CHAMPAIGN — Lena-Winslow is taking aim at his fourth state title in the last five seasons with playoffs when the Class 1A state championship football game kicks off at Memorial Stadium in Champaign at 10 am Friday.
Camp Point Central is looking for title No. 1.
“We know who Lena-Winslow is,” Central coach Brad Dixon said earlier this week. “But we’re not going into this with any fear.”
More Le-Win: Panthers are monsters on the field and scholars in the classroom
Le-Win is a dynasty, or at the very least, one in the making. That’s who they are. The Le-Win Panthers are on the verge of winning their sixth state title in the past dozen years. But they have to get past Central’s Panthers first.
“They really resemble us and what we do,” Le-Win coach Ric Arand said. “Maybe just not as boring as us … But year after year, they’re in the mix. We had better be ready to play.”
Le-Win and Forreston have combined to win eight of the last 11 Class 1A state titles, and the Panthers plowed right through their Forreston rivals last weekend. So that sets up the matchup between the state-power Panthers of Le-Win, and the newcomer Panthers of Central, for all the marbles in the smallest class of football in Illinois.
Here is a complete breakdown of the Class 1A state final matchup:
Lena Winslow Panthers (13-0)
- Enrollment: 249
- Conference: Northwest Upstate Illinois (1st place)
- Coaches: Ric Arand (26th year)
- Assistants: Conor Arendt, Kyle Benson, Jerrid Gift, Lenny Koehler, John Mancosky, Kevin Milder, Austin Rickels, Jesse Snyder, Nick Werhane, Joel Wild, Nick Wybourn
- Yards rushing/passing for:4.465/312
- Yards rushing/passing against: 922/1,330
- Leading rushers: Gunar Lobdell (1,488 yards and 24 TDs on 119 carries); Gage Dunker (143-1,325 and 25 TDs); Jake Zeal (82-1,000 14 TDs)
- QB play: Drew Streckwald 9-for-17 for 312 with 7 TDs and no interceptions
- Semi final: Defeated rival Forreston 38-16
- Key to semi win: Le-Win rushed for 309 yards on 35 carries, an average of 8.8 yards per rush, and the Panthers never needed to attempt a pass.
- What they had to say about Le-Win: Forreston coach Keynon Janicke: “They are on a whole other level.” And Central coach Brad Dixon: “I watch the state finals every year when we’re not in it, and they always are. … We have to catch some breaks.”
- Coach Arand’s key to this game: “We have to control what we can control, like penalties, turnovers … And we have to shut down the football. I don’t care who it is, we have to shut it down.”
- Translation: They have to eliminate the penalties and turnovers, and flow to the football in large groups on defense.
- Last playoff appearance: Won the last two contested state championships (there was no tournament in 2020 due to COVID-19), and have won five of the past 11 state titles in 1A
More:Rockford football power Le-Win could win state titles. Here’s how
Camp Point Central Panthers (13-0)
- Enrollment: 239
- Conference: West Central (1st place)
- Coaches: Brad Dixon (12th year)
- Assistants: Casey Rhea, Kasey Monroe, Andrew Griffin, Dustin Griffin, Zak Huston, Tracy Rhea, John Hibbert, Ian Foss
- Yards rushing/passing for:4,191/613
- Yards rushing/passing against: 1.025/803
- Leading rushers: Isaac Genenbacher (990 yards and 17 TDs on 120 rushes); Conner Griffin (130-755 and 9 TDs); Ross Riley (127-750 and 12 TDs)
- QB play: Nick Moore 31-for-46 for 538 yards with 4 TDs and 1 interception
- Semi final: Defeated undefeated Colfax Ridgeview-Lexington 44-8
- Key to semi win: Central put the game away in the first half, outgaining Ridgeview-Lexington 332-47 in the first half alone and snagging a 36-0 lead.
- What they had to say about Central: Arand: “They can go fast, and they can go slow. If we’re going to beat them, we’ll have to earn it.”
- Coach Dixon’s key to this game: “We’ve got to match their physicality, and obviously, we’ve got to run to the football … And hopefully you make them earn it, and you don’t give up the big one.”
- Translation: They have to be as tough as Le-Win, or tougher, and keep everything in front of them on defense.
- Last playoff appearance: Lost 44-6 to Forreston in 2018 state championship game
Jay Taft is a Rockford Register Star sports reporter. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @JayTaft. Sign up for the Rockford High School newsletter at rrstar.com. Jay has covered a wide variety of sports, from the Chicago Bears to youth sports, since the turn of the century at the Register Star, and for over 30 years all together.