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It’s been nearly a year since I wrote about the exploits of the Central Illinois United 2001 boys’ soccer program, which played its way into a national tournament with some local stars at the forefront.

So it’s only fitting that these boys are back in the limelight now.

CIU 2000-01 last month won the U19 Midwest Regional to again qualify for the National Cup Finals, this year being the 18th version and held in Commerce City, Colo.

CIU posted a 3-0-1 record in its regional matches at Waukegan, starting with a 1-all tie versus Tonka United BP before collecting victories over OP NPL (5-0), Sockers FC Chicago (1-0) and OP U19 ECNL (5-2).

Representing local programs through CIU are Arcola graduate Michael Garza, Champaign Central graduates Peter Wagner and Pablo Diaz, as well as Maroons rising senior Santiago Rodriguez, Judah Christian rising senior Caleb Aldridge and former Urbana standout Magnus Parente.

Diaz, who came up with the decisive goal last season for Central in a 2-1 sectional semifinal success against Jacksonville, did the same for CIU against Sockers FC Chicago, potting the lone marker to advance his group to the event final.

In the championship matchup with OP U19 ECNL, reigning News-Gazette All-Area Player of the Year Rodriguez banked two goals while Diaz and Parente each added one.

The National Cup XVIII Finals will take place July 19-23 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado.

Last year’s CIU team that qualified for the National Cup finished with a 1-1-1 ledger.I didn’t have quite enough room in Thursday’s News-Gazette to touch on more than one game to watch per week for the 2019 prep football season after schedules were released Wednesday.

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There are a few bouts I didn’t mention that I think are deserving of a little love, so I’ll do that here.

— Tuscola at Arcola, Week 2. Last year’s resumption of the Cola Wars went firmly in the Warriors’ favor. Both teams look to be strong again this year, and the Purple Riders will seek revenge, so this should be a fun matchup.

— Salt Fork at Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin, Week 8. The local layout for Week 8 this year features a lot of good tilts, this one among them. The rivalry game was a banger last year, with the Blue Devils succeeding on a buzzer-beating field goal.

— Milford/Cissna Park at Judah Christian, Week 8. Want to see the reigning 8-man football champs in action? Head over to the Field of Dreams for this one.

— St. Joseph-Ogden at Monticello, Week 9. Let’s just hope they don’t have to meet the very next week in a playoff game.

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).