By Mike Clark
LANSING, Ill. (January 8, 2022) – A lot of sports have complementary skill sets: think of a track sprinter using his speed on the football field, or a quarterback using his arm strength in baseball.
But football and bowling?
Strange as it might sound, TF South boys bowling coach Eric Valiska said junior lineman Karter Thomas’ football strength training is paying dividends in his other sport.
“When you watch him bowl you realize he’s got so much power and so many revolutions on the ball,” Valiska said, “The pins don’t stand much of a chance when he’s bowling well.
“You’ve got to hit your marks and hit your lines, but when you bowl with as much power as he does, pins blow up. … You see how everyone else’s ball kind of rolls and then you’ll see just how many more revolutions he gets. I’m surprised he hasn’t broken a pin yet.”
Thomas has been bowling since he was around 10, with early encouragement from his mom and his grandma, who gave him his first ball. He had success in junior leagues and fell in love with the sport.
“This sport is mental,” he said. “The moment you start thinking bad about yourself you’re going to start messing up. You just have to be on your game.”
It would have been easy for Thomas to give up bowling during the pandemic school year of 2020-21. Then, the Illinois High School Association scrambled the schedule in an attempt to give every sport at least a semblance of a season. Football, usually a fall sport, and boys bowling, usually a winter sport, wound up being played at the same time in the spring of 2021.
Ping-ponging between the two sports as a freshman, Thomas said, “I feel like I learned how to keep a balance.”
Just making the boys bowling team at South is an accomplishment in itself. Valiska said the Red Wolves have been getting around 70 bowlers at tryouts in recent years. But because of the nature of the sport at the high school level, they can only keep 15 or so.
In his first normal high school season last winter, Thomas said he averaged around 237. This season, he’s on the varsity but his average has dipped to around 195. But he and Valiska are upbeat about the future. With several talented seniors on this year’s team, Thomas is expected to be a big part of the Red Wolves’ plans in 2023-24.
The same is true for South football, which finished 3-6 — its first losing season since 2015. Thomas said the returning players have been hard at work in the weight room and are making sure the team culture is where it needs to be for a bounce-back year.
“We just wanted the team bonding and the chemistry on and off the field to be there,” he said.
Bowling rolls along
The Red Wolves finished second in the South Suburban Blue Tournament on Saturday at Castaways Bowl in Calumet City. Two South bowlers earned all-conference honors: Ethan Modjeski, the individual runner-up, and Mike Chancey, who finished seventh. South wrapped up its regular season with a 14-3 record after falling 2,054-1,889 to Oak Forest on Thursday at Lynwood Bowl. Chancey had the Red Wolves’ high game, a 231.
TF South will compete in the Andrew Regional next Saturday at Thunder Bowl in Orland Park. The top four teams and top 10 individuals not on qualifying teams will move on to the Plainfield North Sectional on Jan. 21.
The Spartans won twice over the weekend at the Taylorville Shootout, 69-40 over the hosts on Friday and 54-44 on Saturday over Normal. James Bullock scored 16 points and Quentin Jones had 15 vs. Taylorville. Quentin Jones led the way against Normal with 21 points, Donovan Juzang scored 15 and Tre Davis added 12 points.
Marian (12-5) hosts Niles Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The Vikings ended their holiday break with a pair of wins last week, 55-20 over Whiting on Monday and 57-54 over Chicago Christian on Saturday.
Luke Van Essen scored 19 points and Zeke Van Essen added 12 in the Greater South Shore Conference victory over Whiting.
Kevin Corcoran converted a three-point play with nine seconds left to break a 54-all tie against Chicago Christian. Zeke Van Essen scored 22 points and Luke Van Essen added 21.
Illiana (6-2, 3-0 GSSC) hosts Andrean at 7 p.m. Monday.
Illiana went 2-1 for the week, falling 39-34 to Boone Grove on Monday and winning 43-23 against Whiting on Tuesday and 40-17 against Bowman on Saturday.
Cheyenne DeJong had a team-high 12 points vs. Boone and Kelsee Smit scored 15 against Whiting. Abbie Ritzema (13 points) and Faith Van Ryn (10) reached double figures against Bowman
Illiana (8-7, 5-1 GSSC) hosts Bishop Noll at 7 p.m. Monday.
South Suburban College
The NJCAA Division II No. 10 Bulldogs had a bounceback week, going 3-0 after dropping two games on a Michigan road swing the week before.
Even bigger news: sophomore guard Nakyel Shelton was named NJCAA Division II National Player of the Week for the second time this season, averaging 30.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals a game.
On the court, SSC (15-3) beat Marian-Ancilla 89-76 on Wednesday, Kalamazoo Valley 89-70 on Thursday and Illinois Valley 79-60 on Saturday. Damontae Taylor led the Bulldogs against Marian-Ancilla, scoring 28 points. TF South grad Christian Heffner added a career-high 19, Norman Haynes had 15, and Rashard Harris and Chris Smith both scored 10.
Jalen Houston (26 points, 5 assists, 5 steals), Shelton (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Taylor (16 points) led the way against Kalamazoo Valley.
Shelton had another double-double of 23 points and 17 rebounds against Illinois Valley, while Taylor had 21 points and 12 rebounds.
South Suburban returns to action next Saturday at home against Bryant and Stratton (Wis).
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