Thoughts after watching eight high school football games--and assorted other college and professional events--in two days while feasting on hot turkey sandwiches and other Thanksgiving Day leftovers:
* Anyone who argues that Maine South's Matt Perez wasn't the Player of the Year wasn't paying attention.
* Critics of the Illinois High School Association's television production of the state finals are reminded that the folks who provided the play-by-play and color commentary--Jim Spencer, Steve Moews, Lee Hall, Greg Bradshaw, Tom Stocker, Jim Covert, Dave Bernhard, Jack McInerney--do a very competent job and are so much better than the alternative. You want professonals? Remember Norm Van Lier? Better production? It looked very good from where I was sitting and, remember Heidi, ESPN, the commercial networks and the cable stations fumble the ball, too, with much larger budgets.
* Watch for Tuscola's Jud Wienke to emerge as a star, just as former Tuscola players Dusty Burk and John Wienke, his older brother.
* Another player to watch is sophomore quarterback Robert Gregory of Simeon. If he continues to develop as a junior and senior, he could emerge as one of the most talented and widely recruited players in the last 50 years.
* As Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese noted during the Illinois/Cincinnati game, Illini quarterback Juice Williams' running has improved since his spectacular sophomore season but not his passing. His NFL stock has landed in the basement.
* The atmosphere of playing the state finals in Memorial Stadium is electric, like Soldier Field used to be for the Public and Catholic League champions at the Prep Bowl. But the crowds are disappointing, only the participating communities and schools are represented at each game. It simply isn't the only game in town, as it once was.
* The Prep Bowl game between Simeon and St. Rita was very entertaining until the questionable pass interference penalty and subsequent unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Simeon's staff for arguing the decision turned it in St. Rita's favor. From where I saw, both players were going for the ball. The defensive back didn't go over the receiver's back or push him to get at the ball. But the official was closer to the play and saw it another way. That's football. It's too bad such a competitive game was decided on a controversial play.
* What happened to the Blackhawks since they beat the Sharks and were being touted as the NHL's new version of the Montreal Canadiens? Maybe those young kids are taking their press clippings too seriously?
* Just when I was about to start writing a commentary suggesting that the IHSA should revise its seeding procedure--in the same fashion as it tweaked its multiplier to try to level the playing field--after watching 36-14, 41-7 and 52-22 blowouts on Friday, the Saturday games came along and cooled me off.
* Still, blowouts in state finals, especially running clocks, should be avoided if at all possible. Until they prove otherwise, Chicago Public League teams should never be seeded No. 1 or No. 2 in any class. Look at their track record. Rather than relying on a computer to spit out seedings, how about selecting a panel of retired coaches and media who know the game to determine the seeds based on performance, strength of schedule and body of work?
* Maine South coach Dave Inserra has the highest winning percentage in state history. In nine years, his teams have won 104 of 112 games, or .897 percent. The highest winning percentage for all coaches with 10 years or more of experience is .879 by East St. Louis' Wirt Downing, who posted a 145-17-7 record in 16 years.
* Montini's dramatic 29-28 victory over heavily favored Joliet Catholic in the Class 5A final was the biggest upset in the state playoff since the inaugural event in 1974 when Glenbrook North stunned East St. Louis in overtime. The Broncos' 83-yard drive in the last three minutes to score with 32 seconds left and coach Chris Andriano's decision to go for the two-point conversion and the victory was stuff of legend.
* When a running team is forced to throw the ball, bad things usually happen. And they happened to Providence as Cary-Grove proved, as Lake Zurich did earlier, that the caliber of football in the Chicago area is spreading throughout the suburbs.
* Before you could stop talking about the Montini/Joliet Catholic game, along game Glenbard West/Wheaton Warrenville South. Another great finish with WW South rallying from a 15-yard roughing-the-kicker penalty that left the Tigers with a first-and-25 situation in the first overtime. WW South quarterback Reilly O'Toole, who engineered the 31-24 victory, projects as one of the top players in the class of 2011.
* Talk about a Hollywood ending. Matt Perez couldn't have written a more exciting script for his high school farewell, 316 yards rushing and five touchdowns in a 41-17 victory over Marist. Twenty-eight victories in a row.
Please pass the drumstick.