Night of Champions celebrates the accomplishments of top high school teams, athletes and coaches from Riverside-Brookfield, Lyons Township, Fenwick and Nazareth on June 20. Unofficially, the annual sports awards party marks the end of the high school sports year in terms of coverage.
While Night of Champions provides a synopsis of the top achievers of the year, several other interesting stories emerged to spice up the sports narrative.Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable ones.
Elliott wins Super Bowl
Jake Elliott kicked three field goals and made two of three extra points in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 41-33 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis. Elliott, a Lyons Township High School graduate, scored 11 points including a pair of fourth-quarter field goals (42, 46 yards) to help fend off the Patriots’ repeated rallies.
“I am continually amazed with Jake’s poise under pressure,” said LTHS football coach Kurt Weinberg, who coached Elliott in high school. “I was nervous on that 46-yarder in the fourth quarter [of the Super Bowl], but he looked cool as a cucumber.Just like the Super Bowl, some of my greatest recollections of Jake are his ability to handle big moments.”
As a 5-foot-9, 170-pound rookie, Elliott set six kicking records. He has set three new records for the Eagles, longest field goal (61 yards), longest field goal in the playoffs (53 yards) and most 50-yard field goals in a season (5). The aforementioned 61- and 53-yard kicks are also NFL records for longest regular season kick and playoff kick, respectively, by a rookie. And he owns the longest kick (46 yards) for a rookie in Super Bowl history.
On the season, Elliott made 26 of 31 field goals for an accuracy make of 83.9 percent as the Eagles finished 16-3.
Curtin named RBHS AD
The District 208 school board voted 6-0 to hire RBHS head football coach Brendan Curtin as the school’s next assistant principal for athletics, effective July 1, 2018.
“I believe that this is the place for me. This is the position that I’ve aspired to for years,” Curtin said. “It’s been a professional goal of mine to attain this position.”
Curtin, a 1991 graduate of RBHS, will continue as head varsity football coach next year as well.
He has led the team to four consecutive state playoffs berths. Three of those seasons ended with first-round playoff losses, but in 2015 the football team advanced to the quarterfinals in the Class 6A tournament and finished with a 10-2 record.
Kaminski wins state
Fenwick wrestler Jacob Kaminski, from Riverside, won his state championship in the 195-pound class in relatively comfortable fashion as well.
“It obviously feels great to be a state champion.” Kaminski said. “It’s really fulfilling for all your hard work to show and to know that you deserve the title.”
Kaminski (31-2), who advanced to the semifinals in the individual state tourney in 2017, finished the job this year with a 7-1 decision over Rochelle’s Alex Harvey in the state final match.
“Jake Kaminski is a tremendous talent, one of the best wrestlers in the country,” Fenwick coach Pete Kowalczuk said. “He’s such a special talent.”
Malnati, Steward leave Fenwick
After five years as the Fenwick boys head basketball coach, Rick Malnati informed the school he is resigning from the position. He told the varsity players of his decision on April 18.
“Five years ago, [Fenwick assistant coach] Staunton Peck and I got a chance to come to Fenwick to coach basketball,” Malnati said in a press release issued by Fenwick. “I originally told Athletic Director Scott Thies that I would commit to three years and then Staunton would take over. I was having so much fun, I stayed five.”
Malnati guided the Friars to a 122-33 record, highlighted by a 38-game winning streak and three straight Chicago Catholic League championships. In 2016-17, Fenwick produced a 30-5 record and Class 3A runner-up finish. In the Class 3A finals, Morgan Park edged the Friars 69-67 in overtime.
About a month after Malnati’s announcement, Fenwick basketball standouts D.J. Steward (Class of 2020 nationally-ranked player) and Damari Nixon decided to transfer out of Fenwick.
Bulldogs progress in pool
The RBHS girls water polo team recorded its best season in program history with a 23-8 record under third-year head coach Todd Fridrych. After a 3-3 start, the Bulldogs won 20 of 25 matches highlighted by an 11-match winning streak. Previously, RBHS never fnished above .500 and went 11-18 in 2017.
Chloe Wandel-Marrello had 312 saves and 52 assists in the cage, while Tatum Bruno scored 89 goals with 60 assists and 152 steals. Leah Harazin had 65 goals, 21 assists and 31 steals.