Community sends off Cary-Grove football team to 6A title game in high spirits

Win or lose, parents and family members are proud of team

Cary-Grove football team walks past friends, family and friends as they board the bus to the state championship game Friday.

More than 100 people turned out to wish the Cary-Grove High School football team good luck as they departed for the Class 6A state championship game Friday.

Cary-Grove plays East St. Louis at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Illinois State University Hancock Stadium in Normal. Both teams are 11-2, and it will be a repeat of the 2021 nail-biting matchup from which Cary-Grove emerged the victors.

Cary-Grove football team walks past friends, family and friends as they board the bus to the state championship game Friday.

Besides that game, the team has won two state championships in the past five years; the other was against Crete-Monee.

The Trojans return for this championship rematch after missing the playoffs last season for the first time in 18 years. Jen Rocen, mom of senior player Jack Rocen, said making it to this year’s championship game has been humbling.

“They put in so much effort after not making the playoffs last year,” she said. “I am just so proud of them.”

Maria Battaglia, mom of senior player Thomas Battaglia, said the moment was bittersweet since Thomas is her youngest son.

“I was just talking to all the moms ... that this is such a nostalgic moment,” she said, “just having all these memories in here.”

She said her son is “psyched up and confident” for Saturday’s game.

Coach Brad Seaburg boards the bus to the state championship game Friday.

The five buses filled with football players, coaches and managers were escorted out by the Cary Fire Protection District.

Family members, school staff and friends lined up to cheer on the team as it departed for Normal. Parents held up signs with pictures of their sons while others honked car horns as they left the high school parking lot.

Tim Henriques, whose son, senior Gavin Henriques, plays safety, said the community is a huge supporter for the games and expects a big turnout of Cary residents at the championship game.

“I’d be surprised if there’s anyone left in Cary to take care of the town,” he joked.

David Anderson, father of linebacker Connor Anderson, said impressive leadership from both the coaches and senior players helped them improve from last season.

“Cary-Grove has to play Cary-Grove football,” he said. “If they do, they’ll win.”

Lauren Anderson, Connor Anderson’s mom, said it won’t matter if they win or lose.

“They will leave every ounce of their soul out there,” she said.