Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Pattermann_head

Elburn native earns rowing scholarship to D-1 school

ELBURN—Kylen Patterman is new to the University of Louisville’s rowing team, but she’s one of the most experienced rowers on the team.

The 2008 Kaneland graduate rowed for three years on a club team at Grand Valley State before graduating early with a degree in anthropology—and getting snatched up by the Louisville Cardinals.

“We had a unique opportunity to take someone who’s essentially been through the whole college rowing experience and had two years (of eligibility) left. Frequently, you can get someone with one year left, but not two,” said Derek Copeland, Louisville’s head coach.

Copeland said he expects Patterman to be in the top half of the team quickly.

“She’s had a lot of success rowing at a high level (at Grand Valley). She’s proven; we know she can handle it. She’s new to the program, but she’s not new to the practice schedule, so we think she’s going to make an impact in the top half of the team very quickly.”

The Cardinals have 44 varsity rowers this year, and the novice rowers will probably put the team over 85, Copeland said. With just three full-time coaches, Copeland said he tries to recruit people who can provide leadership on the team.

Kylen Patterman (fourth from left) took up rowing at Grand Valley State University. Courtesy Photo
Kylen Patterman (third from left) took up rowing at Grand Valley State University. Courtesy Photo

That’s a challenging task because, since few high schools have rowing teams, few rowers enter a college team with much experience, he said.

“When you recruit rowers, people haven’t rowed for more than 18 months or a couple of years, because they start late,” Copeland said. “So that’s the benefit for us, because she can help with leading other new athletes on our team.”

Patterman hadn’t planned to go to graduate school right away, but when the Cardinals started talking to her in June and offered her a two-year rowing scholarship, she scrambled to take the GRE and apply to Louisville’s political science program.

“I thought I was done (rowing) when I left Grand Valley, and all of a sudden here I am,” Patterman said. “Everything happened very quickly, and I was fortunate that everything worked out.”

It’s Patterman’s first time racing for a Division I rowing team, but she rowed for the varsity eight—a rowing team’s fastest boat—at Grand Valley, which won the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta in May with a time of 6:30.

Grand Valley’s team has won the American Collegiate Rowing Association’s national championship six years in a row, with Patterman rowing in the varsity eight in both 2012 and 2013.

“(They’re) quite serious. I refer to it as ‘super club,’” Copeland said. “The coach is very good. He replicates the DI very well, and they beat a lot of DI teams, so it’s pretty similar.”

Both of Louisville’s assistant coaches used to coach for Grand Valley, so the connection between the programs is strong, Copeland said.

“We knew the coaches (at Grand Valley), so we had inside information about her being a good fit for our team. She’s quite smart, so we knew she could come in and adjust pretty quickly to grad school,” he said.
Louisville will be racing at least four boats, each with eight rowers, this fall.

Kylen Patterman (second row) is now attending Louisville University on a scholarship. Courtesy Photo
Kylen Patterman (second row) is now attending Louisville University on a scholarship. Courtesy Photo

The Cardinals finished second overall in the 2013 Big East Championship last year, finishing with 129 points to slip past Syracuse’s 128 points and grab the runner-up trophy. Notre Dame won the Big East for the tenth year in a row with 151 points.

It was a good finish for the Cardinals, who have never competed in the NCAA tournament.

Copeland hopes that the team might break into the NCAA this year, as the Cardinals compete in a new conference, the American Athletic Conference, for the 2013-2014 season.

Out of the 80 Division I rowing programs, the Cardinals were ranked 20 last season—higher than any other school in the AAC—but even if the team doesn’t win their conference, they still have a shot at the NCAA tournament if they row fast enough. The winner of each of the 11 conferences gets an automatic bid to the NCAA, but a selection committee chooses the other 11 teams.

“We were top 20 all last year, and that was a significant jump for us,” Copeland said. “I would expect that trend to continue. Cracking the top 12 or 14 is a pretty big leap, but we are aiming for it.”

Patterman hasn’t been boated yet at Louisville, and the team won’t select its varsity eight until March, after seeing how rowers compete in the longer fall races.

“Right now we have more than four eights, so we keep all the boats very competitive in the fall,” he said. “We want all the boats to be the same speed in the fall so that the younger women can learn from the more experienced ones. We won’t start to split them into boats until the fall, and we won’t decide until March. But we’re very, very happy with our choice (of Patterman). We can tell we made the right one because she’s already fitting into the team.”

Patterman said she was happy to be a Cardinal.

“Honestly, it’s been awesome. The facilities here are absolutely gorgeous, and everyone’s been really nice,” Patterman said. “As a rower, I show up and try to do the best I can and do my part to make the boat go as fast as I possibly can.”

Two spirits

Photo: 11-year-old Madison Tegtman, a sixth-grader at Kaneland Harter Middle School, with her horse, Preston, navigates over an obstacle during one of their rides. She has been riding horses since she was only three years old. Courtesy Photo

Sixth-grader and derby horse both get life experience
by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARK—Located on Lees Road in Maple Park, Silver Spur Farm houses a youngster diligently working toward doing the very best in competition—and that’s just the sixth-grade student from Kaneland Harter Middle School.

11-year old Madison Tegtman doesn’t pick up a ball or racket. Her idea of unwinding is working in tandem with a 10-year old Oldenburg horse named Preston.

Tegtman has six first-place events under her cap, and most recently competed in Gurnee, Ill.

With an attentive and solid support group like her mother and horse owner Gina, grandparents Ed and Polly Ruzic, and trainer Tasha Lasiowski, Tegtman—who’s been a rider since she was 3—can focus on equestrian events and caring for Preston.

“I come here to spend time with him,” Tegtman said. “When we come here and get ready for everything, we have to clean all our stuff, clean the horse, practice, take lessons, and get ready to have competitions on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Preston just got back into the fold in early September after recovering from a damaged femur, the result of getting kicked by a fellow horse.

“That was my favorite place to compete at (Crosswinds in Marengo, Ill.), because it was his first show with me after his injury,” Tegtman said.

Specifically, Preston competes a hunter jumper horse, similar to obstacle courses that have walls, gates and fences, and has had quite the long road back. The recovery process took 18 months, and the injury occurred six weeks after Preston was acquired from Michigan.

“It’s a long wait, but I was patient and I was happy for everyone else, and they finally let me ride,” Tegtman said.

It was Madison’s patience that helped Preston recover, because Preston’s prognosis was not good.

“Every day, Madison was out there working with him. The vet would check him out and say it was doubtful he would be able to get back to where he was, but they kept at it,” Gina said.

Preston is the first Oldenberg horse owned by the family after owning two ponies previously.

It takes not just a level of commitment, but temperament, to take on the task of loving and caring for a prize animal.

“You definitely have to be patient. The horses are so good for the kids. It teaches them patience and responsibility, and you’re caring for a live animal,” Lasiowski said.

Lasiowski also owns and operates Escapar Farms within the grounds of Silver Spur, and has dealt with her share of local animals.

“It’s a big animal, and it’s got a mind of its own. It’s about learning to read your horse. Going forward in life, I think it teaches you how to read people,” Lasiowski said.

Tegtman and crew are enjoying what they do, and eventually would like to ease into different events.

“There’s higher jumps; more derbies in the future, I think,” Ed said. “All around the Midwest, you have an opportunity to see terrific horses and terrific riders.”

“I want to take him to hunter derbies, so he can get recognized more,” Tegtman said.

Hunter derbies, now moving on to an international stage, involve larger courses that are inclined with the horse’s natural way of moving about, and measures overall brilliance.

Brilliance is what Tegtman seems to strive for, along with her 10-year-old partner.

“When you go to compete, you hope you have a good horse to go with, and I do.”

KC pro indoor football team preps for 1st season

Kane County—In preparation for its inaugural season, the Kane County Dawgs professional indoor football team recently announced the hiring of its head coach, Matt Griebel.

Griebel is a former player of the Indianapolis Colts and is a resident of Joliet, Ill.

The Kane County Dawgs Professional Indoor Football team is a part of the Continental Indoor Football League (CIFL).

Griebel was an offensive lineman for the Colts; he also played for the Georgia Force and the Green Bay Blizzard Professional Indoor Football teams. He has a bachelor degree from Indiana State University, where he was a full athletic scholarship football team captain and scholar athlete (2002-2003). He earned his associate degree at Joliet Junior College and was a N4C All Conference selection (2001), playing high school ball at Lockport Township.

He took over the Dawgs’ head coaching duties immediately and has begun the hiring process of his coaching staff and evaluation of players.

The Kane County Dawgs will play a 10-game schedule, with five home dates at Canlan Ice Sports Arena in Romeoville, Ill. Games begin in February.

The team will hold its second open tryout on Saturday, Dec. 1 at the team’s official training center, ESP Sports Performance, 2050 Mitchell Drive, Oswego, IL 60543. Registration begins at 5:15 p.m., and the try-out begins 6 p.m. View the team’s website, www.kcdawgs.com, for additional information.

Goaltender Lekkas brings fire to the ice

Photo: Stefanos Lekkas looks to don the mask for AAA hockey once again this year, after competing at a USA Hockey camp in N.Y. Courtesy photo

Elburn resident gearing up for elite camp in N.Y.
by Mike Slodki
ELBURN—Stefanos Lekkas, 16, of Elburn has his particular tools of the trade.

“My mask is white, with all-white straps and an all-white cage,” Lekkas said. “I just fell in love with it early on.”

That’s a common theme for the honor-roll student from Kaneland, who finds a lot to love about the sport of hockey.

Threaded throughout his family, including his two siblings, Lekkas could be seen tending goal for area hockey outlets like the amateur Chicago Mission for the past four years.

Now, Lekkas prepares to head to Rochester, N.Y. for a USA Hockey National Player Development Camp held from July 7-13, at the Sports Centre.

Lekkas is slated for the Youth Select 16 grouping.

It’s no small feat; Lekkas was one of eight goaltenders selected, after being chosen from an Illinois group, and then a five-state grouping in the Midwest.

Lekkas relishes the opportunity to be between the posts, even with the players by definition being the best of a particular area.

“It’s fun, because everyone has respect for each other and everyone is a great hockey player,” Lekkas said.

He was selected by the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League in their futures draft in May, and while not being selected for the under-20 team after a tryout camp earlier this month, he remains property of the franchise.

“I have another year and I’m optimistic that something can happen. They could still call me up as a prospect on a weekend if they need someone,” Lekkas said.

At 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, Lekkas makes the most of his frame with a hybrid style of goaltending.

“With hybrid, you mix technique with athleticism. I’m not tall enough to be a standup goalie and it’s different from butterfly,” Lekkas said.

Lekkas doesn’t consider himself done even when off the ice, taking in National Hockey League contests on occasion.

“I’ve been up to Detroit three or four times a year to see a game. I like Toronto, and my favorite team is the Montreal Canadiens,” Lekkas said.

Lekkas is eyeing his next move once the gathering out East concludes.

“I’ll be skating with a AAA team somewhere and want to do a goalie camp,” Lekkas said.

Wherever Lekkas stops one-timers next and on whatever level, it stands to be tough to get the ice out of his blood from now on.

“It’s more than a sport. You’re with a family and it’s cool to be around. I’ll always get used to more hockey time.”

Hybrid goaltenders in the NHL include:
Jonathan Quick
Ryan Miller
Martin Brodeur
Jaroslav Halak

Calder Cup chase ends for Sweatt

Photo: Bill Sweatt, shown here in earlier season action against Abbotsford, excelled locally in 2011-12 for the Chicago Wolves, who saw their season end on Friday to San Antonio in the Calder Cup Playoffs’ first round. Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

First year with Chicago’s Wolves ends in first-round defeat
by Mike Slodki
ELBURN—If it’s not navigating the puck or avoiding checks into the boards, it’s packing boxes.

The activity never stops for the Elburn native Bill Sweatt, moving back to Colorado Springs for the offseason, after his 2011-12 season with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves that ended in the fifth game of the first round Calder Cup series against the San Antonio Rampage on Friday.

“We were down 2-0 in the series, and won games three and four, and took it to double-overtime in game five before we lost,” Sweatt said. “It was great to play in Chicago, and I was able to show teammates the area a little bit. I enjoyed every second of it.”

A left-wing, Sweatt was the Blackhawks’ next draft pick after Patrick Kane in 2007, and was involved in a trade with former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Before the 2010-11 season, Bill and brother Lee signed with the Vancouver Canucks organization and starred for the AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose.

With the Winnipeg Jets returning to the National Hockey League, Vancouver switched its top affiliate to the Wolves, giving Sweatt a chance to play at home, of sorts.

“Hockey is big here, like it was when I was growing up. The Blackhawks have new ownership and won the Cup, and youth hockey seems bigger here. It’s more intense,” Sweatt said.

Sweatt scored 16 goals and supplied 18 assists on Wolves duty, with a goal and assist in the five-game playoff series that ended with a 3-2 loss.

Sweatt has played internationally as well as in Winnipeg, Manitoba last year, and even got called up for the parent club for two games in 2011-12.

The former Colorado College star has an idea of a common thread in any playing environment.

“Everywhere is different. We had really good fans here, and it was sold out most games (at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.). Internationally, though, instead of booing something they don’t like, they’ll whistle,” Sweatt said.

Sweatt feels good about being with the Vancouver organization, which saw an abrupt end to its Stanley Cup dreams with a first-round loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

“They had someone present at a lot of the games, mostly before the trade deadline. It motivates you a little more when you see someone from the office there,” Sweatt said.

Sweatt played under the coaching eye of Craig MacTavish, a player on four Stanley Cup teams, and a former coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

“He wasn’t a screamer; he only really got on us when we had a five- or six-game losing streak,” Sweatt said. “He was on an even keel and would really work with us individually.”

Sweatt and the Wolves will try to rebound next year for their first Calder Cup since 2008.

“I think we never changed our style of play, even after being down 2-0. We were able to push it to game five, and San Antonio is a good team. We were still a good team at the end,” Sweatt said.

In the meantime, it’s time for some “R and R” before Sweatt’s nuptials in August. Then it’s back to the grind for Sweatt, who has a year left on his original deal with the Canucks.

If that means suiting up for a squad by where he once called home en route to skating on NHL ice, so be it.

“It was great to get there (into the NHL). My end goal is to stay there, not just for two games,” Sweatt said.

Elburn Herald sports section’s 3rd Annual 2011 NFL Mock Draft

by Keith Beebe and Mike Slodki

1) Carolina – QB Cam Newton, Auburn
2) Denver – DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
3) Buffalo – QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
4) Cincinnati – WR A.J. Green, Georgia
5) Arizona – LB Von Miller, Texas A & M
6) Cleveland – CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
7) San Francisco – CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
8) Tennessee – DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
9) Dallas – DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina
10) Washington – WR Julio Jones, Alabama
11) Houston – DE Aldon Smith, Missouri
12) Minnesota – QB Jake Locker, Washington
13) Detroit – OT Tyron Smith, USC
14) St. Louis – DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
15) Miami – RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
16) Jacksonville – DE Cameron Jordan, California
17) New England – DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
18) San Diego – DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
19) N.Y. Giants – G Mike Pouncey, Florida
20) Tampa Bay – DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson
21) Kansas City – DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
22) Indianapolis – OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
23) Philadelphia – CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
24) New Orleans – DE Brooks Reed, Arizona
25) Seattle – DE Justin Houston, Georgia
26) Baltimore – DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio St.
27) Atlanta – DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple
28) New England – OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
29) Chicago – OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi St.
30) N.Y. Jets – NT Phil Taylor, Baylor
31) Pittsburgh – OT Nate Solder, Colorado
32) Green Bay – LB Akeem Ayers, UCLA

Ice-breaker

Kaneland junior, Stelios Lekkas of Elburn won the Illinois 16U state championship playing for the Northewest Charger Hockey Club. After claiming the State Title for Tier II AA Travel Youth Ice Hockey, he will travel to the Washington D.C. area for the USAH Nationals Tournament from March 29-April 3 in Reston, Va. Courtesy Photo

IHSA grants eligibility to displaced Japanese students

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.—Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Executive Director Marty Hickman announced last week that any students displaced by the earthquake and subsequent disasters in Japan that relocate to IHSA member schools will be granted immediate eligibility to participate in IHSA sports and activities.

The United State Department of Defense Education Activity recently informed IHSA member schools that it has issued a voluntary authorized departure from the Island of Honshu, Japan for United States military family members. The number of families that will relocate from Japan to the United States, or to Illinois, is unknown at this point.

“We don’t know if we will have any high school students relocating from Japan to IHSA member schools,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “But if we do, we want to help these students transition back to normalcy in any way that we can.”

KC Cougars spreading holiday cheer

GENEVA—With the wintry weather outside, the Kane County Cougars are keeping warm thoughts alive with a variety of holiday gift ideas and stocking stuffers this month. Holiday shoppers can take advantage of the Cougars’ winter wonderland for some special savings and limited-time offers. Here’s a glimpse:

Gift certificate special—Between now and the end of December, the Cougars are offering fans a complimentary $25 gift certificate if $100 or more in gift certificates is purchased. The $100 benchmark can be reached through one or more gift certificates totaling that figure. Gift certificates are good in any denomination and quantity, and recipients can use them for tickets or merchandise. (complimentary $25 gift certificate is valid only for tickets and food for April, May or June games next season).

“Jersey and ticket” offer—For a limited time, fans may purchase authentic team-worn batting practice jerseys and receive four undated reserved seat tickets valid for any 2011 home game, for just $50. The jerseys, which have been used over the years by former players, are being sold “as-is” and are available in numerous sizes and with various jersey numbers. While fans are able to order the special online at www.kccougars.com, fans are encouraged to either call the Cougars at (630) 232-8811 or stop by the Cougars box office during business hours to view available jerseys. There’s no guarantee that certain numbers were actually worn by specific former Cougars players who morphed into big league stars, but available numbers do include #6 (Miguel Cabrera), #17 (Andrew Bailey) and #19 (Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett), among others.

Merchandise and novelties—Perfect for the young and not-so-young, the Cougars’ online ordering is super-easy with a variety of apparel and items to cover gifts for everyone on the list. Items are available in men’s, women’s, youth, toddler and infant sizes. “Grab bag” gifts such as baseball card sets, mini-bats and Ozzie dolls are also in stock.

Ticket packages—Cougars ticket packages range from five to 20 games and give fans the best seats in the house. Package holders enjoy prime seats for each game and receive exclusive benefits, such as a complimentary picnic next summer, free t-shirts and the option of reserving premium giveaway items. Popular fireworks and special entertainment nights are included within each package.

Birthday packages, Kids club—Birthday packages are now on sale for the 2011 season. The “all-inclusive” packages feature tickets, food, drink, souvenirs and unique on-field opportunities such as a ceremonial first pitch, being recognized and sung to on the field, and having the honoree’s name listed on the scoreboard. Memberships are also on sale for Ozzie’s Little Cougars Club, which includes several benefits for Kane County’s younger fans such as tickets, KidZone passes, a t-shirt and more.

Those interested in receiving more information on any of the above options may contact the Cougars at (630) 232-8811. The Cougars are also accepting reservations for holiday parties and events to be held on the Old Second Bank upper deck level at Elfstrom Stadium. The stadium features a banquet facility capable of hosting various events including holiday parties, business conferences, meetings, and more.

Manitoba hockey team has case of the SWEATTS

Elburn native Bill Sweatt battles with Chicago Wolves goaltender Peter Mannino but comes up empty in the shootout portion of the Manitoba Moose 2-1 loss at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. Sweatt, a left winger, is contributing to the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks as its fourth-leading scorer.
Photo by Ben Draper

by Mike Slodki
ROSEMONT, Ill.—Look a little close to see which team is the home favorite.

On Nov. 30, the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League took the Allstate Arena ice for the 24th time in the 2010-11 season, but it wasn’t against an ordinary opponent.

Their foe was the Vancouver Canucks’ top affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, featuring brothers Bill and Lee Sweatt, who have taken to the ice for the first time this season as professional teammates.

Originally from Elburn, and now based in Colorado, the Sweatts saw big minutes of ice time, but saw their efforts fall just short in a 2-1 loss that went to a shootout. Bill was the last Moose entry of five to aim for Wolves goaltender Peter Mannino, but was stopped. Chicago’s Darren Haydar scored for the only goal past Eddie Lack for the final result.

Seasoned hockey players will tell you ‘that’s hockey’ but coming to the suburban Chicago area for the first time as pro teammates made a cold November night anything but ordinary.

“That’s exactly what it is,” Lee said. “We just didn’t score enough goals.

Playing for the biggest pro hockey team in hockey-crazy Manitoba, the Sweatts can provide what a phenomenon playing the national sport can truly be.

“It’s way different,” Bill said. “Chicago’s getting a little hockey-crazy because of the Hawks, but it’s just on a different level. They’re obsessed with it.”

The Moose (12-9-0-3) currently sit in fifth place in the Western Conference’s North Division and got a goal from center Cory Hodgson with 5:59 remaining in the second period, only to be matched by Jason Krog’s shot with 2:25 remaining in regulation.

But both Sweatts put their franchise in a position to win with needed contributions. Rookie Bill has 13 points with five goals and eight assists as the fourth-leading point gatherer on the squad, while Lee has four goals and four assists as the sixth-leading points nabber.

Bill, 22, was the second-round pick of the Blackhawks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, behind the first-round pick of Patrick Kane, but after sticking with his standout college hockey career at Colorado College (CC), he found himself traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Kris Versteeg. Waiting until ownership of his rights expired, Sweatt signed with Vancouver, capping a crazy stretch.

“Absolutely, I’m happy,” Bill said. “No matter what happened, I knew I was going to have to play in the minors and work my way up and learn the pro game a little bit, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Lee, 25, who played at CC with his brother for a year and was undrafted, enjoys playing in North American after making the rounds in Latvia, Austria and Finland over the last four years.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be in Finland and Austria. I would say they all have their pros and cons, Riga (Latvia) has the wildest fans, but I like Winnipeg. The fans are great there.”

The Moose, with Sweatts in tow, return to Rosemont on March 6, 2011.

Elburn native Lee Sweatt does what he can as defenseman during the Manitoba Moose 2-1 shootout loss to the local Chicago Wolves on Nov. 30 at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. He graduated from Colorado College like his younger brother, Bill, and spent last year split between teams in Latvia and Finland. Photo by Ben Draper

Mini-stadiums in Geneva

Baseball enthusiast, vintage ball player and historian Bill Rose will display more than 50 miniature baseball stadiums at the Geneva History Center on Sunday, Sept. 12, from noon to 4 p.m.

Rose is a founding member of the Midway Marauders Vintage Base Ball Club, has played three seasons with the Geneva Rovers, and currently plays for the Somonauk Blue Stockings. Rose noted, “I enjoy the history of baseball and the early stadiums shaped the game and the way we played.” Rose will be on hand to answer questions.

In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to visit the Geneva History Center’s sports exhibition, Beyond the Score: Moments in Geneva Sports History. For more information, contact Dave Oberg, Executive Director at (630) 232-4951 or via e-mail at Exec_Dir@genevahistorycen-ter.org.

Sweatt dealt to Maple Leafs in Versteeg trade

For those hoping that one day they would see Elburn-bred Bill Sweatt putting on the Indian head sweater of the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, commence disappointment.

However, there now exists an opportunity for the Colorado College graduate to make inroads to the National Hockey League another way: through Toronto.

The Blackhawks, in an ongoing attempt to navigate out of salary cap difficulties, included the 2007 second-round draft pick’s rights in a trade that sent playoff asset Kris Versteeg to the Maple Leafs for Viktor Stalberg, Chris DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis.

Sweatt, who scored 15 goals and 33 points in 39 contests for the Tigers in his senior season, was an economics major.

Sweatt participated in the Blackhawks prospect camp in 2008 at the Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, Ill. and in 2009 at Johnny’s Ice House in Chicago.

The 21-year old was selected 38th overall in 2007, just 37 picks behind Stanley Cup hero Patrick Kane.

In other Sweatt news, Bill’s older brother Lee will compete for a spot with the Vancouver Canucks after signing in May. Lee spent the 2009-10 season in Europe.

Bill Sweatt
Left wing
Born: Sept. 21, 1988
Selected 38th overall by Blackhawks in 2007

Photo: Elburn native Bill Sweatt, shown here at a previous Blackhawks prospect camp, was dealt June 30 to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Kris Versteeg in the continued restructuring of the Stanley Cup Champions’ roster. File Photo

Mike Slodki’s 2010 Mock Draft

by Mike Slodki
1. St. Louis – QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma.
2. Detroit – DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska.
3. Tampa Bay – DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma.
4. Washington – OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma St.
5. Kansas City – LB Rolando McClain, Alabama.
6. Seattle – OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma.
7. Cleveland – S Eric Berry, Tennessee.
8. Oakland – LB Jason Pierre-Paul, S. Florida.
9. Buffalo – OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa.
10. Jacksonville – DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech.
11. Denver – RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson.
12. Miami – NT Dan Williams, Tennessee.
13. San Francisco – QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame.
14. Seattle – S Taylor Mays, USC.
15. NY Giants – OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland.
16. Tennessee – CB Joe Haden, Florida.
17. San Francisco – OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers.
18. – Pittsburgh – G Mike Iupati, Idaho.
19. Atlanta – C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida.
20. Houston – S Earl Thomas, Texas.
21. Cincinnati – WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma St.
22. New England – LB Sergio Kindle, Texas.
23. Green Bay – CB Kyle Wilson, Boise St.
24. Philadelphia – DE Everson Griffen, USC.
25. Baltimore – LB Brandon Graham, Michigan.
26. Arizona – LB Sean Witherspoon, Missouri.
27. Dallas – DT Jared Odrick, Penn St.
28. San Diego – RB Jahvid Best, California.
29. NY Jets – OT Rodger Saffold, Indiana.
30. Minnesota – CB Patrick Robinson, Florida St.
31. Indianapolis – DT Terrence Cody, Alabma.
32. New Orleans – LB Jerry Hughes, TCU.

Cougars celebrate 20th year with food

GENEVA—The Kane County Cougars have announced an all-you-can-eat Opening Day buffet to be held in conjunction with the team’s home opener on Sunday, April 11, at 1 p.m.

Held inside the new Super Suite on the Old Second Bank Upper Deck, fans can enjoy a menu that includes burgers, chicken, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, chips, fruit salad, cookies, brownies and Pepsi products from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

A cash bar will be available from noon to 3 p.m.

During the game, buffet attendees can enjoy exclusive stadium seating from either inside or outside the Super Suite as the Cougars kick off their 20th season of baseball in Geneva.

Admission is $30 per person. Fans can save $5 off regular admission price by ordering on or before April 5. Reservations can be made by ordering online at www.kccougars.com, by phone at (630) 232-8811 or at the Cougars’ office during business hours (Monday-Friday 9-5, Saturday 9-1 p.m.).

Sports briefs

Learn hoops with Lyndsie Long
This special camp just for middle school girls will focus primarily on offensive skills including shooting, screening, driving and dribbling. Key aspects of defense like rebounding and shuffling will also be taught. The last day of camp will be loaded with fun, games and prizes while reviewing concepts learned.
Session 1
Grades Entering 6th-8th
Monday-Friday, Aug. 3-7
10 a.m. to noon
$50 (includes camp t-shirt)
Kaneland John Shields Elementary
School gym
Instructor: Lyndsie Long

KHS boys hoops camp rescheduled
Due to scheduling issues, the 9-12 grade KHS Boys Basketball camp is being rescheduled. The new dates for the camp are Monday through Thursday, June 15-18, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Kaneland High School east gymnasium, and Monday through Thursday, June 22-25, from 8 to 10 a.m. in the high school east gymnasium. If you have scheduled a session in this camp and need to now withdraw due to a conflict, please contact Leigh Jaffke at (630) 365-5100, ext. 224, or at leigh.jaffke@kaneland.org.

KHS rivals still playing
Although the last bell has rung for area schools, two Lady Knight rivals still have work to do.

The Class 3A Softball State Tournament will feature Burlington Central and Western Sun Conference rival Glenbard South.

Burlington Central, who defeated Kaneland in a 1-0, nine-inning affair on May 30, is set to face Oak Forest on Friday at 9:30 a.m., while Glenbard South faces Chatham’s Glenwood High School at noon in the other semifinal.

Crosby named to Midwest League All-Star game

Former Knight, now 4-0, to suit up on June 23
COMSTOCK PARK, MI—The Midwest League announced today that six Whitecaps players were selected to the league’s annual All-Star Game on Tuesday, June 23 in Clinton, Iowa.

First baseman Ronnie Bourquin, second baseman Brandon Douglas along with pitchers Casey Crosby, Jared Gayhart, Mauricio Robles and Tyler Stohr were among those selected to play in the game. Bourquin was selected to start at first base.

Bourquin is batting .317 with two home runs and 29 RBI this season and has currently put together a nine-game hitting streak. Douglas is tied for fifth in the Midwest League with a .335 batting average. He has also tallied 17 RBI and seven stolen bases.

The Whitecaps boast the most pitchers on the Eastern All-Star Squad. Crosby is having a stellar season after missing most of last season with an injury. He is 4-0 with a 2.83 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 47.2 innings of work. Robles is leading the league with 70 strikeouts. He is 4-3 with a 3.91 ERA.

Gayhart and Stohr have been anchoring the Whitecaps bullpen this season. Gayhart is 2-2 with a 1.83 ERA. Earlier this season he fired 16.2 consecutive scoreless innings. Stohr leads the team with seven saves and has put together a 2-1 record with a 2.13 ERA.

Both the Whitecaps and the Great Lakes Loons lead the Eastern All-Star team with six representatives each.

Individual and group tickets are on sale and can be purchased at the West Michigan Glass Block Ticket Office at Fifth Third Ballpark, by calling the Whitecaps front office at (616) 784-4131 or by visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.

Golf Clinic at Tanna Farms Junior League Clinic

Who: For Juniors up to age 15
What: Golf Clinic divided into two sessions.
Session 1: Rules, safety, basic terminology, scoring, boundaries, penalty strokes, chipping game, putting
Session 2: Etiquette, attire, ball identification, honors system, pace of play, tee box etiquette, fairway and bunkers etiquette, green and pin etiquette, general course etiquette and respect, respect of peers and course, off course respect to each other and golf course personnel, chipping contest, longest putt
When: Session 1: June 8, 6 a.m.
Session 2: June 22, 6 a.m.
Where: Tanna Farms Golf Club
39W808 Hughes Rd.
Geneva, IL 60134
Why: Help Educate children on the rules and etiquette of golf. Free to those participating in the junior league. For the general public it is only $10 for one session or $15 for both sessions.

Call, email, or visit www.tannafarms.com to register by June 1st.

Crosby rides Whitecaps wave

Knights grad adjusting to pro baseball grind for Tigers’ affiliate
by Mike Slodki

If you happen to visit Fifth Third Ballpark just north of Grand Rapids, Mich., and see a 6-foot-5 blonde-haired lefthander who looks vaguely familiar, signing autographs for young fans on the concourse during a rain delay, you’re not going crazy.
crosby_front_4c

For you’ve just located what Casey Crosby is up to these days.

Now fully recovered from Tommy John surgery 17 months ago, the 2007 two-sport athlete from Kaneland High School is the No. 1 starting pitcher for the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps in the Midwest League.

Drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the fifth round of the 2007 Major League Baseball draft, Crosby is 2-0 with a 2.08 earned run average after four starts, picking up his second win of the season on Sunday afternoon vs. the visiting Lansing Lugnuts.

“My first start here, my adrenalin was pumping, and the last few starts, I’ve been more relaxed,” Crosby said. “I felt comfortable in my first start because my whole family was here and it was better weather. I love pitching here; the fans back you up really well.”

The first baseball player to be drafted out of Kaneland, Crosby is now one of the many young athletes with a shot at eventually throwing to major league hitters. So far, he’s acclimating well in his current situation.

To Whitecaps play-by-play man Steve Lloyd-Jones, Crosby’s laundry list of gifts brought to the Tigers system are obvious from a broadcaster’s point of view.

“It’s obvious that it’s an overpowering arm. His velocity’s just tremendous. He hits the low-to-mid-90s on his fastball with regularity and has shown a good offspeed pitch,” Lloyd-Jones said.

Crosby, with 22 Ks, joins personnel like Mauricio Robles and Matt Hoffman, adding to a rotation capable of big things. The Whitecaps are 13-4 thus far.

“The Tigers’ whole philosophy is to draft power arms. You see it throughout their system. Now we’re on the lower end of that, but they’ve blown away most lineups,” Lloyd-Jones said.

“We’re doing real well. We’re hitting the ball. It’s just cool to see how good this team is and how much talent the organization has. It’s nice going out there knowing that your hitters will come up with a couple of runs.”

* * * * *
During Sunday’s game one of a rain makeup doubleheader, Crosby walks to the mound and gets ready for work. After allowing a single to Lansing’s leadoff man Kenny Wilson, he promptly picks him off. He gets Tyler Pastornicky to fly out to left, but walks Brian Van Kirk. Crosby then treats Yohermyn Chavez like he did any number of Western Sun Conference hitters during his 6-2, 0.88 ERA campaign in 2007 by striking him out to end the top of the first.

* * * * *
“After our games we’ve got to go right on the road. We left Fort Wayne last night and got back to Grand Rapids at 2 in the morning. You have good with bad.

There’s a lot of fun stuff about minor league baseball. I like traveling around, going to the different places, and I like the team chemistry,” said Crosby, who rooms with reliever Erik Crichton while on the road.

In the top of the second, Crosby allows a leadoff single to Mark Sobolewski, but induces Mike McDade to ground into a 5-4-3 double play.

* * * * *
“Obviously, I want to stay healthy. That’s the main one. Also, I want to keep the walks down and throw less pitches and throw into the sixth or seventh inning (Crosby is on a 75-pitch count) and just go from there.”

* * * * *
An inning later, the southpaw notches his second strikeout and fans A.J. Jimenez during his first 1-2-3 inning.

* * * * *
“Any pitcher that spends time away or on the DL, it’s a time to look at your whole surroundings. Crosby did a good job of, when he wasn’t throwing, of learning still and not just shutting down. That’s one thing to carry on once you start throwing again. He’s a great listener, great competitor and he has a great arm,” pitching coach Mark Johnson said.

* * * * *
“During the game, my catcher and I talk about what the hitters did last time against me. He’ll come to settle me down if I’m not throwing a lot of strikes,” Crosby said.

* * * * *
The fourth inning proves Crosby’s roughest yet. Pastornicky walks and Crosby commits a throwing error while attempting a pickoff. The next two batters ground out, but Crosby allows a single to Sobolewski before causing McDade to fly out to right field.

* * * * *
“I think they knew that we would have a high strikeout total because we have great arms. They just want us to get the walks down,” Crosby said.

* * * * *
To cap his winning outing, Crosby retires the side by fanning Bryan Kervin. The former Knight’s day ends with five innings, one unearned run, two walks and three strikeouts.

* * * * *
His win on Sunday served as a microcosm of his pro baseball career, facing early setbacks head on and powering out of them. Lloyd-Jones has seen many arms like Crosby’s show their stuff at the West Michigan stop.

“The one guy that immediately jumps to my mind is Joel Zumaya. At this level, he was a flamethrower. I remember watching in May of ’03, he faced the Beloit Snappers with Prince Fielder, and he racked up 14 strikeouts. Casey’s been one of the more pure strikeout pitchers we’ve seen,” Lloyd-Jones said.

Crosby’s odyssey to the big leagues could have a long way to go. For now, his journey took him to a concourse signing baseballs and hurling fastballs on a Sunday in western Michigan.

Photos by Mike and Erika Slodki

Pleading the fifth third: W. Michigan burger something to behold

New concession item getting national attention
by Mike Slodki
Think of traditional ballpark food and hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack.

Introducing the tradition-smasher: the Fifth Third Burger.

Housed at the home of Fifth Third Burger, the home of the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps, the burger was unveiled at the start of the 2009 baseball season earlier this month.

Receiving local newspaper coverage and national television coverage, the Fifth Third Burger (weighing “five-thirds of a pound”, or 1.66 pounds) has been the most-talked about addition to the Whitecaps other than former Kaneland lefty Casey Crosby.

Housed within an eight-inch sesame seed bun, the Fifth Third burger consists of five 1/3 pound patties with one cup of chili, five slices of American cheese, salsa, nacho cheese, Fritos, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream.

Ordered 153 times since the April 9 opener, it has been finished only 20 times.

That’s a batting average of .131.

Ordered four times on Sunday, the burger was successfully conquered by ballpark patron Greg Teasley of Spring Lake, Mich.

“The bread was the most intimidating part, but I got through it in 50 minutes,” Teasley said.

The burger costs $20.

The Elburn Herald’s 2009 NFL Mock Draft

by Mike Slodki and Keith Beebe
Keith won the coin toss to select first, and Mike will pick second. The picks will then alternate. Try to beat us, and look for even more draft coverage on www.elburnherald.com.

1. Detroit (Keith) – QB Matt Stafford, Georgia
2. St. Louis (Mike) – OT Jason Smith, Baylor
3. Kansas City – LB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
4. Seattle – WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
5. Cleveland – LB/DE Brian Orakpo, Texas
6. Cincinnati – OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia.
7. Oakland – WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
8. Jacksonville – DE B.J. Raji, Boston College
9. Green Bay – OT Andre Smith, Alabama
10. San Francisco – QB Mark Sanchez, USC
11. Buffalo – OT Michael Oher, Mississippi
12. Denver – DE Aaron Maybin, Penn St.
13. Washington – DE Everette Brown, Florida St.
14. New Orleans – RB Beanie Wells, Ohio St.
15. Houston – CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio St.
16. San Diego – DE Tyson Jackson, LSU
17. NY Jets – QB Josh Freeman, Kansas St.
18. Denver – WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland
19. Tampa Bay – DT Peria Jerry, Mississippi
20. Detroit – LB Brian Cushing, USC
21. Philadelphia – RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
22. Minnesota – WR Percy Harvin, Florida
23. New England – LB Rey Maualuga, USC
24. Atlanta – DE Robert Ayers, Tennessee
25. Miami – WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina
26. Baltimore – CB Vontae Davis, Illinois
27. Indianapolis – WR Kenny Britt, Rutgers
28. Buffalo – LB Clay Mathews, USC
29. NY Giants – LB James Lauranaitis, Ohio State
30 – Tennessee – LB Larry English, Northern Illinois
31. Arizona – RB Donald Brown, Connecticut
32. Pittsburgh – C Max Unger, Oregon

Keith Beebe’s 2009 NFL Mock Draft

Fake it until you make it.

by Keith Beebe

To some people, the NFL Draft is a spectacle where teams get together to play Russian roulette in front of millions watching live on television; throwing unnecessary amounts of money at their draft selections and sending die-hard, dedicated fans into angry fits that warrant the need for a good strait jacket.

To others though, the NFL Draft represents that magical moment where a bad team can become a good team and a good team can become a dynasty. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected four future Hall of Famers in the 1974 draft and then went on to win Super Bowl IX, X, XIII and XIIII, cementing them as the official dynasty team of the 1970s. The late-‘80s Dallas Cowboys used the draft to transform their team from a 1-15 laughing stock to a three-time Super Bowl champion in the mid-‘90s. And everyone knows about the New England Patriots selecting Tom Brady with the 199th pick of the 2000 draft.

Whether you tune in with the hopes of watching your team improve or witness another team completely go down in flames, everyone can agree on one thing: the NFL Draft and high drama go hand-in-hand.

So without further delay, let’s get to this year’s first round draft projection:

1.Detroit – Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia

The assembly line isn’t the only thing in Detroit that needs rebuilding. Practically an NFL version of the Washington Generals, the Lions need help at, well, every position, so drafting a franchise quarterback is probably a good place to start.

2.St. Louis – Jason Smith, OT Baylor

The release of Orlando Pace, who was once left tackle royalty in the NFL, almost guarantees the Rams will use this pick on the aggressive, bullish Baylor lineman. Though a bit undersized at 309 lbs, Smith’s gritty disposition – not to mention his ruthless, almost hilarious dominance of Big 12 defensive ends – has scouts viewing him as the most solid left tackle in this draft. Somewhere, Steven Jackson is smiling

3.Kansas City – Aaron Curry, LB Wake Forest

While the Chiefs continue to float interest in other players – probably with the hope that a team coveting Mark Sanchez (Denver, come on down!) will trade up in order to get him – the reality is that new general manager Scott Pioli wouldn’t ever pass up a linebacker with Aaron Curry’s ability. Projected as the slam-dunk pick of this draft, Curry will immediately provide the Chiefs with impressive athleticism and leadership at the outside linebacker position.

4.Seattle – Mark Sanchez, QB USC

This is the part of the draft where things could get interesting. Seattle’s abominable 2008 season suggests they might be headed for rebuilding mode, but the acquisition of T.J. Houshmanzadeh in March and key additions on the defensive line have the Seahawks’ fortunes looking up in 2009. Sanchez has the talent to become a pro bowl-caliber passer, and learning under Matt Hasselback certainly won’t hurt his cause. Left tackle is also an issue, so don’t be too surprised if the Seahawks play it safe and pull the trigger on Eugene Monroe.

5.Cleveland – Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech

Possibly the most gruesome, dysfunctional defense in the AFC, the Browns would be wise to get a game changing defender like Brian Orakpo at this spot. However, Braylon Edwards’ pending departure to another team and Donte’ Stallworth’s pending departure to a correctional facility have the Browns thinking wide receiver all the way with this pick. Luckily for the dawg pound, Michael Crabtree is the best wideout prospect in this year’s draft. Now if they could only figure out who’s throwing to him…

6.Cincinnati – Eugene Monroe, OT Virginia

No team could be happier about Eugene Monroe’s minor draft slide than the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s unrealistic to expect quarterback Carson Palmer to stay healthy when he has the Steelers and Ravens mauling him to death a combined four games a year, and a huge prospect like Monroe can help keep those AFC North edge rushing linebackers where they belong: off of the quarterback.

7.Oakland – Jeremy Maclin, WR Missouri

While the Raiders have serious issues on their offensive line, it’s highly unlikely Al Davis (who in his current senile state probably shouldn’t even be making draft picks for the Raiders) will resist the temptation to take a burner of Maclin’s caliber. The Mizzou speedster should immediately bolster a young offense featuring the likes of Darren McFadden and Zach Miller. This season will also be JaMarcus Russell’s last opportunity to prove he wasn’t a colossal waste of a number one pick, a fact foretold by the signing of journeyman Jeff Garcia.

8.Jacksonville – Andre Smith, OT Alabama

Smith neglected the end of his senior season (suspension), the NFL combine (personal meltdown) and his own pro day (running shirtless!) with the nonchalance of a seasoned sociopath. And yet, Jacksonville is about as far as he’ll fall in this draft. Unbelievable. And while they have been constantly reiterating their interest in pursuing only “character” players, the thought of playing in the defensive end-stacked AFC South without a quality left tackle will have the Jags quickly singing a different tune if Smith falls to them. Ah, football: a game of compromise.

9. Green Bay – B. J. Raji, DT Boston College

The Pack’s defense isn’t scaring anyone over the age of seven, and while they have major holes in the secondary, there’s little doubt that adding a defensive tackle like Raji will get Green Bay’s defense on the right track in a hurry. Equally adept at stuffing the run or rushing the passer, Raji is a rare talent and the most complete defensive tackle in this draft.

10. San Francisco – Brian Orakpo, DE/LB Texas

It’s doubtful a defensive guru like Mike Singletary would even consider passing on a bull rusher like Brian Orakpo at this spot, especially since middle linebacker sensation Patrick Willis has almost no one to help him out on the laughable 49er defense. An edge rusher like Orakpo would create all sorts of problems in an NFC West division filled with sub-par offensive lines.

11. Buffalo – Michael Oher, OT Mississippi

Buffalo’s decision to trade Jason Peters to Philadelphia almost certainly guarantees they will take a left tackle at this spot, and while Oher isn’t as well-known as Jason Smith or a Eugene Monroe, he is a devastating presence on the left side of the offensive line and did an adequate job of blocking against fast, aggressive SEC defenses. Hopefully Buffalo decides to pay their left tackle this time.

12. Denver – Everette Brown, DE/LB Florida State University

The good news for Denver is that Everette Brown is one of the best pass rushers in this draft and shows a great, quick first step in his pursuit to the quarterback. The bad news is that he can’t also play quarterback for the Broncos. You just know the Jay Cutler fiasco is going to haunt this organization, regardless of what owner Pat Bowlen says or how many first round picks they got in the trade with Chicago.

13. Washington – Tyson Jackson, DE Louisiana State University

Considering their defensive line problems, it would almost certainly be in Washington’s best interest to draft a solid, technique-oriented defensive end like Jackson, who would provide the Redskins with a player adept at stuffing the run (which is sort of necessary since the Redskins see Marion Barber III, Brian Westbrook and Brandon Jacobs each twice a season). Jackson might not be a pass rushing monster, but at least his presence on the defensive will help Washington forget they were completely fleeced for Jason Taylor.

14. New Orleans – Chris Wells, RB Ohio State

The Saints’ secondary is depressing to say the least, and Jonathan Vilma could really use reinforcements at the linebacker position, but no one will deny the offense is booming in the French Quarter, and Reggie Bush has no chance for success running out of backfield unless New Orleans can pair him with a big running back who has the speed to take it to the house at will. Enter the Ohio State standout who should provide Drew Brees with yet another offensive weapon (which seems somewhat unfair– he threw for over 5,000 yards in 2008).

15. Houston – Malcolm Jenkins, CB Ohio State

Yes, the Texans seem almost perversely interested in USC outside linebacker Clay Matthews, but taking him with the 15th selection would be a real reach, and having Malcolm Jenkins fall to them at this spot would be a sign of good fortune for a defense which really needs help in the secondary. Mario Williams looks like he is about to become the NFL’s next dominant defensive end, so drafting a corner/safety who can help shut down opposing passing games might give Williams a little more time to physically assault AFC South quarterbacks.

16. San Diego – Rey Maualuga, LB USC

The Chargers tend to like inside linebackers from USC, and the re-signing of LaDainian Tomlinson and franchising of Darren Sproles means San Diego probably won’t be in the market for a first round running back anytime soon, which means the Bolts will be looking to add a powerful interior linebacker to play alongside Shawne Merriman. Merriman and Maualuga: it even sounds painful.

17. New York Jets – Josh Freeman, QB Kansas State

No one is buying the Jets’ claims that they aren’t looking to draft a quarterback. Questions linger over the Kansas State standout’s decision-making and consistency, but one look at the Jets’ current qb roster begs the question, “Could they really do any worse?”

18. Denver – Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia

You know your running game is bad when you’ve used seven different running backs in one season, which is why it makes perfect sense for the Broncos to draft a powerful tailback like Moreno who will surely give Kyle Orton a solid running game to work with. Things are looking up in Denver already…

19. Tampa Bay – Peria Jerry, DT Mississippi

The Bucs aging defense is in serious need of an overhaul, and what better place to start than with a defensive tackle like Jerry who will help keep opposing interior linemen off of the Bucs’ linebacker corps which, until recently, possessed the age and agility of a senior citizen community. Tampa could also choose to roll the dice and go with Vontae Davis at cornerback. Hey, Aqib Talib worked out, so anything can happen.

20. Detroit – Robert Ayers, DE Tennessee

It would seem cruel, but not unusual, to call this pick a compromise, but Detroit would really like for Michael Oher to land at this spot – a scenario which seems unlikely after the Bills jettisoned their malcontent left tackle Jason Peters to the Eagles. So instead, the Lions get a promising DE in Robert Ayers who can hopefully provide a spark to a listless, uninspired Lions defense.

21. Philadelphia – Brandon Pettigrew, TE Oklahoma State

The Eagles could really use a running back at this spot, but drafting Donald Brown with the 21st selection might be a reach and there isn’t a safety on the board worth taking in the middle of the first round. Luckily for Philadelphia, their consolation gift is powerhouse tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who will be a total match-up nightmare for NFC East teams and seems like a great fit for a city that once booed Santa Claus.

22. Minnesota – Eben Britton, OT Arizona

The Vikings, for reasons beyond everyone’s comprehension, are sticking with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, and because Minnesota’s offensive line is close to resembling the Berlin Wall at this point, drafting a lineman like Britton to lock up the right side will provide Adrian Peterson with arguably the best run blocking in the league.

23. New England – Brian Cushing, LB USC

Former general manager Scott Pioli is in Kansas City now, so don’t be surprised if the Patriots’ draft scheme seems a bit… altered. That said, Bill Belichick still likes versatile outside linebackers, which means he’ll just eat up the idea of a multi-faceted player like Brian Cushing falling to New England at this spot. UConn cornerback Darrius Butler is also an option here.

24. Atlanta – Percy Harvin, WR Florida

Linebacker and cornerback are both areas of serious concern in Atlanta, but Matt Ryan’s mind-blowing rookie season has the Falcons looking to add more offense to an already explosive receiver corps. Percy Harvin’s world class speed and versatility will take a lot of pressure off Atlanta’s running game, which could lead to Michael Turner having an even more successful year in 2009.

25. Miami – Hakeem Nicks, WR North Carolina

It’d be unlike Bill Parcells to go with a wideout in the first round, but the Dolphins really can’t expect raw offensive weapons like Ted Ginn Jr. and Davone Bess to consistently produce unless they are paired with a go-to receiver like Hakeem Nicks. A smooth wideout with sure hands and an ability to create openings and beat double teams, Nicks can be Michael Irvin to Ted Ginn’s Alvin Harper – a concept which will seem much deadlier once Chad Henne takes over as Dolphins quarterback sometime within the next year.

26. Baltimore – Vontae Davis, CB Illinois

While the Ravens would love to provide quarterback Joe Flacco with an armada of offensive weapons, it’s no secret Baltimore’s aging defense is beginning to slow down, which is an area where a physically gifted player like Vontae Davis can immediately contribute.

27. Indianapolis – Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Maryland

Indianapolis’ defense was anything but stellar last season, and the strong ground games exhibited by the other three teams in the AFC South means the Colts might want to think about addressing the interior defensive line with this pick. But this is Indy we’re talking about, and they’ve never been a team to pass over a big, blazing fast receiver like Heyward-Bey. The Colts’ offense is exponentially faster with the Maryland burner on the field.

28. Buffalo, Darrius Butler, CB UConn

The Bills’ secondary was close to nonexistent last season, which is why it’s a no-brainer to draft an agile, playmaking corner like Butler at this spot. A relentless defender with great footwork, Butler should immediately provide a boost to Buffalo’s defense.

29. New York Giants, Kenny Britt, WR Rutgers

This selection shouldn’t be a surprise since the Giants’ offense practically went down the toilet after Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg last November. Britt is a big, fast, physical receiver who will punish NFC East corners and give Eli Manning the tall, sure-handed receiver he sorely missed during the end of the 2008 season.

30. Tennessee Titans, Larry English, LB Northern Illinois

The Titans defense isn’t nearly as strong as it was last season, thanks mostly to the departure of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, so boosting the pass rush with a talented defensive end/outside linebacker like Larry English might be a good idea for the Titans to explore. A receiver like Brian Robiskie could also be an option for Tennessee at this spot.

31. Arizona Cardinals, Donald Brown, RB UConn

Despite Edgerrin James’ inspired effort during the playoffs last season, it’s clear that he just isn’t going to work out as the Cardinals’ number one running back, which means an intelligent, agile player like Donald Brown could be in Arizona’s future. What Brown lacks in sheer athleticism, he more than makes up for with his work ethic.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers, Max Unger, C Oregon

The Steelers defied logic and won a Super Bowl with an incredibly lousy offensive line. Now that Pittsburgh expects to have both Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall healthy for 2009, they should probably think about upgrading their protection with a versatile player like Unger who can play most of the positions on the offensive line.

Crosby suits up for Whitecaps, scheduled for Opening Day

The West Michigan Whitecaps, in conjunction with the Detroit Tigers, announced their 2009 Opening Day roster today. The roster features top pitching prospects as well as many familiar faces.

Eight of the 25 players on the roster spent time with the Whitecaps last season including up-and-coming prospects Brandon Douglas and Mauricio Robles. Douglas played nine games with the Whitecaps last season. He hit .328 with four home runs and 27 RBI in 68 games throughout the minors in 2008. Robles spent the entire 2008 season with West Michigan, going 5-3 with a 2.66 ERA and 79 strikeouts. Robles also had a 45.1 inning scoreless streak at Fifth Third Ballpark.

Other players returning for another stint with the Whitecaps are catchers Jordan Newton and Joe Bowen, first baseman Ronnie Bourquin, and pitchers Brandon Hamilton, Matt Hoffman and Brayan Villarreal.

Hamilton and Hoffman will help anchor a pitching staff filled with high draft picks and top prospects. 2007 fifth round pick Casey Crosby joins the Whitecaps after missing most of 2008 with Tommy John surgery. Baseball America currently ranks Crosby as the No. 4 prospect in the Tigers’ system. The Whitecaps’ staff also includes 2007 third round pick Luke Putkonen, 2008 sixth round pick Tyler Stohr and ninth rounder Anthony Shawler.

The Whitecaps will also welcome their first player from the Pacific Rim, outfielder Chao-Ting Tang of Taiwan. Tang spent the 2008 season with the GCL Tigers hitting .222 with a home run and 15 RBI in 38 games.

The 2009 Whitecaps baseball season begins April 9 at home against South Bend at 6:35 p.m. Season, group, and individual tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.

(courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps)

Kane County Cougars set opening roster

The Kane County Cougars, in conjunction with the Oakland Athletics, have announced the squad’s official 2009 Opening Day roster. The 19th season of Major League-affiliated Cougars baseball kicks off this Thursday, April 9 when the team opens in Peoria to start a three-game series before returning home on Monday, April 13 for the Elfstrom Stadium opener at 3 p.m. against the Burlington Bees.

The Cougars christen the ’09 campaign with two former Chicago-area prep stars, a 2nd round pick who hit for the Triple Crown as a collegian, and the Northwest League’s leader in saves last season – all under the leadership of a former Major Leaguer who continues his coaching career after a six-year hiatus.

From a local perspective, the arrival of two players in Kenny Smalley and Dusty Napoleon will generate a buzz around the Chicagoland region. Smalley (24th Rd, 2008), who played at nearby Batavia High School before transferring to St. Charles North, has already worn a baseball uniform at Elfstrom Stadium as a prep athlete and becomes the first “Tri-Cities” Cougar in franchise history. At Short-A Vancouver last season, Smalley worked relief in 20 games and posted a 5-1 record and 3.07 ERA. The announcement of Napoleon (19th Rd, 2007) adds another touch of local flavor to this year’s Opening Day roster. Napoleon, an All-State quarterback at New Trier High School in Wilmette, played collegiately at the University of Iowa before beginning his professional career in the A’s system. Napoleon got a brief taste of Kane County last season, appearing in 16 games before ending the season with Vancouver.

Smalley and the rest of the Cougars’ bullpen might very well be setting the stage in tight games for righty Jose Guzman (Non-drafted FA, 2005), who is the lead candidate for Kane County’s closer position. Guzman led the Northwest League in saves (15-for-18) and appearances (30) for the Canadians in ’08, yielding one run or fewer in 28 of his 30 appearances.

New faces to Kane County include pitcher Shawn Haviland (33rd Rd, 2008), who was drafted by the A’s after a four-year career at Harvard, and outfielder Grant Desme (2nd Rd, 2007), who hit for the Triple Crown in 2007 for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. A total of 13 players on the Cougars’ active roster return to Geneva, including pitcher Jamie Richmond. Richmond spent all of ’08 in a Cougars uniform, leading Midwest League hurlers in innings pitched (163.1) and started for the Cougars at Wrigley Field against the Peoria Chiefs last July. After missing all of ’08 with an injury, infielder Steve Kleen comes back to Kane County. Cougars fans will remember Kleen as being a key component of the ’06 Cougars team that advanced to the League Championship Series that fall.

As the 12th field general in Cougars franchise history, Steve Scarsone moves into a managerial role for the first time since the 2002 season when he managed the Lancaster JetHawks of the California League. Scarsone played in 350 games over seven seasons in the Major Leagues as an infielder before retiring after the ’99 season. Scarsone takes over for former Cougars skipper Aaron Nieckula (2006-08), who assumes the managerial post with the Stockton Ports in ‘09.

Scarsone’s field staff includes newcomer Jimmy Escalante as pitching coach and returnees Haas Pratt (hitting coach) and Nate Brooks (athletic trainer). Strength and conditioning coordinator Rob Shooks completes the Cougars’ field staff.

In addition to the 25-player active roster, a 26th player — catcher Petey Paramore — breaks camp with the Cougars but will open the ’09 season on the team’s disabled list.

The 2009 campaign will be the Cougars’ 19th season of Major League affiliated baseball in the Chicagoland area. More than 100 former Cougars have played at or are currently playing at the Major League level, including notable Cougars alumni such as Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Cabrera.

The 2009 Kane County Cougars make their Elfstrom Stadium debut next Monday, April 13 at 3 p.m. as the team hosts the defending Midwest League champion Burlington Bees. The first 2,000 fans through the gates receive a limited-edition Opening Day cap, courtesy of Provena Mercy Medical Center. Fans, who will be able to view the newly-renovated Elfstrom Stadium for the first time that day, are also invited to run the bases following the game – a long-standing Cougars tradition that takes place after every home game this season. Fans can order tickets for Opening Day by calling the Cougars at (630) 232-8811 or visiting www.kccougars.com.

Swimmer Alef represents Knights at State Championships

Knights sophomore Grant Alef fell just short of qualifying for the next day of competition at the IHSA State Swim Meet that took place at New Trier High School on Friday.

Alef, in his second consecutive State gathering, finished 15th in the 500-yard freestyle and 14th in the 100-yard backstroke. Swimmers needed to finish in the top 12 of those events to qualify for Saturday’s races.

Alef finished the freestyle in 4 minutes, 39.36 seconds, just .54 seconds behind the last qualifier. Downers Grove North’s Burke Sims at 4:24.74 was crowned the event’s champ on Saturday.

The sophomore swam the backstroke in 52.57 seconds, .21 off the qualifying time. Jacob Jarzen of Jacksonville was the champion at 49.16 seconds.

Alef was joined by fellow Knights Shane Fergus who competed in the 50-yard Freestyle and the 100-yard breaststroke, and Kendall Renaud in the 100-yard Butterfly and 100-yard backstroke at Sectionals.

Alef once again State swim qualifer

by Mike Slodki
This is getting to be familiar territory for Kaneland’s Grant Alef.

That territory is the water.

Alef, the lone KHS representative for the second year in a row, qualified once again for the IHSA State Swim Meet at New Trier this weekend. Alef’s performance came at the St. Charles East Sectional.

The sophomore finished third in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:43.14.

Alef, with John Shields principal Shelley Hueber as a district sponsor, also swam the 100-yard backstroke in 53.39 seconds, good for third place. Last year saw Alef hit 4:52.04 in the freestyle and 54.94 in the backstroke.

“I’m tapering right now, so that’ll hopefully allow me to have my peak performance,” Alef said. “I feel like I’m going pretty good in both events, and I’ve been in this situation before. My goal was to get here.”

Alef also swims with the Kishwaukee YMCA/DeKalb County swim team.

WSC future discussed

From the Western Sun Conference, “The WSC representatives met at Yorkville High School at 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 6 to discuss the future of the conference. As is done on an annual basis, the conference strengths, challenges, current enrollment and future enrollments were dicussed. The WSC will continue to have their regular monthly meetings to discuss what is best for our students and communities.”

Drendel gets due; KHS mainstay inducted into coaches’ hall of fame

by Mike Slodki

When asked to reflect on the recent honor bestowed upon him, former Kaneland track coach Ralph Drendel simply said, “I’ve got a lot of Kaneland in my system.”

It might be that all-encompassing take on his career that inducted Drendel into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame on Jan. 10 in a ceremony at Oak-Park River Forest High School.

Drendel was accompanied to the ceremony by coaches Eric Baron, Joe Thorgesen, Matt Smith, Barney Callaghan, Randy Olesen, Robby Bieritz and Chad Clarey, along with the rest of the Drendel family.

“I’ve never had a more passionate coach,” Clarey said. “He stressed working hard and putting on the best home meets possible.”

A KHS teacher from 1978-2005, Drendel coached track and field athletes to over 60 State medals and two State trophies (90-99), and was coach of the year on three occasions (90-91-99).

Fellow former Kaneland coach Bruce Peterson is also a member of the Hall of Fame. Current Kaneland assistant coach Randy Olesen was also honored with the Dave Pasquinini Award for Assistant Coach of the Year. Current boys track coach Eric Baron was given the award in 2001 for cross country.

Other honorees at the hall-of-fame gathering were OPRF coach Glenn Cothern, Springfield Lanphier’s Mike Garcia, John Lemke of Rolling Meadows, Barrington’s Debbie Revolta, OPRF coach Josa Sosa and Champaign Central’s Dike Stirrett.

Drendel, who’s resume includes being the point man for home track invites and doing P.A. for athletic events, was humbled by his peers joining him in the hall, and about those who already reside there.

“You sit there and watch all these great coaches and these guys are really good. You can’t believe you get to join them,” Drendel said. “I just wanted to do a good job at being in charge of the events.”

Drendel joins the the elite brethen, but not without remembering what it took to get there, and with whom.

“Eddington, Bob Pederson, Bruce Peterson, Joe Thorgesen, these are pretty important people in my life. I learned from guys like them,” Drendel said.

Upon learning of the honor, Clarey asked Drendel to be at KHS to give a talk to the cross-country team before the WSC meet, where Peterson and Drendel’s family joined in announcing the honor.

“It was after practice, and I was so excited and proud that they would choose my dad,” said current sophomore volleyball coach Kelsey Drendel, Ralph’s daughter. “I most want to emulate his ability to motivate his athletes to always give their best effort and to reach for something higher than they could even imagine.

The hall-of-fame member of the Drendel clan summed up his continuing Kaneland story.

“I went to Kaneland, my kids went here and it’s a good place to have your kids grow up. At the end of the day you did this for the kids and tried to do the best you could.”