The Northwest Herald continues a tradition when a local football team is playing for a state championship with a daily journal from a player on the team. Six Cary-Grove players will share their thoughts each day leading up to Saturday’s Class 6A title game at 1 p.m. in Champaign against Crete-Monee. Leading off is senior quarterback Quinn Baker.
I still have my state medal from 2009. For three years, it has been untouched, still in its plastic, gathering dust. I never opened that medal, because I never felt like earned it.
The 2009 season was amazing, but it was for those seniors who worked so hard for that state title. I celebrated for them, because they deserved everything they got – they were talented, disciplined and incredibly hardworking. They were my idols, especially my brother, Hayden. But it was their time, not ours.
And now, unbelievably, we will be back in Champaign for the state title game at 1 p.m. Saturday. It will be my third visit with the Cary-Grove Trojans. I was there on that bitter-cold night in 2004, as a 9-year-old fan, cheering for quarterback Brian Mitz, who I had autograph my shoe during the season. And in 2009, I was on the sidelines as a freshman, soaking up the awesome atmosphere of the stadium, the victory over Providence Catholic and the fans.
Our community is so supportive. The Trojan Nation was out in full force, decked out in white. So many people gave up their Thanksgiving weekend to come to the game and cheer on the team. We weren’t just playing for ourselves, we were playing for all of these fans – the people who have supported us through the years – our families, friends and especially the young kids who looked up to us like idols, just like I did.
The fact that we are returning still is hard for me to process. I am so happy for my teammates. These are the guys with whom I have a lifelong bond through football. We were Junior Trojans together. I think about the years we played and the fun we had growing up. I recently came across a picture of me passing to Zack Marszal in sixth grade – and we still are at it today.
I want a state title for these guys. They deserve it. We all have overcome so much, and it makes us stronger. Our style of play only works if we all operate together. We all trust and rely on each other to succeed.
Most of all, I want a win for the program. I don’t think people understand how much time our coaches put into building a successful team. It’s not just the practices. It’s watching film, it’s scouting, it’s early morning and weekend sessions.
Head coach Brad Seaburg came and visited every senior’s house before the season. He spent a couple of hours talking to us and our parents. He was at my house nearly an hour before we even discussed football. He talked about college and whether we wanted to go and what we needed to do to get there. He was concerned about making sure we were on a path to reach our goals.
This demonstrates the commitment and respect our program employs, and what sets us apart. I know what it takes to work so hard for a goal. The long summer workouts, the punishing games, the injuries, and it all comes down to this one game. When we take the field Saturday against Crete-Monee, we carry the glory of all the previous players with us, everyone who worked so hard but never got the chance to be in our position.
When the young fans who watch us are old enough, they, too, will carry our glory. No matter the outcome, I always will be a Trojan and have the memories of this unforgettable season, but, most of all, I will never forget all the incredible people who surround this program.