The end of Illinois high school football season hasn’t been this close to December as it is this year since 2013.
If the 5A-8A championship games all go into multiple overtimes Saturday, there is a slight chance that December football can be a possibility, with Sunday being the first of the month. That’s very unlikely, but it seemingly creates more of a blurred line between the fall and winter sports seasons.
In what seems to be an annual situation for the Newman Comets – who, incidentally, won the program’s last state title back in that 2013 season – most of its boys basketball players are thinking pigskin, and about beating Nashville at 1 p.m. today in the 2A title game at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium.
Transition time was a factor in the elimination of the boys portion of the Sauk Valley Shootout in 2012. Newman and Morrison were trading spots in football title games in a 3-year span from 2009-11, and that led to the former New-Mor-Roc-Ster’s demise. Sterling’s football team making later playoff rounds more often wouldn’t have made the tournament seem any better.
Sterling volleyball players who also shoot hoops have also had to deal with quick transitions in their back-to-back 3A state championship seasons. Last year’s dud of a hoops opener against Dixon was a far cry from coming back last Monday to beat Stillman Valley in the season opener.
Annawan-Wethersfield ended Morrison’s football season in the 1A quarterfinals, and the Titans bowed out the following week to Lena-Winslow in the semifinal. Titans quarterback Coltin Quagliano made the transition look seamless: the Wethersfield junior scored 38 points, swiped nine steals and dished seven assists in a 74-65 win Monday over Stark County to kick off the Flying Geese’s Wally Keller Classic.
Quagliano threw for four touchdowns just 48 hours prior against Le-Win after the Panthers had secured the win by halftime.
Last-minute tournament switches are no stranger to the tip-off tournaments at Oregon. In 2015, Hall and Ottawa Marquette were to meet in a semifinal girls game, but couldn’t make it for two different reasons: Marquette had a semifinal football game in the afternoon, and Hall bowed out due to the weather conditions that day.
The two other semifinalists, Amboy and Genoa-Kingston, did play each other, but with the tournament guaranteeing four games per team, the championship bracket was scrapped to make it appear to be a jamboree format, and Stillman Valley was brought in to give the Clippers a fourth game that the Cardinals won.
In order to accommodate the Newman boys at the Oregon Tournament this week, Pecatonica and Rock Island’s junior varsity team – playing in the varsity event – agreed to switch pools to give the Comets the day off on Friday, when they were originally scheduled to face West Carroll. The Comets and Thunder played Wednesday, which would have been Newman’s off day.
Resting returning starters during transition time does have a benefit: It gives those who may not see much floor time some varsity experience that can only help them as the season goes on.
As for those Comet football players who wrestle, there are just 5 days before their first wrestling meet, a triangular at Putnam County with Amboy – who, by the way, now is co-oping with AFC this year.
It’s hard to propose a buffer week between fall and winter, because it also pushes the spring sports season back 1 week. However, the latter is being proposed in the latest round of bylaw changes in the Illinois High School Association. The push was one of 11 proposals out of 25 that made it past the IHSA’s legislative commission and now head to a vote of member schools from Monday to Dec. 16.
Another proposal pushes the end date of the girls swimming season 1 week back, putting the state finals in line with football quarterfinals.
Kudos to those who make arrangements in the best interest in maintaining school spirit, and even more to those who can switch gears really quickly.