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The theme for this year’s football section is “Stronger Things,” which is based on the TV show “Stranger Things.”
Truth be told, I fell asleep during the first episode of “Stranger Things” a couple of times, and each time I woke up the characters were a bunch of kids I had no use for.
But this “Stronger Things” theme? I don’t plan on falling asleep this season because the 2019 campaign will be filled with kids I want to see succeed.
So, huddle up! The season is almost here, and I want you fans, coaches and players to all have stronger goals — goals stronger than the stench in a locker room after a triple-overtime game on a humid 100-degree day. Yeah, that strong.
To help you to aim high, here is a look at the best seasons for all eight of the 22nd Century Media teams since the Illinois High School Association started the playoff system in 1974.
Noteworthy: Even though the Eagles’ 1995 team had a better record at 11-1, the 1993 team knocked off Homewood-Flossmoor, St. Laurence and St. Rita to get to the state semifinals in Class 6A. Quarterback Brian Buglio went on to coach Stagg for four years between 2008-2011.
Noteworthy: With five 14-0 seasons in program history, why pick this team? It was the lone 14-0 Celtics squad to win a Class 6A title while the other five won titles in lower divisions. Interestingly, the Celtics did not get their first shutout of the season until the first round of the playoffs, when they crushed Urbana 48-0. Their second came in a 41-0 win over Richards to win the state title.
Noteworthy: The Thunderbolts made it to the state semifinals in Class 6A that season, and defense was the name of the game. Coach Mike O’Neill’s squad racked up six shutouts in the first 11 games of the season and gave up slightly more than three points per game in those contests.
Noteworthy: East won two Class 8A state titles with unblemished records. The 2005 team gets a razor-thin nod over the 2017 squad with a 24.5 point differential over the latter’s 23.0 differential. LWE was the first program in state history to win a state football championship within five years of playing its first game.
Noteworthy: This was the first of two straight Class 8A state titles for the Porters and quarterback Steve Walker and coach Bret Kooi. New Porters coach George Czart was an assistant for that team.
Noteworthy: The Titans won the Class 4A state championship that season with only a 25-man roster. Linebacker/running back Eric Schultz not only won a state championship in football but also won a state title in wrestling, enjoying an undefeated season.
Noteworthy: The Class 5A runner-up Warriors ran into a buzzsaw in Nazareth Academy in dropping a 42-21 decision in the title game that year. Warriors running back Gabe Montalvo had a huge game in the finals, rushing for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
Noteworthy: Back then, it was just plain ol’ Lincoln-Way, and the Knights and quarterback Cory Paus experienced perfection in Class 6A. The head coach was Rob Glielmi, and one of the guys who he was a boss of was assistant Rob Zvonar, who went on to have two perfect seasons with Lincoln-Way East.