Here we are, nearing the end of a decade. In that span, which IHSA football team stands above all the rest. Can it even be narrowed down to a top five? I tried. It's not an easy task. However, everyone seems to have fun with topics like these, so why not?
First, a ground rule or two. I decided to look strictly at the IHSA state championship winning teams from 2010 through the 2018 season. My approach? I basically just went back and looked into each year's top teams (eight classes) and then looked into which teams truly stood out about the others. Another rule: they all needed to have unblemished 14-0 season records.
Making a list of this nature is a challenge. That said, you need to somehow have a criteria that will at least allow you to make a distinction to separate teams from a very crowded pack. In many cases, there are multiple teams from the same season that deserve the honor.
So with all of this in mind...here are my Top 5 state championship 'Teams of the Decade' for IHSA football--
1. 2015 Loyola Academy: The 2015 team was the first such Ramblers group to go undefeated en route to a state championship. The Ramblers had a very balanced offensive attack led by QB Emmett Clifford, RB Dara Laja and an offensive line anchored by the Badovinac brothers (Sam and Jack). On defense, they allowed just 123 points all season long. The unit was anchored by DL Ben Leroy (NIU). This team was tough, hungry and physical on both sides of the football.
2. 2010 Warrenville Wheaton South Tigers: The Red Grange Tigers, coached by Ron Muhitch, had one of the state's most explosive offensive attacks that year. The offense was led by QB Reilly O'Toole (Illinois), Titus Davis (Central Michigan) along with RB Matt Rodgers. Their huge offensive line anchored by Luke Luhrsen (Kansas).
3. 2016 East St Louis Flyers: This offense was also highly explosive. East St. Louis was led by QB Rey Estes (Minnesota) along with a Player of the Year in WR/S Jeff Thomas (Miami Fla.). Interestingly, a handful of players from the 2016 roster are on the current Flyers' team, which plays in the state semifinals on Saturday. Current WR Lewaun Powell and OL Javonyez Spraggins both were freshmen starters on that title team that defeated Plainfield North in the championship.
4. 2010 Rochester Rockets: Head coach Derek Leonard has had several outstanding state championship teams, but the 2010 team was Rochester's first state title group. They set the tone for a tremendous run for the program. This Rockets group could have completed at the higher classes quite well. They were led by QB Wes Lunt (Oklahoma State/Illinois), DE/TE Riley McMinn (Iowa), WR Zach Grant (Illinois) and LB Garrett Dooley (Wisconsin).
5. 2017 Prairie Ridge Wolves: Prairie Ridge has had some great teams over the past decade. But for my money, the 2017 6A state title team was something special. No one was able to find a way to win better than QB Samson Evans (Iowa). The remaining roster was strong and included OL/DL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa) along with several other key names including RB Zach Gulbransen, FB Jackson Willis, S Drew Fryer and MLB Jacob Ommen.
Others who I gave serious consideration?
2011: Bolingbrook 13-1, Montini Catholic 12-2
2012: Crete-Monee 14-0
2013: Mount Carmel 13-1, Sacred Heart Griffin 14-0
2014: Stevenson 14-0, Providence Catholic 13-1, Nazareth Academy 14-0, Sacred Heart Griffin 14-0
2015: Glenbard West 14-0
2016: Prairie Ridge 14-0, Maine South 11-3
2017: Lincoln Way East 14-0, IC Catholic Prep 14-0
2018: Loyola Academy 11-3, Nazareth Academy 13-1