High school football season comes to end with changes in the air
DeKALB -- The IHSA football state finals concluded on a blustery Saturday in DeKalb as winds of change swirled in the background.
On a November day better suited for curling up under a blanket than huddling up on a wet field, the state's top teams competed for titles in Classes 5A, 6A, 7A and 8A.
Beginning Monday, every school in the state gets a second say on the structure of Illinois high school football competition moving forward.
Member schools have between Monday and Dec. 16 to choose one of two paths: accept Proposal 23, which passed last December, or adopt Proposal 15, which negates Proposal 23.
Conferences for football would be eliminated under Proposal 23. The IHSA would be authorized to create "district" groupings based on enrollment and geography beginning in 2021. Schools from eight classes would be placed in eight districts per class.
Each district of eight or nine schools would play a round-robin schedule. Two nondistrict games that would not count toward playoff qualification would be left to the discretion of individual schools.
Proposal 23 passed 324-307 last December with 69 schools voting "no opinion."
Proposal 15 would undo Proposal 23 like it never happened.
The IHSA held 28 town hall meetings around the state between Nov. 7-20 to discuss the pros and cons of both proposals. Do IHSA administrators have a sense for how the vote will go?
"Coming out of the town meetings it would appear that there is support for going away from districts as opposed to entering into districts," IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in the NIU press box Saturday. "Obviously, that's a potential change from where we were at last year. We were at a really close vote last year, 50-50, so part of me is not surprised that the membership has gotten this on the ballot and that we've moved it onto the ballot for consideration by the membership."
The executive director said he doubts 69 schools will vote "no opinion" this time around.
"I think we'll see many more votes one way or the other," Anderson said. "It brings out the passion that people have about football. I'm not surprised by it. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out."
Lynch still da' man in DeKalb: Mt. Carmel and NIU graduate Jordan Lynch remained perfect at Huskie Stadium Saturday.
The Mt. Carmel coach and former NIU quarterback never lost a home game in four college seasons from 2010-13.
Lynch ran his Huskie Stadium high school coaching record to 2-0 with a 37-13 victory over defending Class 7A champion Nazareth Academy. The Caravan defeated Chicago Hope 42-7 at the same venue in Lynch's Mt. Carmel debut on Aug. 25, 2018.
"It's great. I've had a lot of memories here," Lynch said after the title-game win. "I've never lost on this field as a player and as a coach. It feels good. (We) played well. Emotions are high right now but it was an all-around team effort."
Star turns: It was a star-powered weekend at Huskie Stadium for fans of future NCAA talent.
Class 7A runner-up Nazareth Academy was led by 6-foot-2 quarterback JJ McCarthy, who has been committed to Michigan since his sophomore year.
Class 8A Lincoln-Way East boasted AJ Henning, McCarthy's future receiving target in maize and blue.
No team featured more future NCAA players than the Class 6A champion, East St. Louis. The Flyers defeated Prairie Ridge 43-21, thanks to a collection of players that included Texas A&M-bound safety Antonio Johnson, future Missouri defensive lineman Kevon Billingsley and Tennessee recruit Javontez Spraggins at guard. Nine East St. Louis players hold Division-I offers.
Having such a collection of talent is one thing. Playing as a championship unit is another, according to the Flyers.
"It's the effort we put in every play, the selflessness, the brotherhood we've got as a team," Johnson said. "We bond together every day so I know my brother's got my back and I've got his back."
Unlike 2016 and 2017 when Prairie Ridge rode to Class 6A titles behind Iowa recruits Samson Evans and Jeff Jenkins, the 2019 Wolves were a less-heralded crew.
"We have nine guys on the National Honor Society on our team and we have eight academic all-state kids," Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp said. "That's our program. We build around good, solid kids. That's why we run the defense that we do and the offense that we do, because I can put together 11 guys who want to do their job and do the tough things to put wins together.
"For two and a half quarters we had them on the ropes and made them nervous. Had a couple of breaks gone our way, we could have upset them."