Disabato: Southland sports in 2013? Some high highs, some low lows
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @disabato January 1, 2014 8:22PM
Mount Carmel's Sam Connolly hoists the IHSA Class 7A championship high school football trophy Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in DeKalb, Ill. Mount Carmel beat Lake Zurich 30-0. Patrick Gleason / For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 3, 2014 4:15PM
Another year in the books.
And what a year 2013 was.
Memorable moments dotted the local high school sports landscape. A state champion crowned — again. A one-in-a-million baseball showdown realized. A long-overdue football rivalry given birth.
And, of course, a couple of unfortunate incidents along the way.
Here’s my list of the top stories of 2013.
Mount Carmel’s football team won its second straight state championship in November. The Caravan capped its season with a thoroughly dominant 30-0 win over Lake Zurich in the Class 7A title game.
The Caravan was led by a defense that allowed just 96 points all season. How good was the Caravan defense? Chris Conte would have served as a backup.
Staying on the subject of Mount Carmel football, the state title was the program’s 11th overall and 10th under coach Frank Lenti. Coach Frank has his detractors, for sure, but there’s no denying the man his due as the state’s all-time winningest football coach. He’s won 339 games against just 60 losses.
Many private schools are fighting for their lives to keep the doors of their institutions open. Imagine, for a moment, where Mount Carmel would be without its football program? I’ll tell you where: either at a new address in the south suburbs, aimlessly roaming along Irrelevance Highway or resting peacefully alongside Quigley South at the high school cemetery.
When Kevin Smith transferred from St. Laurence to Lincoln-Way North in summer 2012 for his senior season, let’s just say the good people at the Burbank school were none too pleased. However, the likelihood of the Catholic Blue’s Most Outstanding Player facing his old team on the baseball diamond in ’13 seemed, at best, a long shot.
The baseball gods or, more accurate, the organizers of the Steven M. Bajenski Memorial Tournament, however, work in mysterious ways.
On May 16, nearly a year after he transferred, Smith’s new team (Lincoln-Way North) faced his old team (St. Laurence). The fact that North was the No. 1 team in the area and St. Laurence No. 2 heightened expectations. Then, when it was announced that Smith would start on the mound against his former mates, well ... that just ratcheted the excitement.
The atmosphere was electric. Smith’s pitching arsenal on that day, however, was not. St. Laurence won the game 14-0, knocking Smith out in the process. To his credit, Smith answered every question tossed at him by media after the game, demonstrating a maturity level some local prep coaches never have achieved.
Jan. 16. A Wednesday night basketball game between Public League rivals Morgan Park and Simeon at Chicago State University.
Fireworks erupted during postgame handshakes between players. After some form of calm was restored inside the arena, all hell was breaking loose on the outside. What I witnessed heading to my car was something out of a scary movie. People running for their lives, children crying, dozens of police cars racing to the campus, jumping curbs and sidewalks in an effort to restore peace. A young man, Tyrone Lawson, was fatally shot just steps from the arena — at a high school basketball game. Tragic.
It was a forgettable year for Seton boys basketball. During the Class 2A state finals in March, Seton’s players accused Harrisburg’s players of making racial comments during the game.
Additionally, Harrisburg fans allegedly joined in the nonsense, causing Seton coach Brandon Thomas to refuse the runner-up trophy. The IHSA levied sanctions against Thomas, who resigned in May.
Seton made headlines again Dec. 20, when a Sting player allegedly punched a Leo player with 6.6 seconds left in the game. Benches emptied and order was restored. The game, however, was called with Seton leading 49-47. Seton still may win the game, but its boys hoops program is losing in the game of life.
The long-awaited Battle of Burbank finally came to fruition Aug. 31.
Reavis and St. Laurence, community neighbors separated by just a few blocks, played a varsity football game for the first time ever. Heavy rains forced the game’s postponement for a day. Hey, what’s another 24 hours for a Burbank community that had waited 50 years. Not even Mother Nature could dampen the excitement. St. Laurence won the game.
The good news? Reavis has a shot at redemption in 2014.