Best of Fred: No. 49

Best of Fred: No. 49

The longer I live, the more people I know who’ve died. Someone once said it’s an ironic fact of life, but that doesn’t seem right.

The list of athletes, former athletes, coaches and former coaches on this list is much too lengthy to even consider a necrology.

Two of the ramrods responsible for getting a football state playoff system implemented in the state are gone — Urbana’s Warren Smith (1984) and Watseka’s Gordon McKenzie (2014). Champaign’s Hall of Fame football coaches left too soon — Centennial’s Wes Davis (2011), Centennial’s Gary Hembrough (2012) and Central’s Tom Stewart (2012). So, too, did the coach with more state championships in football (three) than anyone else from our area, Arcola’s Steve Thomas (2001).

During my tenure, more than people have passed. How many high schools either no longer exist or don’t have sports teams of their own? Consolidations have taken most away. Co-ops are responsible for a few schools that still have students in attendance.

More than the buildings are gone. Many of the best nicknames are still a memory, and that doesn’t even include Roberts-Thawville (Leprechauns), which closed prior to my arrival (1974).

Thankfully, we still have the Bunnies and the Cornjerkers. And, thankfully, we still have the memories.

Here are the high school sports programs that left us since I got my start in Champaign:

(School — nickname, year closed)
ABL — Trojans, 1989
Atwood-Hammond — Rajahs, 2014
Bellflower — Dragons, 1985
Buckley-Loda — Rockets, 1990
x-Catlin — Wolverines, 1995
Chatsworth — Bluebirds, 1985
Crescent-Iroquois — Golden Eagles, 2009
Fairbury-Cropsey — Tartars, 1985
Farmer City-Mansfield — Blue Devils, 1985
Ford Central — Cougars, 1992
Forrest-Strawn-Wing — Eskimos, 1985
Georgetown — Buffaloes, 1986
Gibson City — Greyhounds, 1993
Gilman — Owls, 1983
Homer — Panthers, 1988
x-Jamaica — Cardinals, 1995
Lovington — Panthers, 2012
Melvin-Sibley — Rams, 1993
Newman — Redskins, 1994
x-Oakland — Oaks, 2004
Octavia — Rockets, 1989
Onarga — Indians, 1983
Paxton — Mustangs, 1990
Potomac — Artesians, 1994
Rankin — Rangers, 1987
Ridge Farm — Bulldogs, 1986
Rossville-Alvin — Bobcats, 2005
Saybrook-Arrowsmith — Comanches, 1989
x-Shiloh — Raiders, 2014
Wellington — Dukes, 1987
x-denotes active high schools which are in a co-op situation for sports

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