Friday Night Drive’s BCS-style spring state champions

It’s been 18 months, or more than 80 weeks if you’re really counting, since high school football teams in Illinois were declared state champions. It will be another five-plus months, or more than 20 weeks, until another team lifts a state trophy.

But there was plenty of fierce competition this spring while teams across the state competed hard on the gridiron as the state returns to normal coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So why not declare state champions while we’re at it?

Here are our BCS-style spring state champions.

For our younger readers, the Bowl Championship Series, better known as the BCS, was a much maligned ranking system put in place for Division I college football in 1998 that essentially determined the five major bowl games, including which teams played in the national title game.

It remained in place through 2013 until the current College Football Playoff was adopted. The BCS system, at least after a revision prior to the 2004 season, used three components to determine its rankings: the Associated Press poll, the Coaches Poll and the average of six computer ranking systems.

For our purposes, we’re using our Week 6 coaches poll, an internal Friday Night Drive poll and the results of our fan vote. The first two polls are each weighted at 40 percent and the fan vote accounts for 20 percent.

Much like the BCS, we expect our final rankings to draw some scoffs. There might even be a “Are you kidding me?”

Ranking football teams is very much an imperfect science, particularly with no postseason. In short, don’t take this as gospel, but we do hope you enjoy it.

And so we come to our final analysis from this entertaining, strange, and undeniably cathartic six-game spring season.

Class 1A champion: Freeport Aquin

Coaches PollFND PollFan VoteFinal Ranking
1. Freeport Aquin1. Moweaqua Central A&M1. Lena-Winslow1. Freeport Aquin
2. Lena-Winslow2. Freeport Aquin2. Freeport Aquin2. Lena-Winslow
3. Moweaqua Central A&M3. Lena-Winslow3. Moweaqua Central A&M3. Moweaqua Central A&M
4. Annawan-Wethersfield4. Fulton4. Fulton4. Fulton

Soucie’s analysis: You can never go wrong crowning a Northwest Upstate Illini Conference team, mythical or otherwise, as they typically do a very nice job of bringing home the hardware. Even so, it was tough to overlook all that Moweaqua Central A&M accomplished.

Class 2A champion: St. Teresa

Coaches PollFND PollFan VoteFinal Ranking
1. St. Terera1. St. Teresa1. Clifton Central1. St. Teresa
2. Maroa-Forsyth2. Maroa-Forsyth2. Fieldcrest2. Maroa-Forsyth
3. Clifton Central3. Clifton Central3. Rockridge3. Clifton Central
4. Newman Central Catholic4. Fieldcrest4. Maroa-Forsyth4. Fieldcrest

Soucie’s analysis: The postseason usually does its best work in Class 2A settling the differences that St. Teresa and Maroa-Forsyth can’t during the regular season with some titanic playoff matchups. We didn’t get the chance for that to play out this year, but there’s no denying the resume that St. Teresa put together.

Class 3A champion: Williamsville

Coaches PollFND PollFan VoteFinal Ranking
1. Williamsville1. Williamsville1. Princeton1. Williamsville
2. Princeton2. Princeton2. Williamsville2. Princeton
3. Quincy Notre Dame3. Quincy Notre Dame3. Mt. Carmel3. Quincy Notre Dame
4. Mt. Carmel4. Wilmington4. Monticello4. Mt. Carmel

Soucie’s analysis: I was very impressed with what Princeton put forth this season and stepping out in nonconference play to topple Lena-Winslow in a nonconference game was exactly the type of challenge game I hoped this spring season would bring forth. But when asked who I thought was the top team in 3A my choice was pretty clear as Williamsville was an absolute wrecking ball against whatever got in its path.

Class 4A champion: Richmond-Burton

Coaches PollFND PollFan VoteFinal Ranking
1. Richmond-Burton1. Wheaton St. Francis1. Richmond-Burton1. Richmond-Burton
2. Wheaton St. Francis2. Richmond-Burton2. Effingham2. Wheaton St. Francis
3. Effingham3. Effingham3. Wheaton St. Francis3. Effingham
4. IC Catholic4. IC Catholic4. Coal City4. IC Catholic

Soucie’s analysis: We are a little over a month removed from the season’s conclusion and I still can’t quite get past the fact that I’m not going to get a resolution to one of the questions that bothered me all spring. Who was better? Richmond-Burton or Wheaton St. Francis? What do I think? I would have put my chips on Wheaton St. Francis if forced to, but I wouldn’t have been extremely confident I was right.

Class 5A champion: Sacred Heart-Griffin

Coaches PollFND PollFan VoteFinal Ranking
1. Sacred Heart-Griffin1. Sacred Heart-Griffin1. Sycamore1. Sacred Heart-Griffin
2. St. Rita2. St. Rita2. Sacred Heart Griffin2. St. Rita
3. Joliet Catholic3. Joliet Catholic3. Rochester3. Joliet Catholic
4. Rochester4. Rochester4. St. Rita4. Rochester

Soucie’s analysis: I just stated the game I missed the most was a contest in 4A. But the bracket I missed seeing play out the most was this one: Class 5A. There’s just way too much intrigue in that Top 4. Although St. Rita didn’t fare too well against a Central State Eight foe in their last chance against them (a loss to Rochester in the 2019 Class 5A final), I can’t get that narrow loss to Loyola out of my head when breaking down who I think might be the best of the best here.

Class 6A champion: East St. Louis

Coaches PollFND PollFan VoteFinal Ranking
1. Antioch1. East St. Louis1. Cary-Grove1. East St. Louis
2. East St. Louis2. Cary-Grove2. East St. Louis2. Cary-Grove
3. Crete-Monee3. Lake Forest3. Antioch3. Antioch
4. Cary-Grove4. Antioch4. Crete-Monee4. Crete-Monee

Soucie’s analysis: I am still a little surprised that East St. Louis took a loss in the regular season, as I still believe pound for pound it was the most talented roster in the state. You could easily argue that one of the undefeated teams in this group deserved top billing. I wouldn’t fight you that hard, but I don’t think any of the prospective challengers would be favored in a head-to-head matchup if we strapped them up and played tomorrow (Can we?).

Class 7A champion: Mount Carmel

Coaches PollFND PollFan VoteFinal Ranking
1. Mount Carmel1. Mount Carmel1. Machesney Park Harlem1. Mount Carmel
2. St. Charles North2. St. Charles North2. Prospect2. St. Charles North
3. Wheaton North3. Prospect3. Willowbrook3. Machesney Park Harlem
4. Machesney Park Harlem4. Machesney Park Harlem4. Wheaton North4. Prospect

Soucie’s analysis: This might be the hardest class to get a read on of them all. The nod goes to Mount Carmel for the overall body of work here. And while it seems strange to crown a two-loss team in a six-game season, look at that schedule for a minute and see if a strong case can be made that anyone else in 7A would have done any better. The wildcard here was Harlem, one of the only teams in the classification to run the table, but the Huskies needed a marquee win to give them a little more cache and its showdown with Boylan never materialized.

Class 8A champion: Loyola

Coaches PollFND PollFan VoteFinal Ranking
1. Loyola1. Loyola1. Hinsdale Central1. Loyola
2. Lincoln-Way East2. Lincoln-Way East2. Lincoln-Way East2. Lincoln-Way East
3. Warren3. Warren3. Loyola3. Warren
4. Naperville Central4. Hinsdale Central4. Warren4. Hinsdale Central

Soucie’s analysis: This bracket would have been the Wild West, too. 8A is always incredibly deep but it seemed like there were even more really good teams in the group this season, which would have made for some fascinating matchups as early as the first or second round. In terms of establishing who might win it though, one school continued to rise to the top of the group and that’s Loyola. The dominance the Ramblers displayed in a ridiculously stacked schedule can’t be denied. Not convinced? Consider this: Loyola’s six opponents combined for a 35-9 record in the spring season and the Ramblers were responsible for two-thirds of those collective losses. And they were only truly pushed in one of those games. Lincoln-Way East, Warren, Hinsdale Central, Naperville Central and others all certainly would have taken a good shot at the Ramblers, but it’s my belief they showed they’d be ready for just about anything.

Kyle Nabors

Kyle Nabors

Kyle Nabors is Shaw Local's Group Sports Editor and has been with Shaw Media since 2017.

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie has been the Sports Editor at the Joliet Herald News since August of 2018. Prior to that, Soucie worked at the Kankakee Daily Journal and for Pro Football Weekly.