CHAMPAIGN — The idea didn’t formulate with Kev Varney until 2010.
But while watching his son and the Bloomington High School football team rally to beat Centennial 22-21 at Tommy Stewart Field in Champaign, an idea struck.
The Purple Raiders had just won their 600th high school football game.
Hardly anyone knew.
The moment settled it for the 51-year-old Bloomington resident.
He was going to find out the top football programs in the state.
Varney, along with the help of Tom Sikorski, has done just that.
The two, along with an assist from various schools and coaches throughout the state, not to mention multiple local libraries, have compiled a list of the top 100 winningest high school football programs.
“It’s very important from a historical standpoint,” Varney said. “You have to understand where you came from to understand who you are now. There’s other states where football is obviously king, like Texas, California and Florida. Illinois has had its share. Why shouldn’t we have a list like this? We wanted to tell it accurately, too. As my father used to tell me, ‘Do you want to do it or do you want to do it right?’ There is a difference.”
The project took about 18 months to finish. Varney started tinkering with it in November 2010 and credits Sikorski’s pain-staking research as key. Sikorski has records of nearly every football school in the state from 1925 to ’95, poring through microfilm of old newspaper articles.
The IHSA has online records of every team from 1996 on.
“I would spend a couple hours a day putting together spreadsheets to make sure these win-loss totals would come up correctly,” Varney said. “I would set another spreadsheet up with the coach’s win totals, too, and look at Tom’s records. Since he’s got his records, I’m having him double-check what he’s got in his files to make sure things are accurate.”
The list isn’t limited to the top 100. Varney & Co. have helped produce a list of roughly 80 other schools with at least 350 wins. The plan is to update the list annually and release it at the start of July moving forward.
The entire state is represented on the list, with only 28 from the Chicagoland area.
“I think you might see some people surprised by that,” Varney said. “You always seem to talk about everything that’s north of (Interstate) 80 in this state. There’s some pretty good football being played throughout the state of Illinois. It doesn’t matter where you’re at.”
For the ‘W’
A look at the top 10 winningest prep football programs in the state, according to research by Kev Varney and Tom Sikorski):
1. East St. Louis 728
2. Chicago Mount Carmel 695
3. Arcola 669
T-4. Tuscola 663
T-4. Wheaton Warrenville South 663
6. Illini West 654
7. Champaign Central 652
8. Rock Island 634
9. Geneseo 628
10. Loyola Academy 625