Best prep football in N-G area

Best prep football in N-G area

3. Arcola
(669-323-40)

Started playing football in ... 1894, the same year the University of Chicago football team won 24-4 at Stanford, the first trip by a Midwest school to the West Coast.

The Purple Riders will celebrate win No. 700 in ... 2018. Arcola has made the playoffs five of the last seven years. With a new coach, Zach Zehr, in tow, the Purple Riders’ first goal in 2013 is to make a return trip to the postseason after finishing 4-5 last season.

Last victory came ... in Week 7 during the 2012 season, a 40-7 triumph at Martinsville. Omar Rojas returned two punts for touchdowns and added 156 rushing yards.

Playoff resume looks ... lengthy. Arcola has compiled a 49-21 record in the postseason since Steve Thomas and Arcola first qualified for the Class 2A playoffs in 1976. The school has since made the playoffs 23 other times and won state titles in 1978, 1985 and 1988.

Did you know? Arcola showed it would have a strong program from the get-go. The school’s third team in 1896 finished 7-0.  

T-4. Tuscola
(663-316-43)

Started playing football in ... 1895, the same year the first U.S. Open golf tournament was held. Golfers played 36 holes in one day to finish the tournament, which England’s Horace Rawlins ended up winning.

The Warriors will celebrate win No. 700 in ... 2017. Go ahead and predict the milestone accomplishment will come in a win that makes Tuscola playoff eligible. Tuscola averaged roughly nine wins per season during an 18-year streak (1994 to 2011) of making the playoffs before last year’s team went 4-5.

Last victory came ... in Week 8 during the 2012 season. Nick Bates threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score in a 59-12 home romp against Meridian.

Playoff resume looks ... impressive. Two state titles and three state runner-up finishes in the last seven seasons will earn any program that description. All told, the Warriors have qualified for the playoffs 23 times and have advanced to at least the quarterfinals in their last eight appearances.

Did you know? Prior to Stan Wienke arriving at the school in 1990, the Warriors were 1-5 in the playoffs. Since then? Tuscola boasts a 40-16 playoff record.

7. Champaign Central
(652-336-41)


Started playing football in ... 1894, the same year the International Olympic Committee was founded in Paris.

The Maroons will celebrate win No. 700 in ... 2024. This is based on the current rate the program has won in the past decade. Thirty-five wins in the last 10 seasons averages out to 3.5. Round up to four and if Maroons program averages that total during next 12 seasons, the 700th win should happen late during the 2024 season.

Last victory came ... all the way back in Week 9 of the 2011 season. The Maroons beat rival Centennial 24-19 thanks to 230 passing yards from Mitchell Baker, 139 receiving yards from Jamir Stovall and 76 rushing yards from Brad Wright.

Playoff resume looks ... outdated. Since the legendary Tommy Stewart left after the 1983 season, the Maroons have qualified for the playoffs nine times. But they haven’t won a playoff game since Stewart’s 1982 team beat Washington 21-0 in a Class 4A first-round game.

Did you know? The school is the first to field a football team with at least 500 victories and a boys’ basketball team with at least 1,000 wins.

27. Danville
(558-386-35)

Started playing football in ... 1904, the same year the World’s Fair and the Summer Olympics were held in St. Louis.  

The Vikings will celebrate win No. 600 in ... 2016. Perhaps late in the season. That is, if B.J. Luke’s team can recapture the 12-win teams it showcased during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Last victory came ... in Week 7 during the 2012 season. The Vikings ran past Champaign Central 44-17 at Tommy Stewart Field, compiling seven rushing touchdowns and 248 rushing yards.

Playoff resume looks ... challenging. No area program sees the likes of the Chicago powers like Danville does. The Vikings have fared well recently, beating Lemont, Marmion Academy and Lincoln-Way North, among others, since Luke took control of his alma mater in 2005.

Did you know? Luke is the only football coach in the nine-school Big 12 Conference who is also the school’s athletic director.

44. Monticello
(512-346-30)

Started playing football in ... 1914, the same year Bob Zuppke led his second Illinois team to the school’s first national championship after a 7-0 season.

The Sages will celebrate win No. 550 in ... 2019. Go with Week 4, if you want to plan ahead. At the rate Cully Welter has won since he started pacing the sidelines in 2009, this is almost a surefire bet.

Last victory came ... in a Class 3A first-round playoff game during the 2012 season. Ryan Donohue rushed for 274 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Sages to a 45-26 win at Nokomis.

Playoff resume looks ... steady. Even before Welter set up shop in Piatt County, John Beccue, Hud Venerable and Fred Erickson had the Sages humming. Each coach has won at least one playoff game, with Venerable (three consecutive trips to the Class 2A semifinals from 1989 to ’91) and Beccue (two trips to the 2A semis in 1997 and 2002) having the deepest runs.

Did you know? Venerable didn’t stop with his success at Monticello. He went on to coach at Normal Community, posting a 126-37 record in 14 seasons with the Ironmen, culminating with a 14-0 season and Class 6A state title in 2006. Venerable isn’t done coaching, either. The Lincoln-Way Central athletic director since 2007, Venerable will start his first season as the school’s football coach in 2013.

53. Georgetown-RF/Chrisman
(499-335-46)


Started playing football in ... 1909, the same year the first Grey Cup was held. Who won the Canadian Football League’s top trophy? The University of Toronto beat Toronto Parkdale 26-6.   

The Buffaloes will celebrate win No. 500 in ... 2013. Or else head coach Josh Cavanaugh will be really, really unhappy. The season opener Aug. 30 against Decatur Lutheran, a second-year varsity program, looks promising.

Last victory came ... in Week 9 during the 2012 regular season. Rylee Goodwin hit Dylan Bina for touchdown passes of 68 and 47 yards as G-RF/C held on for a 14-7 home win against Westville in the 91st Coal Bucket game between the two nearby rivals.

Playoff resume looks ... up-and-coming. The program only has eight playoff wins (half came when the 1994 team placed second in Class 2A), but the Buffaloes have qualified for the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

Did you know? Former G-RF coach Greg Edwards, who guided the Buffaloes to their runner-up finish in 1994, played for Arcola coaching legend Steve Thomas and had his son, Mitch, as an assistant coach on the state runner-up team.

T-54. Urbana (496-393-45)
Started playing football in ... 1908, the same year the Illinois High School Association held its first boys’ basketball state tournament. Peoria beat Rock Island 48-29 in the title game at the Oak Park YMCA.

The Tigers will celebrate win No. 500 in ... 2013. Maybe not by the time their Week 5 game against Centennial at Tommy Stewart Field arrives. Coach Nathan Watson will have plenty to replace off last year’s co-Big 12 champions. But he proved last season Urbana can have football success.

Last victory came ... in a Class 5A first-round playoff game during the 2012 season. Cameron Mammen passed for 139 yards and rushed for 78 more during Urbana’s 36-22 home win against East Peoria.

Playoff resume looks ... bare-bones. The win against East Peoria marked the program’s first playoff victory. The Tigers are now 1-10 in their playoff appearances since 1985.

Did you know? Illinois coach Tim Beckman’s son Alex, a sophomore, could replace Mammen as Urbana’s starting quarterback this fall.

T-69. LeRoy (480-382-21)
Started playing football in ... 1919, the same year the infamous World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds unfolded and eventually was engulfed by the Black Sox scandal. The Reds won the best-of-nine series 5-3, but it’s forever remembered for having White Sox players collaborate with gamblers to throw the World Series.

The Panthers will celebrate win No. 500 in ... 2014. If the high-powered offense that averaged 49.8 points last fall stays in tune. A deep postseason run is the norm for the small school in McLean County.  

Last victory came ... in record-setting fashion. The Panthers, paced by 154 rushing yards and four touchdowns from Shane Bruning and six total touchdowns from Cory Eastham, blitzed Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland 78-46 at home during a Class 1A second-round victory in 2012.

Playoff resume looks ... hearty. LeRoy has qualified for the playoffs 21 times since 1984 and sports a 25-20 record in the postseason. The highlight came in 1996, when Jim Zeleznik’s team finished 14-0 and won the Class 2A state title.

Did you know? A Zeleznik has coached the Panthers every year with the exception of two seasons (Gary Tipsord went 24-2 during the 2001 and 2002 seasons) since Jim’s first season in 1979. His son, B.J., is set to enter his 11th season this fall.   

79. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
(467-384-33)

Started playing football in ... 1910, the first year the University of Illinois held its homecoming and the first season Illinois football won the Big Ten (then called the Big Eight). Arthur Hall’s team went 7-0 and celebrated homecoming with a 3-0 victory against Chicago.

The Falcons will celebrate win No. 500 in ... 2017. Probably late in the season if the Falcons are on the verge of another playoff appearance. And if GCMS can prove last season’s 4-5 finish was a fluke.

Last victory came ... in Week 9 during the 2012 campaign. GCMS beat rival Fisher 28-0 on the Bunnies’ home field as Nick Retherford scored two touchdowns.

Playoff resume looks ... consistent. Veteran coach Mike Allen has had his team in the playoffs eight of the last nine seasons. The Falcons never have won a state title, but after four straight years of first-round exits, Allen’s team advanced to the 2009 Class 2A state semifinals.

Did you know? The school, then known as Drummer Township High School, did not have a team in 1918.

80. Unity (466-198-8)
Started playing football in ... 1942, the same year Loren Tate first developed his patented curveball. And the only year the Rose Bowl was not played in Pasadena, Calif. (Oregon beat Duke 20-16 at Duke Stadium in Durham, N.C., after the game, which took place four weeks after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, was moved because of an Army decree that grounded all sporting events on the West Coast.)

The Rockets will celebrate win No. 500 in ... 2015. Maybe with a long-awaited state trophy. Only problem if it happens in 2015 is that game will take place at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, not nearby Memorial Stadium in Champaign. But the Rocket faithful won’t mind too much after four runner-up finishes this century.

Last victory came ... in the Class 3A semifinals last season. The Rockets steamrolled Greenville 56-21 at Hicks Field, with Conner Grace rushing for 205 yards and Mitch Negangard adding 170 rushing yards on a day Unity compiled 504 rushing yards.

Playoff resume looks ... stacked. Particularly with Scott Hamilton coaching. Before Hamilton arrived in 1994, Unity had made the playoffs three times, losing all three first-round games. Now the Rockets have compiled a 39-18 record under Hamilton and have advanced to at least the Class 3A state semifinals each of the last four seasons.

Did you know? Hamilton enters his 20th season with the Rockets in 2013. He’s never had a losing record, either. The closest he came? Two 6-4 seasons in 2001 and 2008.

Sections (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports

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