Every year the honor goes to some unlucky football team.
This season the award for DuPage County's longest first-round playoff road trip goes to Willowbrook. The Warriors (6-3), seeded 23rd in Class 7A, travel to No. 10 Quincy (8-1) to take on the Blue Devils.
It'll be about a 600-mile round-trip journey that coach Nick Hildreth and the Warriors are looking forward to more than dreading.
"It'll be a good experience for our guys," Hildreth said. "I think everyone's looking forward to it."
Willowbrook will load up the buses right after school on Friday and head to Quincy for a 1:30 p.m. game on Saturday. The Warriors aim to come home with their first playoff win since 1990.
"I'm glad it's a 1-32 bracket because we get games like this against teams we don't normally get to play," Hildreth said. "I think it's good for us to see someone different."
Beyond its record, seeding and bracket in Class 7A, No. 11 Benet (7-2) has reason to feel good about its chances heading into the playoffs for a program record fifth straight time.
Coming off an impressive 38-14 win over Carmel, the Redwings are playing some of their best football of the season.
"I feel much better than I did a year ago," said Benet coach Pat New. "We had injuries. We had players who were out. I feel like this year we're on an incline heading into the playoffs. Last year I didn't like the momentum. I didn't like the way we went into the playoffs."
New even liked the way his team played in a Week 8 loss to Marist, especially on defense, where the Redwings only allowed a pair of touchdowns. The defense has been steady all season, and the offense has become more consistent with quarterback Jack Sznajder and Marty Dosen, who has settled in at running back.
The Redwings hope to keep the momentum going in Friday's first-round matchup against No. 22 Hoffman Estates (6-3) at Benedictine University.
"I really like the way we're playing right now," New said. "Our offense is really clicking right now and our defense is playing as well as it has all year."
The long run:
After Mt. Carmel's streak of 30 straight playoff seasons got snapped this season, Stevenson now holds the distinction of most consecutive playoff qualifications, at 28.
St. Joseph-Ogden, which visits IC Catholic Prep in a Class 3A first-round game on Saturday, trails only Stevenson with 26 straight appearances. Maine South is third with 25 and Montini fourth at 24.
Montini's current championship run -- a record-tying seven straight title-game appearances -- began shortly after former Broncos offensive coordinator Lewis Borsellino brought principles of Maine South's spread offense to Lombard.
Class 3A includes four teams with playoff streaks of at least 20 years. St. Joseph-Ogden is followed by Tolono Unity, Wilmington and Auburn with respective spans of 23, 21 and 20 seasons.
The briefest most consecutive-appearance streak comes in Class 5A where Marion's made the postseason the last 12 years. Joliet Catholic had made it 18 years straight until failing to advance this season.
It bears repeating that Wheaton Academy advanced into the Class 4A playoffs behind a sterling eight-minute flurry from receiver-defensive back Miles VanderKlok.
As Daily Herald correspondent Craig Brueske reported, VanderKlok scored 4 touchdowns over 8 minutes, 37 seconds spanning the second and third quarters of the Warriors' 44-30 victory over St. Edward, which was fighting for its playoff life.
The junior's 19-yard touchdown catch 21 seconds before halftime gave Wheaton Academy a 20-14 halftime lead. In the third quarter he caught a 29-yard touchdown pass and followed 22 seconds later with a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown.
VanderKlok's 35-yard touchdown catch with 3:45 left in the third quarter gave Wheaton Academy a 38-14 lead. He finished with 5 catches for 134 yards, plus 5 tackles.
"He keyed us pulling away from St. Ed's," said Warriors coach Brad Thornton.
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