The most exciting part of semifinal football? Sometimes, it's the weather
There's nothing quite like high school semifinal football.
The stakes. The tension.
It might not be the most exciting topic of conversation in typical social settings, but football isn't typical.
It's blizzards and downpours. It's freezing temps and fog. It's anything and everything in mid-November.
So while it looks like we're all clear for Saturday's semifinals -- no promises -- I thought it'd be fun to look back on some of the wild semifinal weather over the last three decades.
The Blizzard Bowl, 2015
Anyone at a game that Saturday afternoon on Nov. 21 knows it was an all-timer.
I was at Glenbard South, which hosted the Class 7A semifinal between Glenbard West and Cary-Grove because the Hilltoppers' grass field was unplayable. The snowstorm began Friday and continued through Saturday, officially dropping 11.2 inches of snow at O'Hare Airport.
The snow was so persistent, Glenbard South had a team of people shoveling the sidelines. You wouldn't have been able to see any yard lines without their inspiring effort.
Behind Sam Brodner's 50 carries for 292 yards, Glenbard West won the game 21-6, and then the state title.
The Hilltoppers celebrated with snow angels and dives into the giant mounds of snow on the track. Linebacker Ross Andreasik perfectly summed up the day, saying, "This is an experience we'll remember forever."
So will I. My arms are still sore from shoveling my driveway.
The Fog Bowl, 2001
Another unforgettable experience, this time at Downers Grove South.
The Mustangs faced defending champion Maine South on a Saturday night in the thickest fog I've ever seen.
I stood on the visitors' sideline for the game, and I couldn't see the press box across the way.
The Class 8A semifinal went to overtime, and Maine South started it with a touchdown and extra point. Downers South answered with its own touchdown, winning 35-34 on a gutsy decision to going for 2 points.
The Mustangs won the title with an equally thrilling win over Naperville Central.
Even without the fog, that win over Maine South was one of the most exciting semifinals I've attended.
I just wish I could've actually seen more of it through the pea soup.
The Ice Bowl, 2000
The coldest events I've covered have been high school baseball games in March, not football games in November.
That being said, I don't think I've felt more bitterly cold than the Glenbard North at Naperville North Class 6A semifinal in 2000.
By Chicago standards, it wasn't that bad. Temperatures were in the mid-20s with winds reaching about 20 mph.
But we all felt the chill.
I can't say for sure, but the pivotal play may have been cold-induced. Leading 13-6 late in the first half, Naperville North fumbled deep in Glenbard North territory.
The ball slipped out of Naperville North quarterback Jay McCareins' hand as he rolled out to pass. Then he recovered it and had it knocked loose again. After a scramble as the ball bounced toward midfield, the Panthers' Steve Szpejnowski emerged with it and rumbled 50 yards for a touchdown.
Glenbard North went on to win 22-12, and I was never more happy to return to my warm car.