By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
There have been many memorable years in the stateline area for high school sports, but 2012 ranks up there with the best of them.
The year started with a celebration of 2011, as the state football champions were honored by national media for their unbelievable two-year run and back-to-back state championships.
That team sent many players off to different levels of college football, where many are excelling this year and look to have bright futures on the field.
From there, basketball took center stage, where several memorable runs took place that will be talked about for a long time.
Rockford Lutheran dominated the class 2A field for much of the season on the way to a third-place finish down state. The Crusaders were a deep, athletic team that nearly pulled off an upset to reach the title game before cruising in the third-place game.
In Class 3A, Rockford East went on a run for the ages, considering where that program had been.
When the class of 2012 were freshmen at East, the E-Rabs didn’t win a game in the conference. The previous season, they still had a losing record in the conference.
The 2011-2012 NIC-10 season was highly successful for East, but coach Roy Sackmaster and his team hit their stride once the postseason started. Steve McNease, after an inconsistent senior season, played at an all-state level as he helped lead East down to a Rockford double-header at the super sectional in DeKalb.
That double-header was a special moment for Rockford sports, which was helped by the appearance of Rockford Auburn.
The Knights fought adversity and expectations all year, winning the NIC-10 going away. They cruised all the way to DeKalb, but things looked rough in the third quarter of their super sectional game.
That is when Fred Van Vleet did what all-state players do. He took the game over and led his team down state, where they took third place.
Auburn continued to make noise into football season. In the offseason, the Knights installed artificial turf on their football field and brought in Rockford Boylan’s state championship coach Dan Appino.
Entering with a 30-plus-game losing streak, the Knights not only ended that losing streak, but went on to make the playoffs.
That miracle was as exciting as what happened at Rockford Lutheran for football. An afterthought in the Big Northern for so long, the Crusaders boasted one of the best offenses in the state behind freshman running back James Robinson, and made a good playoff run.
And while the Boylan Titans did not win state in football again, they did go undefeated in the NIC-10 to keep their streak alive, and made another deep playoff run, showing there was still plenty of talent at Boylan.
All that excitement is bleeding into the next year, where the NIC-10 boys’ basketball season looks to be perhaps the most exciting season ever in the standing, and several area girls’ basketball teams look to make good runs.
From Rockford sports nearly being ended two years ago to where they stand now, it was quite the turnaround year. And it appears as though 2012 was only a starting point.
From the Dec. 26, 2012-Jan. 1, 2013, issue