's 20-17 come-from-behind victory over Wheaton North.
Trailing 17-7 early in the fourth quarter, the North Stars scored a pair of touchdowns within a 3-minute, 19-second span to pull out the road victory over the previously unbeaten Falcons in the DuKane Conference opener.
First, Ben Furtney capped a 9-play, 57-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run that narrowed the gap to 17-14 with 8:03 remaining.
The drive included a 37-yard pass play from quarterback Kyler Brown to Ryan Thiesse and a crucial 3-yard run by Nick DeMarco on a 4th-and-3 play inside the Falcons' 23-yard line.
Following a 3-and-out defensive series, the North Stars added the go-ahead score on Brown's 21-yard touchdown pass to Thiesse with 4:44 remaining.
"We're finding ourselves," admitted North Stars coach Rob Pomazak, who guided the team to a 2nd-place Class 7A state finish last season.
"Again, we're young. We're starting a lot of juniors out there and a few sophomores. We're going to make some mistakes but the kids are getting better each week."
DuKane's doing it again: And then there was one.
There may be only one remaining unbeaten football team in the DuKane Conference after the first 3 weeks of regular-season play -- Wheaton Warrenville South -- but make no mistake about it, the DuKane is once again living up to its quickly earned reputation as one of the state's most competitive leagues.
Four teams, including Batavia, St. Charles East and St. Charles North, own 2-1 overall records. The losses suffered by Batavia and St. Charles North came at the hands of a pair of state-ranked unbeatens -- East St. Louis and Bolingbrook, respectively.
Meanwhile, St. Charles East dropped its DuKane Conference opener, 21-7, to a much-improved Glenbard North (1-2) team last weekend.
St. Charles North rebounded from its Week 2 setback with its 4th-quarter comeback against Wheaton North (also 2-1).
"It's awesome -- it's the DuKane Conference," said North Stars coach Rob Pomazak. "It's just such a grind."
Benjamin completes solid season: Congratulations to former St. Charles East standout pitcher Wes Benjamin on a successful season at the Triple-A level for the Nashville Sounds.
Benjamin, who compiled a 7-6 record and 5.52 ERA in 27 games (25 starts), led the Texas Rangers' affiliate in strikeouts (114) and finished second in innings pitched (career-high 135 1/3) during his first season with the Sounds.
A record 3,312 home runs were hit in 2,232 Pacific Coast League this season, while just 4 of the 16 teams finished with sub-5.00 ERAs (juiced ball anyone?).
Over his last 10 starts -- covering 57 2/3 innings, the left-hander posted a 3-1 mark and 3.75 ERA, walking 15 while striking out 50.
In addition, Benjamin was recognized with the team's Community Service award last month. He made multiple trips to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University visiting with patients and their families, and contributed his time at several youth baseball clinics.
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org