Sunday, December 29, 2013

First shot at World Cup prediction

With the calendar inching ever so closely to 2014, now would be a good time to take a first crack at making my World Cup predictions. Reserving the right to change course - perhaps drastically - and admittedly without much research, here's an initial gut feeling of how it may go:

Group winners
A: Brazil; B: Spain; C: Ivory Coast; D: Italy; E: Switzerland; F: Argentina; G: Germany; H: Belgium

Group runners-up
A: Croatia; B: Chile; C: Japan; D: Uruguay; E: France; F: Nigeria; G: United States; H: South Korea

Round of 16
Brazil def. Chile
Uruguay def. Ivory Coast
Switzerland def. Nigeria
Germany def. South Korea
Spain def. Croatia
Italy def. Japan
Argentina def. France
Belgium def. United States

Uruguay def. Brazil
Germany def. Switzerland
Spain def. Italy
Belgium def. Argentina

Uruguay def. Germany
Spain def. Belgium 

Third-place match
Germany def. Belgium

Spain def. Uruguay

Again, this will probably change as we go along, but initially, this seems to make sense.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Remembering "Madden '92" for Christmas

Being a few days away from Christmas, one of the things that's fun about this time of year - beyond the broader meaning of the season, of course - is thinking about presents we received when we were younger.

One present that really stands out to me from my youth is something that's much older than any of the high school athletes I currently cover. But no matter how old it is, it's a great memory nonetheless.

In the early 90s, I was lucky enough as a kid to get "Madden '92" with my Sega Genesis for Christmas. While the evolution of gaming has been exponential since, that game will always carry a special place.

(Good luck trying to get that music out of your head.)

It took a little while to master the game, but once I did the most fun challenge came playing as the Bills.

I would play the Bills against the Cowboys - who weren't bad themselves, but were susceptible in Madden to running up the score. Thurman Thomas, by the game's attributes, had the best burst and spin of any running back. The right side of the Cowboys' defensive line was, at least on the game, blockable and very slow. So I would run Thomas on a halfback toss left on every single play ... and score TDs. It got to be so easy I would purposely run Thomas back to his own 1, purposely allow pursuit and score from there.

Another quirk within the game was Bruce Smith had a perfect attribute for speed. Smith is a Hall of Famer and one of the most dominant defensive linemen in NFL history, but to have the most speed of any player on the game was unfair. But it also created an advantage - easy pursuit of Troy Aikman for sacks from Smith's end spot, and then fourth down. When the Cowboys punted, I'd take control of Smith and run him back for punts. He would score every single time because the CPU opponent couldn't tackle him.

So that would allow for scores well more than 100-0 if I played my cards right, and it was fun.

And I've mentioned it before in this space while briefly mentioning "Madden '92," but we would be remiss talking about the game without bringing up the infamous ambulance:

Anyway, the point is being a kid and playing "Madden '92" - those were special days growing up.

Here's to hoping you can make someone younger feel the same way about a gift when we were that age. Merry Christmas and best wishes to you and your families during this holiday season.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, December 20, 2013

College bowl picks

One man's predictions for every bowl game this holiday season. No points spreads, just straight up. Here we go:
Dec. 21
New Meixco Bowl: Washington State 31, Colorado State 21
Las Vegas Bowl: USC 44, Fresno State 41
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: San Diego State 21, Buffalo 17
New Orleans Bowl: La.-Lafayette 28, Tulane 24
Dec. 23
Beff 'O' Brady's Bowl: East Carolina 41, Ohio 17
Dec. 24
Hawaii Bowl: Oregon State 38, Boise State 27
Dec. 26
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Bowling Green 37, Pittsburgh 24
Poinsettia Bowl: Northern Illinois 42, Utah State 24
Dec. 27
Military Bowl: Marshall 21, Maryland 17
Texas Bowl: Minnesota 28, Syracuse 23
Fight Hunger Bowl: BYU 17, Washington 13
Dec. 28
Pinstripe Bowl: Notre Dame 34, Rutgers 10
Belk Bowl: Cincinnati 38, North Carolina 34
Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville 31, Miami 24
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan 27, Kansas State 17
Dec. 30
Armed Forces Bowl: Navy 33, Middle Tennessee 20
Music City Bowl: Georgia Tech 41, Ole Miss 38
Alamo Bowl: Oregon 48, Texas 21
Holiday Bowl: Texas Tech 38, Arizona State 37
Dec. 31
AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona 30, Boston College 17
Sun Bowl: UCLA 41, Virginia Tech 27
Liberty Bowl: Mississippi State 20, Rice 7
Chick-fil-A Bowl: Texas A&M 48, Duke 34
Jan. 1
Gator Bowl: Georgia 27, Nebraska 24
Heart of Dallas Bowl: North Texas 24, UNLV 13
Capital One Bowl: South Carolina 28, Wisconsin 24
Outback Bowl: LSU 31, Iowa 16
Rose Bowl: Stanford 27, Michigan State 14
Fiesta Bowl: Baylor 41, Central Florida 38
Jan. 2
Sugar Bowl: Alabama 34, Oklahoma 17
Jan. 3
Cotton Bowl: Missouri 35, Oklahoma State 31
Orange Bowl: Ohio State 34, Clemson 27
Jan. 4
BBVA Compass Bowl: Vanderbilt 29, Houston 22
Jan. 5 Bowl: Ball State 37, Arkansas State 31
Jan. 6
BCS National Championship: Florida State 41, Auburn 37

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Thursday, December 19, 2013

SI books: mammoth gift ideas

Here a two new - and extremely large - books produced by Sports Illustrated that would make nice holiday gifts, the last preferably for the single man you know (or one with a very understanding wife!).

Sports Illustrated Baseball's Greatest: Perhaps no sports provides more arguments about who or what is the greatest than baseball. SI polled its baseball experts to provide top 10 list in more than 20 categories. Who's the game's best shortstop of all-time? How about the greatest game played? Or the best stadium? It's all packed in this book, with stunning photographs to boot.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years of Beautiful: Need I say more? OK, let's say more. Some hate the SI swimsuit edition (the magazine offers subscribers the opportunity to refuse it among their subscription), but for those who don't mind it, this mega-over-sized book has it all. There's 308 pages

of stunning swimsuit models through the years in tasteful poses. Every model who's graced an SI swimsuit cover is included, including Kathy Ireland, who's made a record 12 cover appearances.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Positive mental attitude is crucial when it comes to season-ending injuries

Earlier in the week, I heard Chagrin Falls' 6-foot-5 junior forward Hallie Thome possibly suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury.
As soon as I heard this, I thought of my younger sister Kelly, a talented basketball player back in her day at Lorain Catholic High School, who suffered an ACL injury her junior year.
At the time, the injury was devastating for our entire close-knit family.
Our world stopped, and we were focused on my sister who was the top player on her team at the time of the accident.
My sister eventually underwent surgery, therapy and returned even stronger her senior year.
On Tuesday night, I was disappointed to hear from Chagrin Falls coach Brittany Anderson that Thome tore her ACL.
All I could think was: "Why do injuries like this happen to athletes who are at the top of their game?"
Thome is a Division I recruit who is being sought after at by every major program in the country. Through six games, she was the team leader in scoring (19.8 per game), rebounding (9.8) and blocks (2.7). The Tigers, the defending Division II Andover District champions, were expected to advance deep into the postseason. How will they be able to do this without Thome?
To give Thome a little encouragement, I mentioned her in one of my tweets this afternoon and wished her a speedy recovery.
About five minutes later, she responded to me with this tweet:

awe thank you! No worries I'm fine and it will all work out! I'm just entering the new year with a new ACL! Lol Thanks again!

Her tweet made me pause and think of the determination and resileance strong people display when adversity comes their way.
Thome is having surgery next week and is expected to be out for six to nine months. The bad news is, she won't be back this year. The good news is, she'll be back next year and she's still a Division I recruit.
Maybe the injury will give her time to narrow her college choices? Maybe her injury will help her appreciate her basketball skills that much more? Maybe, the adversity she is facing will make her a stronger person?
I don't know the answers to those questions, but I do know Thome is tackling her injury with a positive mental attitude that will be key to a speedy recovery. A supportive personal family and basketball family also helps.
With Christmas and a New Year just a few days away, Thome's injury and the memory of my sister's injury remind me not to take things for granted because at any moment, your life can change.
It's how you deal with the ups and downs of life that make you the person you are.
So try to maintain a PMA no matter what you are facing - whether it's a season-ending injury, the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one.
Everything happens for a reason.
Tomorrow is a new day.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 15, 2013

N-H area in bowl season

With college football bowl season closing in Saturday, now would be a good time to check in and see which players from News-Herald area schools have recorded a statistic for a bowl team.

Two things: Obviously this does not account for every N-H area player on a bowl team's roster - players who are on a roster but did not record a statistic are not included. Also, Brush graduate Pharaoh Brown is not playing for Oregon in the Alamo Bowl because of a suspension and is in turn not listed here.

BALL STATE (GoDaddy Bowl vs. Arkansas State, Jan. 5) – DT Carlutorbantu Zaramo (Fr., Brush, 2NG on team's last depth chart), 10 games, 2 solo tackles, 1 assist, 1 TFL, 1 sack

CINCINNATI (Belk Bowl vs. North Carolina, Dec. 28) – DE Chad West (So., Perry), 10 games, 3 solo tackles

MICHIGAN (Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl vs. Kansas State, Dec. 28) – DE Tom Strobel (RFr., Mentor, 4DT on team's last depth chart), 1 game, 1 solo tackle, 1 assist

OHIO (Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl vs. East Carolina, Dec. 23) – DE Kurt Laseak (RFr., Mentor, 1DE on team's last depth chart), 12 games, 13 solo tackles, 23 assists, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 QB hurry
WR Kawmae Sawyer (RSo., VASJ), 12 games, 3 receptions, 15 yards, 3 solo tackles, 3 assists

OHIO STATE (Discover Orange Bowl vs. Clemson, Jan. 3) – WR Chris Fields (Sr., Harvey, 2 WR Z on team's last depth chart), 11 games, 16 receptions, 193 yards, 6 TD; 2 punt returns, 17 yards, 1 solo tackle

VANDERBILT (BBVA Compass Bowl vs. Houston, Jan. 4) – K Carey Spear (Sr., Mayfield, 1PK and 1KO on team's last depth chart), 12 games, 1 carry, 3 yards, TD; 13-for-17 field goals; 43-for-43 extra points; 65 kickoffs, 62.8 average, 44 touchbacks; 2 solo tackles, 1 assist

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Thursday, December 12, 2013

College football history 101: Army-Navy 50 years ago

1963: The Army-Navy game, scheduled for Dec. 7, was originally cancelled because of the assassination of President Kennedy, but JFK's widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, made a special request for the game to be played. Fullback Pat Donnelly scored three touchdowns to lead the 9-1 Midshipmen to a 21-15 victory. Army's Rollie Stichwech's fourth-quarter TD was shown by CBS as what is believed to be the first-ever instant replay. The Cadets were driving for a go-head TD, but time ran out on them at the Navy 2. The game was played in front of 100,000 as Navy and Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach were invited to the Cotton Bowl for a showdown with No. 1-ranked Texas.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Monday, December 9, 2013

New Guy ascends Way We See 'Em charts while the Masked Marvel tumbles in 2013

A newcomer showed The News-Herald Sports staff how it's done.

Assistant Sports Editor Guy Cipriano, who joined The N-H team in February, had the best record in the high school football Way We See 'Em standings this year. Cipriano, who moved to Ohio in February after a stint at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa., was 200-46. He beat copy editor Howard Primer by one game.

Correspondent Jay Kron, also new to the panel, was third. He was followed by 2012 See 'Ems champ Chris Lillstrung, John Kampf, Sports Editor Mark Podolski, Cory Schuett, the Masked Marvel and Theresa Neuhoff Audia.

The Marvel was coming off a rare fourth-place finish in 2012. But his confidence wasn't shaken. Before the 2013 season, the Marvel proclaimed, "The members of The News-Herald sports staff can put their picks sheets right in the recycle bin. This year, they'll all be fighting for second place once again. There is no confusion over who will be No. 1."

There might be some confusion among the Marvel's support staff over what went wrong this year, as he fell four spots in the standings. The News-Herald reached out to the Marvel for an explanation.

From his winter vacation residence in Pacific Palisades, Calif., the Marvel said: "An eighth-place finish is a catastrophic and unacceptable result. Processes will be reviewed. Strategies will be re-evaluated. Make no mistake: The turnaround next season will be swift and dramatic. A championship is not the goal for 2014. It is the expectation. "

2013 Way We See 'Em standings

Guy Cipriano 200-46, Howard Primer -1, Jay Kron -3, Chris Lillstrung -5, John Kampf -6, Mark Podolski -11, Cory Schuett -12, Masked Marvel -13, Theresa Neuhoff Audia -20

Winning percentages of the past five Way We See 'Em champions

2013: Guy Cipriano, 200-46 (.813)
2012: Chris Lillstrung, 195-47 (.805)
2011: Theresa Neuhoff Audia, 205-37 (.847)
2010: Masked Marvel, 204-37 (.846)
2009: Howard Primer, 191-42 (.820)

Previous Way We See 'Em champions

2012: Chris Lillstrung
2011: Theresa Neuhoff Audia
2010: Masked Marvel
2009: Howard Primer
2008: Masked Marvel
2007: John Kampf
2006: Howard Primer
2005: Howard Primer
2004: Howard Primer
2003: Mark Koestner

Sunday, December 8, 2013

World Cup final draw thoughts

The reality is beginning to set in - Friday's World Cup draw probably couldn't have gone much worse for the United States.

Having to jump into group play with Germany, Ghana and Portugal is serious business.

The world will now spend the next several months dissecting the groups and the road to a championship, but for now let's focus on the USMNT's "group of death" draw.

It's obviously not ideal - I pounded my fist down when I saw Honduras come up in the group with Switzerland and Ecuador. Now that would've been a nice draw, with all due respect to those countries, as opposed to Germany, Ghana and Portugal.

Here's the thing, though: If we're ever going to take that next step as a soccer nation, don't we have to perform against teams like this on stages like these? There's no better time to do that than next summer in Brazil.

It was encouraging to hear how U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann approached the group in interviews, essentially stating, "Bring it on." Not that he wouldn't anyway, but it was nonetheless nice to hear.

I'll break down the World Cup much more in this space and elsewhere in News-Herald coverage in the coming months, but for now let's leave it at this:

Instead of a nasty draw being an indictment, let's make it an opportunity instead.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Night Live: Division I state title game, Mentor vs. Cincinnati Moeller

Bookmark this page and come back Saturday afternoon to follow along with our coverage of the Division I state title game, Mentor vs. Cincinnati Moeller.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

College football history 101: Archie makes history

Dec. 2, 1975: Ohio State senior running back Archie Griffin becomes the first two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy. When he won the award in 1974, at the time Griffin became just the fifth junior to win the Heisman. During his senior season, Griffin extended his stretch of 100-plus-yard games to 31, and finished his carrer with a then-NCAA record 5,177 rushing yards. His Heisman victory as a senior wasn't as dominant as the previous season, but Griffin earned more than enough votes to beat out California's Chuck Muncie. Griffin garnered 454 first-place Heisman votes. Griffin won the east, south, midwest and southwest regions, but finished second to Muncie in the west region. The late Woody Hayes was once asked who was the greatest player he ever coached. "Oh, it had to be Arch," said Hayes.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Podcast: Kirtland's Tiger LaVerde, Mentor's Steve Trivisonno preview state finals

Kirtland football Coach Tiger LaVerde and Mentor football Coach Steve Trivisonno break down their state championship game match-ups with Sports Editor Mark Podolski.

Click to stream this episode, or right-click to download

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Please keep the positive and negative e-mails coming to

My e-mail address is printed under my byline on every single one of my stories.
This week alone, I've received several useful, enlightening e-mails that have helped me understand my audience better.
Take for example, the e-mail I received from an angry Euclid support who was upset I did not rank the Panthers in my first girls basketball Top of the Crop.
He made several good points in his e-mail:
1. Euclid beat Chardon in the sectional semifinals last year and North in the finals.
2. The Panthers graduated only one senior from its starting lineup.
3. Five players that started varsity last year have returned.
4. Six seniors are on the team.
Fair points.
Looks like I should have ranked Euclid in the Top of the Crop.
The e-mail I received from this man, isn't the only one who complained about Euclid not being ranked in the crop.
Honestly, I welcome all e-mails - positive and negative. The more information, the better.
When I receive a negative e-mail, the first thing I do is thank the person for sending it. Hey, they don't have to take the time to express their feelings to me. Even if I don't agree all of the time, I appreciate the person's viewpoint.
Again, the more information, the better.
Several of the positive e-mails I received this week were on my article about Mayfield girls basketball coach Tony Ware who is leaving the program at the end of this season.
Many of his former players took the time to share their stories about T-Ware with me. Their input helped me write a better story.
So if you have questions, complaints or concerns, please let me know.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Monday, December 2, 2013

Friday Night Live: Division VI state title game, Kirtland vs. Wayne Trace

Bookmark this page and come back Friday morning to follow along with our coverage of the Division VI state title game, Kirtland vs. Wayne Trace.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Giving thanks after a health scare

It was a historic weekend for area high school football, with two Lake County teams advancing to a state championship game.

My own vantage point for it was a bit unusual and not exactly what I had in mind - a hospital bed.

I spent most of my Thanksgiving weekend at Parma Community General Hospital after an emergency appendectomy. I'll leave well enough alone with details other than to say it was a pretty serious situation.

What did strike me beyond that, though, from a professional standpoint was how what I do for a living never fails to be interwoven into my life, even during a time like this.

When the surgeon came to speak with me Thursday night, amid small talk he asked and I told him what my job was. As it turned out, his son attends St. Edward. So here I was, laying in an emergency room, talking X's and O's about Mentor-St. Edward and comparing and contrasting Mitch Trubisky and Conner Krizancic as quarterbacks. My wife and the rest of my family got a laugh out of that small-world scenario.

Then the next night, my seventh-floor recovery room at the hospital overlooked Byers Field, which hosted the Glenville-Medina Highland Division II state semifinal broadcast on SportsTime Ohio. From my angle, I could actually see the end zones across the street. So when touchdowns were scored, I could stare over and see the celebration live.

Thanks to the STO broadcast, I was also able to keep up with how Kirtland was doing, and it was cool to hear about a soccer player, Brad Hauptman, delivering the decisive field goal in a 10-7 win over Bishop Ready.

I'll be back to work Monday and will hopefully be able to contribute in some way to our football coverage this week. Regardless of what comes next, though, I will return to normalcy very thankful.

It's always an honor in this job to chronicle area teams and athletes vying for state championships, and it's a responsibility I never take lightly regardless of sport.

Believe me, it means more now.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH