The 2007 high school football season in Illinois opens today and I am reminded when I covered my first game for the old Chicago Daily News on Sunday, Sept. 8, 1968.
I still have a copy of the page that the story appeared on. Loyola beat defending city champion Mount Carmel 30-23 in Wilmette as Mike O'Rourke ran for two touchdowns, passed for another and intercepted a pass at his 20 to stifle the Caravan's last scoring threat with 15 seconds to play.
The subject of my first feature story was Dave Butz, a mammoth (even by today's standards) 6-7, 265-pound offensive tackle at Maine South. An outstanding three-sport athlete, Butz went on to enjoy a long and successful career with the Washington Redskins in the NFL.
Many things have changed since then. More Friday night games, fewer Saturday and Sunday afternoon games. More schools. Players are bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic. Offensive playbooks are more sophisticated and defenses are more complicated. College recruiting has become a big business, like Microsoft.
As a senior at Blue Island Community High School (now Eisenhower), I saw Bloom's 1957 powerhouse led by Leroy Jackson, Chuckie Green, Homer Thurman and Roger Elliott. To this day, I think it is the best team I ever saw.
It made more of an impression on me than any of the great teams I have covered in the last 45 years. I didn't see Mount Carmel 1950, acclaimed by many as the best high school team in state history. But St. Rita 1971, Evanston 1971, Joliet Catholic 1975, East St. Louis 1985 and Wheaton Warrenville South 1998 couldn't be far behind.