Prep pulse: Feb. 11, 2019

Prep pulse: Feb. 11, 2019

Three area football teams celebrated a state championship in 2018.

While some might only recall Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Monticello doing that job during late November, there was another local program up to the task.

Milford/Cissna Park was the first-ever Illinois 8-Man Football Association champion, defeating Alden-Hebron for the top prize.

Coach Clint Schwartz made sure his kids got to enjoy this outcome past its origin.

The Bearcats received championship rings last week, though the celebratory delivery took a bit of work.

With the Cissna Park athletes off at a different school, Schwartz established a separate celebration during halftime of the Timberwolves' Friday junior varsity boys' basketball game.

Then the party transitioned to Milford for the remaining football competitors.

"It's something they're going to remember forever," Schwartz said. "It's kind of a reminder of when, in 2018, we won the first-ever Illinois 8-man football state championship."

Schwartz said everyone involved with the club received a ring — from players to stat-trackers. That made it "a real special moment" for the Bearcats' rooters.

M/CP's title came in a four-team postseason format. While it's nothing to sneeze at, the playoffs could be a greater challenge moving forward.

IHSA approval of a district format for 11-man football has pushed some schools to the 8-man game. Eleven teams are committed for the 2019 campaign, including the Bearcats, Judah Christian and Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland.

"The eight-man league is in a really great place right now," Schwartz said.

Schwartz wanted to make clear, though, that this upstart conference isn't into poaching.

"We're not trying to fight the IHSA. We're not trying to pull people from 11-man," Schwartz said. "Time will tell a little bit about the districts. ... It is a real game-changer for everybody."

Sections (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports