Stevenson High School feted the state-champion Patriots football team Friday in an early morning gathering at the Lincolnshire campus.
The celebration came six days after the undefeated Patriots defeated Homewood-Flossmoor 31-25 to win the Class 8A title in Springfield.
The players and coaches -- many wearing Stevenson green and gold or new "state champion" sweatshirts -- descended a staircase in the open space called the Forum as they were introduced. The crowd -- hundreds of people filling two levels of the spacious school -- applauded enthusiastically after each name.
Running back Jack Joseph's mom, Wendy Joseph-Sopoci, was there to cheer her son and his teammates. Some of the athletes have been playing together since the second grade, she said.
"It's really been amazing watching them play football together and grow up together,"
The win was the first state title in football for Stevenson.
That distinction was important to freshman Emma Caraus,
"It really gives us something to be proud of," she said. "It goes down in history. It doesn't go away."
The mood at the school was up all week, freshman Marissa Katz said.
"We were actually special for once," she said.
The state title actually is Stevenson's second this school year. Last month, the school won the doubles championship at the girls tennis state tournament.