Disabato: Lemont knows how to avoid early playoff trap door
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato November 7, 2012 7:52PM
Lemont's Ethan Pocic (77) blocks a Tinley Park player. | Allen Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
No. 4 Glenbard North (10-1) at No. 1 Maine South (11-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 3 Palatine (10-1) at No. 2 Loyola (10-1), noon Saturday
No. 4 Waubonsie Valley (10-1) at No. 1 Neuqua Valley (11-0), 6 p.m. Saturday
No. 3 Mount Carmel (10-1) at No. 15 Lyons (7-4), 7 p.m. Saturday
No. 5 Wheaton North (10-1) at No. 1 Glenbard West (11-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Rockford Boylan (11-0) at No. 6 Lake Zurich (9-2), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Benet (10-1) at No. 8 Downers Grove North (7-4), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Edwardsville (10-1) at No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (11-0), 6 p.m. Saturday
No. 4 Crystal Lake Central (9-2) at No. 1 Cary-Grove (11-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 10 Lake Forest (8-3) at No. 14 Niles Notre Dame (7-4), 7:30 p.m. Friday
No. 3 Lemont (10-1) at No. 1 Oak Forest (10-1), 7 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Ottawa (11-0) at No. 1 Crete-Monee (11-0), 6 p.m. Saturday
No. 12 Joliet Catholic (7-4) at No. 9 Lincoln-Way West (8-3), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 3 Montini (9-2) at No. 2 Woodstock Marian (11-0), 5 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Morris (10-1) at No. 5 Washington (9-2), 3 p.m. Saturday
No. 4 Glenwood (9-2) at No. 3 Sacred Heart-Griffin (10-1), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 5 Brooks (8-2) at No. 7 Evergreen Park (8-3), 6 p.m. Saturday
No. 1 Alleman (10-1) at No. 2 Coal City (10-1), 2 p.m. Saturday
No. 5 Peoria Notre Dame (8-3) vs. No. 2 Rochester (10-1) at Peoria Stadium, 6 p.m. Sat.
No. 2 Marquette (10-1) at No. 1 Harrisburg (10-1), 2 p.m. Saturday
No. 9 Winnebago (9-2) at No. 4 Aurora Christian (10-1), 6 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Newman Central Catholic (11-0) at No. 11 Wilmington (9-2), 5 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Unity (10-1) at No. 1 Williamsville (11-0), 2 p.m. Saturday
No. 1 Greenville (10-1) at No. 6 Carterville (8-3), 1 p.m. Saturday
Updated: December 9, 2012 7:30PM
The high school football playoffs have produced some stunning moments, both good and unfortunate, for our local squads.
From teams making unsuspecting quarterfinal runs to perennial powers being ushered out the playoff door quicker than anticipated, these playoffs have been as unpredictable as a midnight Las Vegas buffet.
But lets’s focus on the positives, shall we?
Lincoln-Way West, just 4 years old, has advanced to the Class 5A quarterfinals and left in its wake No. 1 seed Kaneland, which likely still doesn’t know what hit it Saturday.
Evergreen Park, which finished the regular season above .500 for a third straight time, finds itself in the Class 4A quarterfinals party for the second straight year.
Crete-Monee, a regular-season wrecking ball under coach Jerry Verde, is participating in the Class 6A quarterfinals for a third time in six years.
Mount Carmel, which has qualified for the postseason 27 straight seasons, finds itself three wins away from its 11th state championship.
Lincoln-Way East, escorted from the Class 7A playoffs in the second round the past four seasons, removed that monkey from its back and finds itself in the quarterfinals.
Oak Forest, with 13 consecutive playoff season under its belt, including trips to the Class 6A semifinals in 2006 and ’07, is one win away from another semis appearance.
Ironically, standing in the way of Oak Forest advancing to the semis is Lemont, which owns stock in “early playoff exit repellent.”
It hasn’t mattered who runs, catches or throws the ball or who blocks, tackles or kicks; Lemont gets the job done.
There haven’t been any one-and-done playoff appearances during coach Eric Michaelsen’s 11 years. Heck, there hasn’t even been a second-round ouster the past six seasons.
It’s been quarterfinals or bust since 2007, a model of consistency few others in the area can match.
The Indians have advanced to the playoffs nine consecutive years, the last six resulting in at least 10 victories.
In 2007 and ’08, Lemont advanced to the 6A state title game, only to fall short. Still, at least Lemont can say it’s experienced the thrill of a state championship game, something a great many others from our talent-rich region cannot.
“It’s not something we talk about,” Michaelsen said of reaching the quarterfinals the past six years. “We talk about making the playoffs, winning conference and winning as many games as possible in the playoffs.”
It’s worked, in large part, with the benefit of some oversized, skilled linemen and a relentless supporting cast.
Lemont has developed some of the most skilled lineman the Southland ever has produced, including seniors Ethan Pocic, an LSU recruit, and Bowling Green-bound Tim McAuliffe.
But their presence hardly guarantees a trip to the quarters. In truth, the Indians rarely have had Division I skill players to line up with those beefy linemen.
The running backs they do have, though — such as Chris Giatras this year and Mike Andreotti in 2011 — run with vengeance and passion.
“Generally, those kids are not that fast but they give you every ounce of energy and effort each week,” Michaelsen said. “We’ve had really good players who are willing to sacrifice and work hard to be a part of the program. It would be nice to have the Division I skill kid. But I’m happy with what we have — kids who listen and want to be successful. I wouldn’t trade them.”
Lemont has been criticized, even in this space, for putting together a less than imposing nonconference schedule.
You know what? It hasn’t adversely affected the Indians on the field.
There also are plenty of critics of the South Suburban Blue Conference — though I’m not one of them. The truth of that matter is the Blue had five of its teams qualify for the postseason, three of which reached the second round and two that still are standing in the quarters.
“I think we have a very good conference, and one of our top goals is to win conference,” Michaelsen said. “It prepares us for the postseason.”
On Saturday, Lemont will try to beat Oak Forest for a second time this season and punch its ticket to the semis. It’s a game that has all the makings of a classic.
In the teams’ first encounter, in Week 5, the Indians got a last-second field goal from Joe Hehir to pull out a 17-14 win.
Win or lose, this much is fairly certain: Lemont will not beat itself. It has a knack of letting other teams do that.
“We like to play strong defense and control the clock by running the ball,” Michaelsen said. “We can throw it, but the more you throw it, the more high-risk the offense.”