One last blast of football before hanging up the cleats for the season.
Getting it right:
The IHSA often gets bashed for its seemingly arbitrary playoff system in many sports. But based on what we saw last weekend in Champaign, the IHSA got it right.
Starting with the Class 1A title game between Stockton and Maroa-Forsyth, it sure looked like the best teams made it to the final. Perhaps not across the board in all eight classes, but for the most part these were teams that belonged in Champaign.
Focusing on Saturday, the highlight of the day was the 7A matchup between unbeatens Glenbard West and Lincoln-Way East, a thriller that went 10-8 to the Hilltoppers. It's a game everyone wanted to see, and the IHSA brackets delivered.
Montini had to survive an interesting 5A showdown with Morris to win a fourth straight title. Class 6A was also intriguing with powerful Cary-Grove taking on lightning quick Crete-Monee. In another game of unbeatens, Crete-Monee won behind the incredible play of Laquon Treadwell.
The Class 8A bracket was tossed around a bit in the weeks leading up to last weekend, but it's tough to say Glenbard North and Mt. Carmel didn't belong given the rough road they had to survive. The Panthers' run included wins over top-seeded Maine South and title favorite Loyola.
Even if the team you root for didn't make it to the title game, the matchups still were pleasing to the eye.
What you wished for:
OK, Chicagoland, your wish has come true.
Starting next year, and in future odd-numbered years, the state title football games will shift to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. The shift is needed to accommodate the Big Ten title game that will be hosted by the University of Illinois every other year starting in 2013.
NIU beat out fellow finalists Southern Illinois University and Illinois State University, providing local fans something they've dreamed about ever since the Class 5A and 6A finals were played at Northwestern University in the 1980s.
The knock against Champaign always has been how empty the stands look in cavernous Memorial Stadium. And because many of the qualifiers hail from Chicagoland, fans aren't willing to make the trek down I-57 to watch their team play. They settle for TV.
Well, now they've got their chance. Now that the title games are shifting to DeKalb, it'll be interesting to see if Chicagoland responds by filling the stands. NIU is close enough that the average football fan -- those without ties to any of the finalists -- theoretically will want to attend the games.
Eye on 2013:
While teams like Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley try to continue their rise in Class 8A -- and standout running back Justin Jackson tries to lead Glenbard North back to Champaign -- DuPage County's power class will remain 7A in 2013.
Class 7A champion Glenbard West is No. 1 until someone beats the Hitters, especially with returning running backs Scott Andrews and Devante Toney and lineman Eric Shute. Semifinalist Benet has the potential to be better than this year with quarterback Jack Beneventi, running back Porter Ontko and elements from a 9-0 sophomore team coming aboard.
Wheaton North will stay strong behind the passing combination of quarterback Clayton Thorson and Mike Biegalski. Downers Grove North, a surprise 7A quarterfinalist, returns virtually its entire lineup, including quarterback David Edwards and linebacker Vontae Diggs.
Oh, and don't be surprised if Montini vies for the rare air of a fifth straight state title. Driscoll's the only other school to accomplish the feat, winning seven straight between 2001 and 2007.
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