CPS strike leaves teams in limbo
It has been an unusual week for three Fox Valley area football teams scheduled to face Chicago Public School opponents in the first-round of the IHSA playoffs.
Huntley, St. Edward and Marmion each drew CPS teams when pairings were announced last Saturday night. Each could be awarded a first-round forfeit if the Chicago Teachers Union strike continues through Friday.
Coaches from all three schools said they feel for their Chicago counterparts, whose teams could be eliminated from the playoffs without taking a snap. Each said his players would much prefer to play their respective Saturday afternoon games than remain idle.
"Every one of these kids wants to play a football game," said Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak, whose Class 8A team is slated to host Taft. "They've been excited about it all year and worked hard for it and here we are. We've been practicing every day as if we are going to play, but it comes down to the Chicago Public School system."
The CPS Board of Education Wednesday allowed its teams to resume practices in order to meet the three-practice requirement necessary to play a game under IHSA rules.
Coach Mike Rolando said St. Edward Class 2A opponent Orr was among the city teams that resumed practice Wednesday. The Green Wave stuck to their normal approach this week. They watched game film and practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in anticipation of playing Saturday, though the status of that game remains in limbo.
"It's a little nerve racking," Rolando said. "It's a different kind of week, for sure. You approach it like there is no distraction, but in reality no one knows what's going on. When it's confirmed, maybe minds will be a little more settled.
"But there is a lot more at stake than football games. People's careers and livelihoods are on the line, so we're just trying to be patient and let the process take its course."
The Chicago Teachers Union announced via Twitter late Wednesday night a tentative agreement had been reached, but said the strike would continue into Thursday because a return to work agreement had not been finalized.
Marmion coach Dan Thorpe, whose Cadets are slated to play a Class 5A game against Amundsen at Chicago's Winnemac Park, practiced somewhat differently this week.
"When it was a little less encouraging early in the week, we really worked on fundamentals Monday and Tuesday, blocking and tackling," Thorpe said. "The IHSA said if (a settlement) is done before 3 or 4 o'clock on Friday, then fine. If not, I really feel for Amundsen and all their kids and all the cross country and volleyball girls. It's just an unfortunate situation."
Art appreciation: Senior running back Art Taylor is a big reason why Batavia is 34-4 over the past three seasons.
The 5-foot-8, 145-pound running back has accumulated gaudy statistics over a three-year, 35-game varsity career. The senior this season has rushed for 897 yards and 8 touchdowns in 154 attempts (5.8 avg.). He also has 16 receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.
In last Friday's DuKane Conference-clinching 28-3 win over Wheaton North, he rushed for 197 yards and 2 touchdowns on 29 carries and caught an 11-yard scoring pass.
In three seasons Taylor has rushed 390 times for 2,402 yards (6.2 avg.) and 18 touchdowns and has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in 10 games. He has 32 career receptions for 240 yards and 5 more scores.
Urwiler expected back: Signs point to senior outside linebacker/running back Quinn Urwiler returning to action in host Batavia's Class 7A first-round playoff game against Thornwood on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The three-year varsity performer has not started a game since he left the field due to injury in the waning moments of Batavia's 30-29 loss to St. Charles East on Oct. 11.
Urwiler returned to practice on Oct. 24. He entered last Friday's Senior Night victory over Wheaton North in the waning moments when the Bulldogs lined up up in victory formation and took a knee.
"Q has been practicing in full since last Thursday and he looks like he's back to his old self," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "That's big for our team. I think most people would agree he is one of the top players in the state of Illinois. He can turn a playoff game around on his own. He's excited and wants to let loose."
In seven games this season, Urwiler has rushed for 428 yards and a team-best 10 touchdowns on 80 carries (5.4 avg.). Defensively, he is responsible for 57 total tackles (50 solo), a team-best 11 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 18 hurries, 2 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles.
Back in the dance: Elgin coach Anthony Mason, who played high school football at Bishop McNamara, is fine with the Maroons (5-4) getting the No. 28 seed in Class 8A. Elgin plays at No. 5 Oswego (8-1) Friday at 7:30 p.m.
"We love the draw," Mason said. "We love pretty much any draw. We're just happy to get it. It's my first time since my senior year and our first time in nearly 10 years."
The playoff appearance is Elgin's first since 2010.