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Schwab: North's Kurtz playing 'with so much heart'

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 5:31 a.m. CDT

St. Charles North offensive tackle Chase Gianacakos is a fearsome dude at 6-foot-6, 288 pounds, but when it comes to supreme toughness, Gianacakos salutes the guy for which he's usually blocking.

Evan Kurtz, a senior running back, is winning many admirers this season with a prolific start to the season; he's rushed for more than 200 yards in each of North's last two games, a win against Plainfield Central and Friday's overtime loss to St. Charles East.

"He puts all of his heart into everything, and you can really see it," said Gianacakos, a Michigan State recruit. "Every time he runs the ball he wants to break it. He wants to run it as hard as he can. You could see that last week considering his jersey was all ripped on top because he was running it so hard."

The 6-2, 220-pound Kurtz carried a huge workload against the Saints, rushing 36 times for 224 yards. He had all three of North's touchdown runs, including a 76-yarder early in the fourth quarter, and also played linebacker on defense.

"I've never had a running back that runs the way he does with heart every time he carries the ball," Gianacakos said. "He cares so much about the team that he never wants to not gain yards. … He plays the game with so much heart that by end of the game he's exhausted. I think he makes everyone better around him because we all want to be like him."

North (1-2) faces visiting Elgin (0-3) on Friday, and the Maroons' chances of slowing Kurtz's motor seem dim. Elgin has allowed 46 points or more in each of its three games, all losses.

Mercury rising: Geneva basketball junior forward Nate Navigato will visit Northern Illinois on Saturday, according to his AAU program, Mercury Elite.

Navigato also is expected to visit Illinois State, Wright State and South Dakota State, with Evansville, Northern Iowa, Northwestern, Oregon State and William & Mary among the other schools expressing interest, along with Illinois-Chicago, which has offered Navigato a scholarship.

In other Mercury Elite happenings, Wheaton Academy junior guard Josh Ruggles has been invited by a Spanish professional basketball league to compete in what is being billed as "the biggest 3-point contest in Europe."

The Ruggles family is vetting the event with the NCAA to make sure there are no rules violations involved with competing before deciding where to accept the offer. Ruggles made national waves in early August when he drilled a record 135 out of 147 3-pointers in a 5-minute span. The video from that session was posted to YouTube and apparently even gained traction overseas.

Verdict delayed: Kaneland football tailback Jesse Balluff's MRI, originally set for Tuesday, was pushed back to today, according to Knights coach Tom Fedderly.

Balluff sustained a knee injury in Friday's win at Sterling. The senior rushed for 34 carries and 269 yards with five touchdowns in the Knights' first two games before exiting the Sterling game early. He also is a quality receiving target for the Knights coming out of the backfield.

• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or jschwab@shawmedia.com.

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