For the first 27 years of its existence, the Fox Valley Conference was 2 for 2 in state championship games.
Actually, Woodstock alone was 2 for 2, winning the Class 4A title in 1983 and the Class 5A championship in 1997.
Then, something happened in 2004 that marked a change for the FVC. Cary-Grove made it to the Class 7A state title game, but lost to Libertyville, 13-3. Still, the Trojans altered the way FVC teams regarded state championship games, particularly those at C-G.
Having witnessed first-hand the Trojans getting so close left a mark. C-G’s 2004 team begot another state contender in 2006, although the Trojans lost a heartbreaker to Batavia in the Class 6A quarterfinals.
The 2006 team begot the 2009 team that rolled to the Class 6A title. And that 2009 team inspired neighboring Prairie Ridge to win Class 6A last season, as well as begetting the current Trojans, who have a chance to bring the FVC its third state football title in four years.
Current players always will speak reverently about those who played just ahead of them. The 2004 group – led by Brian Mitz, Will Yocius, Vince Filipp and Alex Kube – started the trend. After that, it was players like Andrew Lorman, Johnny Mago and Jake Mitmoen.
Most of this year’s C-G team was at Memorial Stadium three years ago to watch players like Tyler Krebs, Alex Hembrey, Eric Chandler, Nick Underwood and Matt and Kyle Leibforth help the Trojans win their first state football title.
Five current C-G players – quarterback Quinn Baker, running back Kaene Connington, defensive back Joey Scott, fullback T.J. Sorensen and defensive end Emerson Kersten – had brothers on the team. Baker, running back Ryan Mahoney, fullback Kyle Norberg, nose guard Patrick O’Malley and safety Zach
Marszal were fortunate enough to be on the sideline for that game.
The 2009 team was this group’s heroes, just like the current players will be heroes for the Class of 2016.
“I’ve talked to Matt Leibforth a lot,” defensive end Mickey Duncan said. “He was one of my biggest role models on that team, starting on both lines. We’ve been close since that season. He’s always telling me to play relentless. He’s been a great mentor for me. That’s definitely one relationship I’ve built.”
The Trojans will be playing for themselves, but they also will be playing for those teams they admired so much before, for those C-G teams yet to come and even for the honor of the FVC.
Even in defeat, the 2004 C-G team rearranged the landscape. Others have taken it further. They are rides local football fans agree that never get old.
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.