By Jason Maholy
I don’t really know Jim Kirby.
When I came on here as the sports editor for The Regional-Reporter, Jim had already been our outdoors writer for the past few years. There was never any question whether to retain him, it was a given he would have his job as long as he wanted it. The information he provided and the bits of knowledge and wisdom he passed on to those who took the time to read his column were a valuable piece of the paper.
I enjoyed reading his articles, and I feel honored to have in my short time here been the first person to have the pleasure of reading it each week.
Well, Jim has decided it is time to step away from writing. He informed me last week he is officially retiring. Here’s hoping that means a couple more fish in the cooler each weekend.
We wish Mr. Kirby all the best, and he has an open invitation to write for us at any time if he feels so inspired. We’ll miss reading about fish and fowl, and the beauty and wonder of the outdoors. I, personally, will miss seeing what is probably one of the last photos of a man smoking a pipe to appear in newsprint.
Be well, Jim.
How about our area football teams. Six high school programs in out coverage area qualified for the playoffs this season, and three of them are among the favorites in their respective classes to make a deep run through their brackets.
Brother Rice and Richards are both unbeaten, and secured the top overall seeds in 8A and 6A, respectively. Not only are they undefeated, they have largely dominated the opposition in every facet of the game.
The Crusaders have scored 292 points and allowed 52, and ended the season by pitching three consecutive shutouts and four in their last five games. Should they reach the title game they could be matched up against Lincoln-Way East in what could be a battle for the ages.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have scored 354 points and allowed only 43, and have four shutouts to their credit. They’re as well-oiled a machine as there is in Class 6A right now, and if they continue to play at the level they’ve maintained for the first nine games they have an excellent chance to be playing another five contests.
And then there’s Marist, which sits at 8-1 with its only loss coming in Week 1 to its South Side rival, Rice. The two schools could meet again, but not until the semifinals.
The RedHawks are playing as well as anyone in 8A, and their high-octane offense has been humming. Mike Markett is the best pure quarterback in the area, and a team that entered the year relatively inexperienced has matured over the course of the season.
This is a dangerous team.
And not to be trumped by the big boys is Chicago Christian. With apologies to Rice and Richards, going unbeaten is certainly an outstanding accomplishment, but the Knights may be the best story in town right now. They’ve returned to the playoffs after a nine-year absence, and did so in dramatic fashion by scoring 16 points in the final three minutes to beat Fenton in front of the home crowd in Palos Heights.
The Knights are a 2A team, and Fenton is in 6A, so it was no small feat for them to win that game. This is a battle-tested team whose players believe in one another. Don’t be surprised if the Knights win a game or even two.
Shepard and Evergreen Park round out our postseason teams. The Astros and their explosive offensive get a home game, and will hopefully take advantage of playing a Springfield team that is doing a bit of traveling for this contest. Shepard is in the playoffs for the seventh time in 10 seasons, but has advanced beyond the first round only once (2012) during that span.
Evergreen will play 5A top seed Payton in the first round. The Mustangs are in the playoffs for the first time since 2014, which concluded a run of four straight postseason appearances.