Phil Pash’s simply sports: 14 teams have won state titles

Two Rockford-area high schools won state football championships last fall—13-1 Stillman Valley in 3A and 11-3 Galena in Class 1A.

Galena didn’t make it into this year’s playoffs—which start this Friday night and Saturday afternoon, Oct. 29-30—but Stillman Valley will be seeking a fourth state title (in the last six years).

The Cardinals are one of 14 area teams in this year’s starting field of 256 schools who have been state champs in past years. Woodstock Marian and Geneseo both are four-time champs; Stillman and Hampshire have won three times; two-time winners have been Belvidere, Freeport Aquin, Stockton, Sterling Newman, Spring Valley Hall, Woodstock and Maple Park Kaneland; while Rockford Guilford, Byron and Amboy-LaMoille have one title.

The playoff qualifiers and eight brackets of 32 (based on enrollments) were determined Oct. 23. Conference champs got in automatically. Then it was teams with records ranging from 9-0 to 6-3, called playoff clinchers. Then teams with 5-4 records, called at-large qualifiers, were taken. Not all 5-4 teams made it, however. Five missed out based on playoff points.

One of the area quirks of the pairings is that Machesney Park Harlem will be at Rockford Guilford. They were supposed to open the regular season against each other, but it became “the game that never was” (actually a forfeit victory for, Guilford) because of the Harlem teachers strike.

Now they (both 6-3) will battle in the playoffs. Irony? You bet.

It’s one of two NIC-9 head-to-head matchups. Rockton Hononegah (6-3) travels to Belvidere (6-3). Dates and times of all first-round games were to be announced Monday.

Freeport (9-0), which has won four straight NIC-9 titles, opens with a home game against 5-4 Bentonville Fenton in 6A. The Pretzels still are looking for their first trip to the third round of the playoffs. If Freeport tops Fenton, it would face either Batavia (6-3) or Lisle Benet (6-3).

Stillman Valley (8-1) opens its 3A playoff bid at home against Amboy-LaMoille (6-3). The Cardinals are the No. 2 seed in their eight-team quadrant. Byron (7-2) plays host to Marengo (6-3) in Class 4A.

Rochelle received a No. 3 seed in its quadrant in Class 5A after suffering its first loss of the season 20-0 to Geneseo as both teams finished 8-1. Geneseo won the NCIC Northeast, Rochelle the NCIC Southwest. Rochelle had won the last four regular-season meetings between the two. The Hubs play host to Kaneland (6-3) in the first round.

Class 2A first-round pairings include Morrison (5-4) at Poplar Grove North Boone (9-0), Forreston (7-2) at Newman (8-1) and Lena-Winslow (6-3) at Eastland-Pearl City (8-1).

Ashton-Franklin Center (6-3) plays at Durand (6-3) in Class 1A. It will be the third meeting of the season between the Four Rivers Conference foes that split during the regular season.

Also in Class 1A, Stockton (8-1) plays host to Alden-Hebron (6-3), and Freeport Aquin (6-3) travels to Dakota (7-2).

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Pretz Streak at 32: Freeport beat Rockford Boylan 14-6 Oct. 22 to wrap up its second straight 9-0 season and extend its NIC-9 Conference winning streak to 32 games, 8-0 this year and four straight titles.

The loss dashed Boylan (4-5, 4-4 NIC-9) playoff hopes. The Titans missed the playoffs for the first time since 1990. The last time they finished below .500 was 1982.

It was the first game between the two since 2000 that did not go down to the final play. The Pretzels have beaten Boylan by a combined 19 points in five consecutive regular-season wins.

Before the game, players from each of coach Cal Cummins’ 16 Pretzel teams honored the coach with a plaque. The mothers of the players recognized Cummins’ wife, Janet, for “opening her home” to their sons.

In other finales, Belvidere beat Rockford Jefferson (1-7, 2-7) 35-12 even though the Jayhawks’ Michael Herron rushed for a school-record 221 yards; Harlem downed Rockford East (2-6, 2-7) 33-6; and Hononegah blanked Rockford Auburn (0-8, 0-9) 46-0.

Guilford stepped outside the conference, losing 30-25 to Aurora Waubonsie Valley, but the Vikings’ Deon Williams rushed for 203 yards and three TDs. Williams’ performance pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season (1,012).

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