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From homes to businesses clustered in downtown Lake Zurich, it's not difficult to find windows with paw prints, "Go Bears!" and a "Breach the Wall" slogan.
Lake Zurich High School's football team has plenty of visible support in town as it heads to DeKalb to play for a state title.
Bears players, coaches and others in the official football traveling party will leave Lake Zurich High at 12:25 p.m. today, complete with a police escort heading out of town. Lake Zurich Quarterback Club boosters are encouraging residents to line a path south along Church Street, west on Route 22 past Knox Park and south on Quentin Road for the final leg.
Lake Zurich faces Mt. Carmel High School at 4 p.m. at Northern Illinois University for the Class 7A state championship. Mt. Carmel captured the Class 8A title and its 12th overall last year, while Lake Zurich was in the winner's circle in 2007.
Quarterback Club President Marc Allgood said longtime success and a consistent coaching staff help to generate a strong football team following. Involved high school alumni and parents of current and former players are part of the equation, he said.
"We also have a very avid youth football program in Lake Zurich, the Lake Zurich Flames," Allgood told the Daily Herald. "Many of the youth football coaches and players follow the high school like it's a religion. I was once one of those youth coaches and will soon transition to alumni after Saturday's game. Bear football will always be in my blood."
Dale Perrin, executive director of the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce, said while he's a "huge fan" of the football team, it is just one element of a successful high school.
"I could list an entire page of local, state and national recognitions that Lake Zurich High School has received or accomplished over the past couple of years," Perrin said.
Fans who stay in town and want to watch the game with others may consider downtown's Scoreboard Bar & Grill and Rand Road establishments J.J. Twiggs Pizza & Pub and Chasers Sports Bar & Grill, all popular hangouts that have supported the football team and Quarterback Club in 2013, Perrin said.
He said he plans to visit one of those venues after Lake Zurich's tree-lighting ceremony from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. today at Paulus Park.
Regardless of championship game's outcome, Lake Zurich will fete the football team with a parade starting at noon Sunday on Main Street at Lions Park. Police Cmdr. David Bradstreet said the parade will move east on Main, north on Church Street and end in the high school's north parking lot, with a rally following in the field house at 1 p.m.
Bradstreet said area drivers should expect closures of about 30 minutes on Main Street between Old Rand Road and Route 22, and Church between Main and Echo Lake Road.