High school football: Is Mount Carmel or East St. Louis the best team in Illinois and where should the state finals go now?

Mount Carmel arrived in Champaign this weekend as the top team in the area and the Caravan’s convincing win over Batavia in the Class 7A state championship game only cemented that status. 

But is Mount Carmel the best team in the state? 

East St. Louis, which is on an incredible four-year run behind massive linemen Miles McVay and Paris Patterson and a rotating group of high-level talent at the skill positions, destroyed Prairie Ridge in the most lopsided title game in state history. 

The Flyers didn’t lose to a team in Illinois this season. They lost to Baltimore St. Francis, a perennial national powerhouse, 30-13 at a neutral site. That was the first game of the season. Then Creekside, Ga. beat East St. Louis 10-8 in Week 3 in Georgia. 

Lemont is the only team in the state that gave the Flyers a challenge, losing 32-29 in the Class 6A state semifinals. 

Lemont also dominated most of its opponents this season and it has no common opponents with Mount Carmel. However, Lemont’s narrow 24-17 win at Nazareth back in Week 2 is enough to convince me that the Caravan would at least be favored against East St. Louis. 

That’s a lot of dependence on indirect results, but it is the best we can do. It’s likely the Flyers will be in a larger class next season, which could add a lot of fun to the state finals. This weekend was pretty dull. 

Where to next?

So where will the football state finals be held next season? No one knows. Even the rumor mill is pretty silent. 

The Illinois High School Association is accepting bids for a five-year stint as host. The organization has stated it would prefer to end the rotating situation that has worked well recently, with the games switching between Champaign and DeKalb every year. 

The Champaign News-Gazette recently reported that the University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana placed a bid to continue hosting the games every other year. But that’s the only bid that’s been made public. 

Illinois can’t host the games every year because the Fighting Illini needs Memorial Stadium some years. 

The IHSA board of directors will reportedly discuss the topic at December’s board meeting, so stay tuned.

Stick with it

It’s interesting that the IHSA is considering changing something that is working well. I haven’t heard any major complaints from players, coaches or fans about the state finals in Champaign or DeKalb. The situation at NIU is a nightmare for the media, but that isn’t a major concern. 

Crowds in DeKalb have been huge and the smaller Huskie Stadium provides a nice atmosphere for the games. Hosting it in central Illinois every other year feels like a good compromise for the smaller classes. It’s fun for the Chicago area kids to play at Memorial Stadium, so everyone seems pleased.

Throwing ideas at the wall

ISU has been discussed as a possible host for the next five-year block, but there has been no indication of a bid. 

Over the weekend some media members mentioned Seatgeek Stadium in Bridgeview as a possible option. IHSA folks have speculated about moving the Class 8A and 7A games to the Monday or Tuesday after Thanksgiving somewhere in the Chicago area, perhaps North Central College. 

There isn’t any real reason to keep all eight games at the same site, so that is an interesting option.

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