Whoever said “A picture is worth 1,000 words,” never saw one of mine.
Yet, with this column I include what I like to call my “Portrait of Four Teens Who Don’t Find Me Amusing” not for the thousand yawns it conveys, but for a few genial words uttered before the photo was snapped.
Ethan Pocic, the behemoth at the right, extended a giant paw toward Laquon Treadwell, the bundle of fast-twitch sinew on the left, and said, “Hey, when are you going to declare for LSU?”
As he shook Pocic’s hand, I didn’t catch Treadwell’s response — he’s a bit of a soft talker. But his destination (and LSU isn’t, he said later, among his final five choices) isn’t as important as the respect shown toward each other by the two blue-chippers.
Next year, Pocic, an offensive lineman, will be at Louisiana State. Treadwell, by wide acclaim the best undeclared wide receiver in the country, will be at some other institution whose games end up on network television.
But Saturday night, they’ll both be in Lemont, when Treadwell’s Crete-Monee squad meets Pocic’s Lemont Indians in a Class 6A football playoff semifinal.
Chatting Sunday with Treadwell and Lance Lenoir, and later with Pocic and Tim McAuliffe, I attempted to frame the game as a battle between the south suburbs’ reigning kings of mid-class football, and the program that aspires to the throne.
After all, both teams have been to the 6A playoffs with their current coaches the past six years, and Lemont (11-1) never has failed to reach the quarterfinals while twice finishing second in the state and twice more reaching the semis. Meanwhile, Crete-Monee (12-0), though seeded No. 1 to Lemont’s No. 3, has fallen short of the quarters three times and until this year hadn’t reached the semis.
McAuliffe, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound offensive tackle, wasn’t buying my thesis statement.
“We’re still not known as the best team in the south suburbs,” he said. “We’ve been picked to lose the last two weeks.”
Hey, take it up with Pat Disabato. But come on, isn’t there a sense that the Indians have built something that the Warriors are merely trying to build?
Pocic conceded, “We’re a pretty good program,” and acknowledged that Lemont’s history is a motivator.
“Basically, it’s ‘Don’t let the alumni down,’ ” Pocic said. “They put their butts on the line, now it’s our turn.”
Interesting choice of words, “our turn.” Turns out that’s more or less the theme at Crete-Monee, where the senior class, led by Treadwell, Lenoir and quarterback Marcus Terrell, senses an opportunity to cross the threshold into Lemont territory.
“It’s not something we’re worried about, but it is something we’re aware of,” Terrell said. “We want to take that step for our program.”
Lenoir, too, acknowledged Lemont’s place in the local hierarchy, saying “I think we can be that team.”
Of course, it isn’t about pushing Lemont down. It’s about lifting Crete-Monee up.
“Our coaches tell us all the time,” Treadwell said. “They tell us we’re making our own history.”
First, there is the matter of the Warriors vs. the Indians.
It is not a rivalry in the venomous way Lemont and Oak Forest, familiar foes of many South Suburban Blue battles, waged war in the quarterfinals. This is a meeting of teams respectful of what the other brings to the first football game played between the two, perhaps because what the other brings is so different than what each team has.
Treadwell, on Lemont: “Power football. They’re going to play good defense, they’re going to run the football. They’ve got great O-linemen.”
McAuliffe, on Crete-Monee: “A lot of athleticism. They’re going to put the ball in their best players’ hands and let them do what they do.”
If styles make fights, this should go the distance. Crete’s skill vs. Lemont’s brawn — though a dangerous oversimplification neither coaching staff likely is to make — is a decent enough snapshot for what could be the game of the year.
Better, at least, than any crime I’d commit with a Nikon.