IN THE SPOTLIGHT
One of the traditions of the Lake Forest High School football program is the frozen-turkey toss each Thursday afternoon.
A coach picks a Scout to chuck a bird at the end of practice, with all of the other gridders gathering around to serve as spectators.
“The turkey,” junior safety Eddie Scheidler says, “comes straight out of the freezer.”
All eyes were on safety Chris Cavalaris on a Thursday last fall.
He was a junior then — and not exactly a threat to make anybody forget former Scouts star quarterback Tommy Rees.
“Most guys throw the turkey 40 to 50 feet,” Scheidler says. “Chris? His throw traveled 12 feet, maybe 15 … a straight ground ball. Pretty bad, pretty funny.”
What’s pretty special is the season Cavalaris is having as a senior defensive back. His interception in a 23-0 home loss to Stevenson on Sept. 8 puffed his number of picks to four in three games this fall. The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder came down with a pair of interceptions in a 38-23 season-opening win against Glenbard East on Aug. 5 and snared another in the Scouts’ 20-14 overtime defeat of host St. Viator in Week 2.
Cavalaris’ interception total in 2016: one, notched in the season opener.
“Chris jumped a slant pass [against Viator] and made a great pick,” says Scheidler, who secured his first varsity interception in the Stevenson game last weekend. “It got all of us excited. But Chris didn’t react to it the way we did; he showed little emotion and stayed focused. That was Chris being a leader, Chris being humble. He’s been such an aggressive ball hawk for us this year, playing fast and thinking fast. Good stuff.”
Cavalaris — the brother of former University of Notre Dame special teamer Connor Cavalaris, who played for the Irish from 2011-14 — led the Scouts (2-1, 0-1 in the North Suburban Conference) with seven tackles (6 solos) last weekend to go with the combined nine stops he made in the first two games.
“We’re down [17-0] at the half against Stevenson, and there’s Chris, in the middle of our group of defensive players, talking and urging all of us to keep playing with intensity and to keep our heads up,” Scheidler says. “Very positive.”
Cavalaris was one inch shorter and five pounds heavier a year ago. Time with Scouts strength and conditioning coach Larry Lilja and hours with trainers at EFT Sports Performance in Highland Park turned him into a faster, nimbler athlete.
“I also have to give a lot of credit to my coaches [head coach Chuck Spagnoli and defensive backs coach Joe Busse],” Cavalaris says of his 1.3 interceptions-per-game clip. “They’re putting me in positions to make plays.”
Stevenson’s football team started its second possession of the game at LFHS last weekend in an unenviable position — its 14-yard line. But Grayson Kubow found classmate Tyler Porzycki in stride for a connection near midfield that was nearly picked off.
The 6-2, 175-pound Porzycki then outraced Scouts to complete an 86-yard touchdown, giving the visitors a 6-0 lead. The Patriots (2-1, 1-0) tacked on 11 more points in the first half but tallied only six after halftime.
Some 30 minutes after the Scouts’ first loss of 2017, Cavalaris, standing in a hallway following a visit to the trainer’s room, breaks down what just happened between the sidelines. Somebody brings up his interception total. Cavalaris, with dozens of tiny field-turf pellets embedded in his eye-black-smeared face, remains straight-faced.
Wins are better than picks.
“We have tons of stuff we need to work on before our game with Warren [Sept. 15],” he says.
Well whaddaya know?
The young man who struggles with the non-Olympic sport of Butterball heaving sure knows how to talk turkey.
Notable: LFHS hosts Warren (2-1, 1-0) in its homecoming game on Sept. 15 (7:30 p.m.). The Blue Devils defeated the Scouts 46-10 last fall. The Scouts then won four of their last five games in the regular season and went 2-1 in the Class 6A state playoffs to finish with an 8-4 record. Warren downed host Libertyville High School 26-10 last weekend. … In Lake Forest High School’s 23-0 loss to visiting Stevenson on Sept. 8, junior running back Jacob Thomas paced the Scouts in rushing (8 carries, 29 yards), and junior wideout Luke Nolan finished with team highs in receptions (3) and receiving yardage (33). … Scouts sophomore Charlie Aberle and senior linebackers Spencer Yauch and John Deering each had a sack, and Yauch tied classmate and safety Chris Cavalaris for team-high honors in tackles (7). Yauch (5 solos) made two of his stops behind the line of scrimmage. … Scouts senior linebacker/running back Bryan Ooms registered six tackles (5 solo) and rushed for 24 yards on eight carries. … Stevenson outgained LFHS 359-89 in total yardage in the NSC opener for both schools. … Cavalaris, on junior safety Eddie Scheidler’s first varsity interception last weekend: “I’m proud of him.” Lake Forest’s defense was in a Cover 2 scheme when Scheidler read Patriots senior quarterback Grayson Kubow, darted in front of a target and snagged the pigskin at 3:14 of the first quarter. … Fond memories: Cavalaris’ older brother, Connor Cavalaris, made two tackles in Notre Dame’s loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS Championship Game. He had four interceptions in his senior year at LFHS and returned one for a touchdown. A walk-on who was awarded a football scholarship before the start of his senior season, he graduated in 2015 with a degree in accountancy from the Mendoza College of Business at ND.