The rich getting richer

Andy Colbert

The ridiculousness that Byron and Lena-Winslow have dominated opponents by in football will finally be put to a test in the IHSA semifinals, with both teams facing intriguing Chicagoland private schools. One of the beauties of post-season competition in a large, diverse state like Illinois is eventually meeting a team foreign to you.

How will these two behemoths stack up against Lombard Montini and Hope Academy? If past history is any indication, Byron and Le-Win will do just fine.

Physically, Le-Win will have its way with Hope Academy, much the same way a smaller Forreston did last year against Hope and its big, slow linemen. But, how will the Panthers do against all the offensive weapons of Hope, who have a win over a 4A semifinalist?

Lombard Montini has name recognition for football and wrestling, but that won’t faze Byron, whose execution on the field surpasses anything Montini is capable of. The bigger question is determining how good Montini is?

They have beaten 5A semifinalist and defending state champ Nazareth and 4A semifinalist St. Laurence. Byron has yet to see quality opponents of that nature, though Dixon gave St. Laurence a tough second-round game.

Comparing results and attempting to gauge how they translate on the playing field can be a dangerous proposition. Look at Montini struggling for much of the game against a Princeton squad riddled by injuries and one that was beaten by 1A Morrison.

So, who knows how Byron and Montini will shake out, though it seems Byron has the upper hand. I look forward to trip in to Lombard for my first Tiger game of the year. Far warning to Tiger fans - like many private suburban football fields, the stadium environs are a tight fit.

Since 2017, Byron and Le-Win have played as much in the post season as any program in Illinois. The Tigers have accumulated 23 extra weeks past the regular season and the Panthers 24 weeks.

Compared to teams that miss the post season or those that bow out early in the playoffs, just think how much extra practice time that relates to for Byron and Le-Win. It’s a case of the rich getting richer.

I wonder also, if parents of football-playing youngsters are more inclined to relocate to places like Byron and Le-Win? They both have it rolling and the prospects for the future show no sign of slowing down.

Did you know that both schools have key members of the University of Iowa offensive line in Gennings Dunker and Tyler Elsbury?

Speaking of college football, many of you have heard of the University of Michigan football sign-stealing scandal. There has much debate as the seriousness of this alleged offense. What was really done and is it cheating or not?

The jury is still out.

I had forgotten all about something similar that I was involved in over 40 years ago. But, the Michigan incident prompted some guilt I felt at the time.

Rochelle was scheduled to open the season against Hononegah in either 1980 or ’81. My father, the Hub coach at the time, asked me to attend Hononegah’s intra-squad scrimmage and garner information on them.

So as not to draw attention, dad probably figured it was better to send a random individual rather than a member of his coaching staff. That’s why I sensed it was more of a spy-mode situation, than an actual scouting assignment.

As the scrimmage ended, I grabbed my notebook and was leaving the bleachers when Hononegah coach Donn VanSchelven approached me. When he began to question my reasons for being there, I mumbled something about being a college student taking in a little football. James Bond, I was not.

Technically, there wasn’t anything he could do to me, as the scrimmage was open to the public; but I could tell by the tone of his voice he wasn’t happy about an outsider sitting in the stands taking notes.

No doubt, dad was trying to get an edge on his opponent.

Finally, the IHSA awards a pork chop-grilling champion and Sanford Olympia claimed this year’s crown over 48 other schools. Since the early 1980s, the FFA kids have been doing the cooking at Olympia and average about 400-500 a game on a homemade grill.

To determine a winner, over 100,000 votes were cast to break the 48 into 16 finalists. From there, the IHSA sends out tasting experts to determine the best-tasting product. Spring Valley Hall was last year’s champ.

Andy Colbert is a longtime Ogle County resident with years of experience covering sports and more for multiple area publications.