I have covered high school sports in Illinois for nearly 50 years. I saw Marshall and George Wilson dominate the 1958 state tournament at old Huff Gym. I saw Collinsville's Tom Parker score a record 50 points in the final of the Carbondale Tournament in 1967. And I climbed a ladder to the press box at old Parsons Field to see the Belleville/East St. Louis Thanksgiving Day football game.
There are great games and rivalries in every sport, some that have been contested for more than 100 years. Here are 10 Illinois high school events that every fan should experience during the 2007-08 season:
1. East Aurora/West Aurora basketball game. The schools have been playing since 1913, usually three times each season. Remember the controversial 1973 regional final? But the rivalry's electricity has been shorted a bit since West Aurora moved from the Upstate Eight to the Du Page Valley Conference.
2. Evanston/New Trier football game. The series was at its best when Murney Lazier coached at Evanston and Chick Cichowski coached at New Trier. Old-timers still recall the 1973 "mouth guard" game won by New Trier 3-0 on Tim Hall's field goal. The game featured two future NFL stars, Evanston's Mike Kenn and New Trier's Clay Matthews.
3. Centralia Holiday Tournament. It isn't as old as DeKalb or Pontiac and it has lost some of its luster but it still is the gold standard of all holiday basketball tournaments. No event has more tradition. It isn't the same, however, with the tournament being moved from old Trout Gym to the new campus on Centralia's east side.
4. Proviso West Holiday Tournament. It caught fire in the late 1960s when Evanston, Proviso East and La Grange dominated the event on their way to state championships and continued to smolder in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Isiah Thomas, Mark Aguirre and Doc Rivers played to sellout crowds.
5. Mount Carmel/St. Rita football game. The two south side rivals, who have been competing since 1924, boast two of the most successful and storied football programs in the state.
6. Naperville North/Wheaton Warrenville South football game. It has emerged as a "can't miss" rivalry between two of the most successful programs in the state in the last two decades.
7. Chicago Catholic League wrestling finals. It has gotten more competitive than the state tournament, which has been dominated by Catholic League schools in recent years.
8. Mother McAuley/Marist girls volleyball game. The two south side schools attract huge crowds. McAuley is a perennial state power but Marist's program is getting better and better.
9. Any football game at Glenbard West in Glen Ellyn. Watching a game at Duchon Field with Lake Ellyn in the background is the closest thing to a Normal Rockwell painting.
10. Morgan Park/Hubbard football game. In recent years, the two south side schools have forged a formidable rivalry that attracts capacity crowds to Gately Stadium.