Dixon High School football will celebrate its 100th anniversary Friday night by recognizing former players and coaches during a halftime ceremony.
The Dukes have the perfect opponent on the schedule, too.
The rivalry between Dixon and the Rochelle Hubs goes all the way back to 1913 – the first year of Dukes' football – in a 7-6 Rochelle win; the Dukes beat the Hubs the next six times they squared off. In 1961, the teams met for the 24th time … and they've played every year since, a span that will reach 53 consecutive seasons on Friday night at A.C. Bowers Field.
"Rochelle is the perfect team for us to play this week," Dixon head coach Dave Smith said. "I played against them when I was in school, my dad taught and coached in Rochelle, and there are just a lot of connections between the Dukes and the Hubs."
The Hubs own a 41-32-3 record in the series, including 11 wins in the last 12 games since Dixon beat Rochelle twice in 2000 (the second was the first round of the playoffs).
But the Dukes are coming in off an impressive Week 1 victory and want to snap that streak. They're also looking for the first 2-0 start since 2006, when they made the state quarterfinals – and they want to do it in front of the DHS alumni.
"We talked this week about 100 years of tradition watching us Friday night," said Smith, one of five DHS coaches to attend Dixon, "and these guys want to represent the program well and show what they've got."
What the Dukes had last week was a defense that held all-state running back Martel Hunter to 22 yards on 10 carries in a 36-14 thrashing of Monmouth-Roseville.
That's a performance they hope to repeat against the always rugged, always physical, always disciplined Hubs ground game, which churned out 464 yards in Week 1's 58-6 win over Chicago Corliss.
And last week's win should help, at least confidence-wise. The enthusiasm the Dukes – who are receiving a vote in the 4A AP poll – have had since the offseason started after Week 9 last October has been compounded even further by the "1" in the win column.
"We feel unstoppable right now," junior linebacker Cody Mighell said, "but we have to stay angry. Rochelle's coming into our house, and we have to shut them down if we want to win.
"We're going to look at their fullback and running backs like they're all Martel Hunter, and try and make the plays like we did last week."
Offensively, the Dukes also hope to take a page from the opener. They showed tremendous balance, rushing for 274 yards and passing for 215. Junior quarterback JD Gieson accounted for five TDs – three on the ground, two through the air – and 413 total yards (198 rushing, 215 passing), and couldn't give enough credit to his receivers, running backs and blockers.
The key will be Dixon's ability to sustain drives by moving the chains – Rochelle allowed just five first downs and 102 total yards against Corliss – and then to finish off those drives with points, preferably touchdowns.
Despite the big win in Week 1, the Dukes know they can't get complacent.
"We have to run the ball better, get the passing game going, really just improve all-around," said junior running back Quinton Douglas. "It's always good to get a win, but there's still a lot of season left, and Rochelle is another tough team.
"But if we win, I can't even tell you how good being 2-0 would feel … especially in front of a lot of former players and coaches. It would mean a little more respect, and set the tone for a really good year."
• In celebrating 100 years of Dixon football, the school will host an alumni tent with cake and memorabilia at Friday's game, and all former Dukes players and coaches are invited to sign in. They will receive a name tag to wear throughout the evening, and be recognized in a halftime ceremony. The same will be done for boys basketball at the Dec. 6 game against Streator.