With Phillips state championship in football last year, this is the first summer going into the football season where nobody can say the CPS does not have a state championship in football. You can get rid of the old saying that Robeson's 1982 team was the only CPS team to ever reach the state championship finals in football (a 16-12 loss to Rockford Guilford). You can bury the ghosts of the 6 (if my history is correct) CPS teams that reached the state semi-finals but could not go further. Hubbard made it to the semi-finals in 2005. Lane Tech reached the semi-final in 1980- coached by recently passed away coach Sam Bronswick.
The IHSA started state football playoffs in 1974. In that span of 41 years, Phillips is the only team to have won a state championship. It begs to ask the question, when will the CPS win their next one. Instead of asking when, I hope CPS coaches and players focus on what needs to be done to get better.
One of the first steps is to get rid of all the excuses that have somehow been ingrained in old timer in the CPS and hope it does not go into the psyche of the kids. We all know the excuses (lack of funding, poor kids, CPS is a basketball conference, culture, crime ridden neighborhoods, etc). Nobody - not even I will deny those factors exist. But somehow, Phillips overcame those supposed obstacles and prevailed. Not only did they prevail, but they rolled over all of their opponents in the Class 4A playoffs. The demolished a really good Belleville Althoff team 51-7 in the state championship game.
A lot of people in the city and statewide will have their eyes this year on defending state champion Phillips who btw open against Fenwick then play Richards and Simeon. I'll surely see how they do. But I'll be looking at the continued development of some other CPS football programs. Below are just some of the teams I'll keep a tab on:
- Solorio- Solorio seems to be a program on the rise. They play in the Illini Land of Lincoln Conference (with Phillips, King, etc)
- Whitney Young- The Dolphins return to the Illini Red-Bird after sweeping through the Chicago Big Shoulders. This time they want to stay there. Lane, Dunbar, and North Lawndale will give them their best chances.
- Clark, Douglass, Orr, Uplift, Raby, Marine Military- These schools all have an enrollment smaller than 500. All of them have showed some promise the last few years during the regular season. With the growing plethora of smallerish CPS school, I really feel that the most progress will come in the smaller schools. Phillips made it happen with an enrollment of less than 600. I feel that one of these years one of these or another small enrollment school will break through and really make progress. I am not talking state championship, but I am talking about at least being consistently competitive in the first round of the IHSA state playoffs. It seems that Raby and maybe Uplift are closest to that reality. Can someone else step up.
- Curie and Simeon. CPS champion Curie and runner up Simeon are clearly the best teams in the CPS in class 8A. Curie had a powerhouse team last year that finally went over the hump and beat Simeon and they lost a close 42-41 game against Warren in the state playoffs. Simeon hopes to bounce back after an uncharacteristic 4 loss season that included losses to Curie, Phillips, and Batavia in the state playoffs. Fair or Unfair, there are many in the state who will look at the performance of Curie and Simeon and judge the CPS by how they do. I'll be looking to see if Curie can keep up some of the magic they had last year and to see how much/if Simeon can bounce back.