The weekend after Thanksgiving is traditionally recognized in the state of Illinois as high school football championship weekend. With IHSA football not on the schedule until February this year due to COVID concerns, let’s look back at some of our local teams who have made the journey to Illinois high school football’s biggest stage. It’s the Fast Facts, presented by BMO Harris Bank.
Football Championships – Benet Academy
Despite Naperville High School being by far the oldest football program in the area, with games dating as far back as 1910, Benet Academy was actually the first of our six schools to make the state championship game. The Redwings led by head coach Tim Cederblad made it to the Class 4A title game in 1984, where they fell to Morris 31-14. Benet made the state semi finals three times in the last decade in 2012, 2016 and 2017 but has not returned to the championship since that 1984 season.
Naperville North made the Class 6A state championship in 1992. Legendary Huskies coach Larry McKeon led his team to a state semi-final game win over Waubonsie Valley and then a 21-11 title game win over Loyola. North made it back down state just two years later in 1994 after defeating rival Naperville Central in the semi finals, but fell in a championship game heartbreaker 13-12 to Homewood Flossmoor. The program’s most recent state championship appearance was in the 2007 8A state championship game against conference rival Glenbard North. Despite the best efforts of Glenbard North running backs coach Grant Sabo, The Huskies won their second state title in blowout fashion with a 46-19 win. Not a bad way to kick off the first season on Naperville Sports Weekly.
What was formerly Naperville High School, Naperville Central has certainly made its mark on the state tournament. The Redhawks and longtime coach Joe Bunge made their first championship game against another coaching legend, John Thorne and Wheaton Warrenville South in 1995. Wheaton South prevailed in a thriller 22-21 to win the 6A title. In 1999, Naperville Central made it back to state with one of the best teams in IHSA history. The Redhawks finished their undefeated season with a 56-31 win over Schaumburg behind quarterback and future NFL pro bowl tight end Owen Daniels and record setting running back Ryan Clifford. Naperville Central was back in the championship game in 2001 with an undefeated record, but the Redhawks were stunned in the final game by Downers Grove South by the score of 34-31.
Naperville Central is our most recent local state championship football team. In 2013 Current head coach Mike Stine led his team on a memorable run through the Class 8A playoffs, upsetting Loyola 13-10 to win the program’s second state championship trophy.
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