VILLA GROVE – When Rick Carr graduated from high school in 1972, the football program was on an 11-game winning streak.
His senior year, the unbeaten Blue Devils were ranked 13th among all high schools in Illinois, but the team never had a chance to compete for a state championship. The IHSA playoffs weren't established until 1974.
Carr, a quarterback and an Indiana State University scholarship recruit, believes Villa Grove would have been competitive with any others its size. As proof, he just has to point to his teammates.
The area's top scorer in the fall of 1971 was Villa Grove's Steve Melton. The area's top passer was Carr. The area's second-leading rusher was Melton and the second-leading receiver was Villa Grove's Mike Parsley.
"We had the talent on offense and defense to go pretty far," Carr said.
The squad when Carr was a junior might have had even more talent, headlined by future Eastern Illinois University athlete John Beccue and Austin Rund.
"In my opinion, the better of the two teams was my junior year," Carr said.
He played during a transition period for the school. Villa Grove left the Okaw Valley Conference after his junior year – when it was 6-2 and shared the league's football crown with Sullivan and Tuscola – and joined the Little Okaw Valley Conference for his final season.
Carr averaged 232 yards of total offense as a senior as the Blue Devils ran roughshod over the LOVC. In an 8-0 season, the team outscored its opponents 326-60. No conference opponent was closer than 27 points to Villa Grove.
Carr earned special mention all-state honors in both football and basketball from the Chicago Daily News. Prior to the 1971 football season, Letterman magazine, in a national issue, listed him as one of five Illinois players to watch.
He now headlines Villa Grove's all-time group of stellar athletes.
Carr earned 15 varsity letters (a school record later broken by his younger brother Brian, a near-miss on the all-time team, with 17), switching from football to basketball to track to golf and to baseball as the seasons changed.
"I was given the opportunity to play all of the sports," he said. "That day is no longer available to high school kids. They are forced to specialize in one or two sports. You hardly see a kid who excels in three sports any more."
In football, Carr passed for at least 116 yards in all seven games he played as a senior, totaling 1,038 yards on 62 percent accuracy (68 of 110). He led all area players in rushing average with a 10.6 per-carry average, slightly under the mark (11.3) he achieved as a junior. His career rushing average (11.0) remains intact as the all-time school record.
In basketball, the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists as a junior and senior and finished with school records for career assists and career steals.
In baseball, the shortstop set a school record for batting (.488) as a junior and led the Blue Devils in hitting three consecutive seasons, ending with a career average (.369) which tied Beccue's school-record mark.
In track, he was the LOVC 100-yard dash champion as a senior and anchored the triumphant 880 relay.
He lettered in football for three years at Indiana State, primarily as a receiver and kicker, and then worked for eight years in Springfield at the Illinois State Comptroller's Office. For the past 25 years, he has worked in the community at the administrative office for the University of Illinois-Chicago's specialized care for children department.
He and his wife, Dina, have three children, one of whom (Jennifer) is among the 26 contestants in this weekend's Miss Illinois State Pageant in St. Charles.
The 5-6 guard scored 31 points in two basketball games at state, including game-high 22 in team's state-title game victory as Villa Grove (185 enrollment) beat Rockford, a school with 2,349 students. Tied for scoring honors at state. Named to the six-player all-tournament team. Team finished with a 23-2 record.
Football running back and linebacker went on to earn three letters in sport at Eastern Illinois University. In high school, a three-year starter in baseball (outfield). Graduated with what was a career school record .369 batting average. A three-year letterman in track (long jump best of 21-2). Recently retired after 30 years on football staff at Monticello, the final 16 as head coach.
Only interior lineman ever chosen as News-Gazette All-Area Player of the Year. Catalyst of a 9-3 playoff-qualifying team. Currently, assistant coach with the Blue Devils.
John Greger Sr.
Scored still-standing 1,797 career points in basketball, a career average of 24.7 per game. Scored 47 points in games twice, which remains the school record. His 667 points as a senior is still the one-season mark. School at least 30 points in a school-record 23 games. An Illinois High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee in 2007, two years after his death. Also lettered in football, baseball and track.
State-placer in track all four years, amassing seven individual state medals (in four events) and three for relays. Won the 300-meter hurdles as a senior. Set 13 school records in track, including 300 hurdles (44.7, tied for second all-time in area) and 400 meters (58.5)
Rushed for 1,488 yards and averaged 11.6 yards per carry, an average which is tied for 24th on IHSA all-time single-season list. High game of 315 yards rushing. Holds school record with 42 points in one football game in 1955.
The 5-10 center scored 24 points in two basketball games at state, including game-high 16 in team's semifinal game victory. Finished third at state in scoring. Named to the six-player all-tournament team. Team finished with a 23-2 record. Lettered in basketball at Illinois.
All-Area tailback led state in scoring with 145 points as a senior. Led Blue Devils to co-Okaw Valley Conference title in 1963 and the outright title in 1964. Helped school, seeded eighth, win regional title in basketball as a senior. Also lettered in track. Later coached boys' and girls' basketball teams at the school. Had a 20-win season with the girls in 1999.
Played all the sports the school offered, football (quarterback), basketball (guard), track (mile, high jump) and baseball (anywhere but catcher). Latter sport started his senior year. Known as someone who could shoot a basketball or pitch a baseball with either hand. For nearly four decades, has volunteered to maintain the community's youth league diamonds.