West Aurora High School has fielded a football team for quite a long time.
To be exact, the Blackhawks have been playing football since 1895.
In recent times, West Aurora hasn't enjoyed a great deal of success on the gridiron.
Prior to last year's Class 8A playoff qualifying team that finished with a 5-5 overall record, it had been 22 seasons since the Blackhawks reached the postseason (finishing 8-3).
However, for the first time since 1994, West Aurora is off to a 4-0 start, having outscored its opponents by a staggering 154-18 margin.
"We knew we had a special group when these seniors were freshmen," said Blackhawks coach Nate Eimer. "I believe that freshman team finished either 6-3 or 7-2 in the DuPage Valley Conference."
On Friday night, the Blackhawks will play one of their biggest games in recent memory when they host South Elgin (2-2) in a first-place battle between a pair of 2-0 teams in the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division.
"It's a huge game," said Eimer. "It's homecoming. South Elgin has a good football program and is getting better each week. It'll be fun though. This is what you play for."
Defensively, the Blackhawks haven't allowed more than 7 points in any game this season.
"It has been off the charts," Eimer said of the defense fueled by 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior inside linebacker DaQuan Cross.
During last week's 26-7 victory over Glenbard East, Cross turned in a human highlight reel of sorts during the Blackhawks' goal-line stand to start the fourth quarter.
"They had four shots to score from inside the 1-yard line and we stopped them," said Eimer. "DaQuan made two of the best high school plays I've ever seen on second and third downs.
"On second down, their quarterback got free at the 6-inch line but DaQuan popped his hips and knocked the kid back. On third down, he came all the way from the other side of the field to make an unbelievable play, getting through a block from their tackle."
Those astonishing plays have become the norm for the Blackhawks' versatile standout.
"He's the real deal," Eimer said of Cross. "There's not much he can't do.
"He's an elite pass rusher, he can drop back and cover receivers, he returns kicks, he can run and catch the ball, and he kicks extra points. He even threw a pass against East Aurora."
Cross, who also returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown against East Aurora, opened the season with back-to-back 3-touchdown performances at tailback against Yorkville (33-3) and Waukegan (40-2).
Despite his athleticism, talent and versatility, Cross hasn't drawn a great deal of interest from college recruiters -- much to his coach's chagrin.
"I keep promoting him," said Eimer. "I think he could do whatever he puts his mind to at the collegiate level. He plays inside linebacker for us but I could see him at strong safety or cornerback. Watch the tapes -- he just plays so hard.
"In our offense (wing-T), the wings are big with blocking. When you look at our touchdown runs, DaQuan is our blocking wing 90 percent of the time. He's a great practice player. He's special."
Last Saturday, DaQuan and twin brother DaVion -- "no doubt, there's Division 1 interest in him, too," said Eimer -- made a game-day visit to Northern Illinois University and watched the Huskies battle nationally ranked San Diego State.
Other schools that have shown interest include Eastern Michigan, Illinois State, North Dakota State, South Dakota, and North Dakota.
"I've heard recruiters say they have a hard time evaluating him because he's a 'tweener' -- probably too small to play linebacker and not sure if he can play safety," said Eimer. "I keep telling DaQuan that he can only control what he can control.
"I believe something will come. He'll make some school happy. All it takes is one."
Eimer's dad is currently working on a top-10 project -- digging through the archives to compile a top-10 list of career statistical gridiron leaders at West Aurora.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to see DaQuan Cross' name dot several different categories.
"DaQuan already is our all-time leader in all-purpose yards," said Eimer. "He's tops in interceptions. He has a chance to be our career leader in points scored, and he'll likely finish first or second in rushing yards.
"He'll also make the top 10 in career tackles and sacks. He's unique. I doubt we'll see another player like him at West Aurora for a long time."
Craig Brueske can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org