Straight from the top: Q&A's with Andy Romine and Mike Allen

Straight from the top: Q&A's with Andy Romine and Mike Allen

The last prep football game day of 2017 is here for two local coaches and their respective squads. Tuscola's Andy Romine and the Warriors will compete for a Class 1A state championship, and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's Mike Allen and the Falcons will fight for a 2A crown. 

Andy Romine (third year as Tuscola coach)

How is this team different than past ones?

It's not lost on us today that some of those teams, even before that, and the work that was put in by those teams and those coaching staffs, that set the foundation for this whole thing. To me, one of the biggest things is, it's our responsibility ultimately to carry the torch. We want to build on it, but we want to carry the torch and keep the program at a (certain) level. ... We had a shirt a few years ago that said "Play for the ones before you, leave it better for the ones that followed." Certainly, I think we take responsibility in keeping the program at a great level.

What are your emotions going into this game?

Pretty relaxed. Here's the thing, this one not being in Champaign like all the previous ones, there's a little more planning to it. But (athletic director Ryan) Hornaday has been unbelievable as far as that goes, and our parents are unbelievable. I think our people understand, there's a lot of preparation that goes on for the football game that ... and they try to take a lot of your plate and try to put our focus back on the game. From that standpoint ... pretty relaxed. What you're really doing is prepping for a football game, and we've prepped for football games before.

What's been the defining moment of this season?

Maybe my greatest moment would be hugging our kids, after the semifinal win, who poured so much into the program and didn't get to win a state championship, didn't get to play in a state championship. I think they realize how important they are to it — at least I hope they do, because we try to make them feel like it, and dang it they are. Those things are what's really, really lasting.

What's one thing you want your kids to remember ahead of today's game?

At 2 o'clock Friday afternoon, you're going to be healthy and the game's going to be over and you're going to be a state champion or you're going to be a state runner-up. And either way, I just want them to know we're really proud of them.

What would a state title mean?

It doesn't get old. It would be really gratifying to be able to see Coach (Stan) Wienke and Coach (Rick) Reinhart and have them be proud of the fact that our program is still where it should be and where they helped get it to. But mostly you'd just be so happy that not only did your kids get this opportunity, but they took the greatest advantage of it and beat a really (darn) good team. That ultimately would be enough.

Mike Allen (17th year as GCMS coach)

How is this team different?

As a whole, the commitment to the weight room was beyond any team that came before them. They push each other. They held each other accountable in the weight room. If people weren't there, they had them there. If they wanted to stay longer, they made them stay longer. As coaches, we didn't have to push them in the weight room. They push themselves. Coach (Brandon) Luttrell was part of that. He would stay an hour, two hours extra after practice, (as) he worked out with a group of them. That would be one of the biggest differences.

What are your pregame emotions?

It's just been an emotional roller coaster. Such a tough, tight game (last) Saturday. To have the football player alums come on the field after the game Saturday, that was very emotional for me. Just knowing the group of coaches that have been together for so long, we've talked about this for a long time, it's just something I can't describe. I'm still kind of numb. There's so much to do to prepare that you really haven't had time to enjoy it yet.

What's been the defining moment of this season?

Against LeRoy (in Week 4), they broke a play on their sideline, and Layne Harden, who is not one of our starters but plays a lot, he was playing left corner, and the ball was over on the right side about 30 yards ahead of him. He made a beeline across the field, made a tackle and saved a play from scoring. And I knew right then and there, the pride that our kids had in playing defense was a key. When that happened, that's honestly one of the defining moments for me. That's when I realized, everyone's bought in.

What's one thing you want your kids to remember ahead of today?

To relax, have fun and enjoy the moment, and continue playing as a family. We talked about it the other day, they go over and read to the elementary kids, they help out with youth football, they're out in the community. They have a platform now, and to use this wisely and whenever they might have a tough decision to make, to realize they're role models for those kids, and not to do anything that would jeopardize that.

What would a state title mean?

It would mean the world because just the support we've had and the humbleness of these kids. It's all about them, and they've worked hard. And I would like to see them reach their ultimate goal of winning that. To come back with that would just be a feeling that we'll never be able to forget.