With the workday done, it was time for a group of about 25 Dixon athletes to get back to work on Wednesday evening.
The men, all former Dixon High School football players, convened at the field next to Reagan Middle School for practice to get ready for a football game against Rochelle grads on Saturday. It is part of a series of area matchups being conducted by Alumni Football USA.
Initial interest in Dixon was strong, but it gradually died down. That's when Doug Devine, an assistant coach at the school from 2003 through 2007, stepped in and offered his services. He brought along two more former DHS coaches, Ken Scott and Todd Macklin.
"I said if we're going to do this, let's do it the right way, and I'll jump in," Devine said. "If I'm going to jump in, I'm going to get some coaches in here, and we're going to do it good."
Jon Shippert graduated a year ago, and his older brother, Mike, was a member of the 2006 squad that won eight games and advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals. Jon, 19, is having a blast playing with some of the older players.
"I grew up pretty much idolizing a lot of these guys when they played," Shippert said. "It's pretty cool watching some them play now, like Andrew Devine and Anthony Dillabough. It's cool lining up with them."
The former Dukes have had five lengthy practices in the past 2 weeks, with some shorter sessions thrown in. It's all business, once the players get on the field.
"If you go out and walk through the motions, bad things will happen," coach Devine said. "The guys are taking it very seriously, because that's the type of people they are and that's the type of players they were. Plus, there's the fact that we're playing Rochelle."
Dating back to 1961, Rochelle leads the series 34-16, with two ties. Since Dixon swept two games in 2000, the Hubs have won 11 of the last 12, with the Dukes' lone win coming in 2006, when they won 18-13.
"Some of these guys don't like it when I say we didn't beat Rochelle over a lot of years, because there's a couple of classes here that did beat them a couple of years in a row," Devine said. "I never beat them when I played. I did a couple of times when I coached, but that's over 40 years."
The coaching staff is implementing schemes that worked in early 2000s, when the Dukes enjoyed a good run of success, along with a heavy dose of Scott Goad. An all-state quarterback as a senior, Goad recently completed his freshman year at Drake. He ran track, high-jumped a personal-best 6 feet 9 inches and ran a leg on the Missouri Valley Conference-winning 1,600 relay team.
His athleticism will be featured when the Dukes have the ball.
"If you don't use the spread offense with Goad back there, then you're a fool," Devine said.
"You can't complain when you're getting the ball," Goad said. "Yeah, I'm looking forward to it."
Then there is the old guard. Chris Stephenitch is 43, graduated from DHS in 1988 and hasn't played organized football since playing the flag variety just after high school.
"I remember having dreams about still playing, and going out and making tackles," Stephenitch said. "Now it's coming true."
Stephenitch, who will play on the offensive and defensive lines, likes the idea of laying some bruising blocks or crunching tackles on an opponent, should the opportunity arise. There is also simply the opportunity to put on the pads again.
"I think everybody's going to be a little bit more tired than what they anticipated, with the pads and everything, and playing at that level," Stephenitch said. "It won't be the speed of high school, probably a step slower, but it's going to be fun getting out there again."
Players pay $100 to participate in the game. One half of pre-sale tickets will go a team charity, and Dixon's will go the Wounded Warrior Project. Tickets are available at Venier's Jewelers, GNC, next to Walmart, and The Stables.
• Four 12-minute quarters to be played, unless team rosters swell to around 50 players on each side. Then, 15-minute quarters to be played.
• IHSA rules apply, with a few exceptions (no blitzing; no crack-back blocks; no rushing the center on punts, field goals or extra points; no fighting; no taunting – violating those rules may result in ejection)