Morris’ thrilling drive: Football team finishes milestone year with runner-up trophy
By Tony Graf firstname.lastname@example.org November 24, 2012 10:08PM
Head coach Alan Thorson gets a hug and fist pump from daughter Brooke, 4, as Assistant Coach Bill Laver carries the State Runner Up Trophy into Morris High School as the football team returns home after 5A state final game in Morris, Illinois, Saturday, November 24, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
Updated: December 26, 2012 9:52AM
MORRIS — Ryan Shannon, an electronics technician on a Navy submarine, came home to see his brother Jeremy play in the state Class 5A High School Football Championship.
Ryan only had a little more than 24 hours for this trip, but he said it was time well spent — and the schedule was busy.
“I flew into Midway, stayed the night, drove to Champaign, and I have to fly out at 3 a.m. tomorrow,” Ryan said Saturday night.
Earlier Saturday, Morris lost 19-6 to Montini in the title game at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ryan, his brother, the team and hundreds of proud fans drove back to Morris for an exciting and emotional rally at Morris Community High School.
So this weekend involved three round trips for Ryan — the flights in and out of Chicago’s Midway International Airport, the drive between Chicago and Morris and the drive between Morris and Champaign.
However, there’s another number worthy of counting: In 101 years of Redskins football, this year’s varsity team is one of 10 teams to put a trophy in the trophy case, coach Alan Thorson told the cheering crowd in the Morris gym.
Jeremy Shannon, a junior who played on special teams and as a wide receiver, was a part of this milestone 12-2 season. On Saturday night, Ryan said his travels from his military service to see his brother were worthwhile.
“Definitely. 100 percent worth it,” Ryan said.
At the assembly, Principal Kelly Hussey introduced the players: One by one, they walked across the gym to loud cheers from the bleachers on either side. Thorson then presented medals to the players.
Near the end of the introductions, the lights in the gym were turned down, and a single light shone on a trophy being carried by the four team captains: Danny Friend, Jeff Perry, Nik Countryman and Craig Claire. This was a climactic moment of the rally.
During the championship game, Perry had a 33-yard touchdown reception from Redskins quarterback Zach Cinnamon.
Caravan on 47
Hussey was on the field Saturday in Champaign. He looked back and saw the hundreds of fans who had taken the trip down Route 47 from Morris.
“We travel well,” he told the Morris audience later that night. “I realized that we brought nine buses down in that area, and I can’t even count how many cars.”
“I had parents telling me how the caravan of cars was traveling down 47 today, to get our people to that place to support this group of guys,” Hussey said. “And that is the spirit and pride that I believe Redskin Pride is all about.”
Hussey thanked the Marching Redskins band, the Redskins pom squad and the Redskins cheerleadering squad — three groups who are always there when the football team is on the field.
The Marching Redskins had a busy holiday weekend: They performed at the Thanksgiving Parade on Thursday in Chicago.
“They brought our pride up into Chicago for that parade, and then shortly thereafter they’re making the trip down to Champaign to support us in the state championship game,” Hussey said.
And regarding the pom squad and cheerleaders: “They help us create a little more noise and a little more volume,” Hussey said.
Hussey noted the accomplishments of the parents in the audience: These parents once drove their sons to football events in the days before the young men had licenses. These parents have made sure theirs sons kept up their schoolwork, to remain eligible and a part of the team.
Being a team member takes more than just going to practice and putting on a jersey, Hussey said.
“It takes moms and dads, brothers and sisters, all the relatives up the chain to grandparents and probably some great-grandparents. ... Thank you to all of you who supported these young men in their efforts,” Hussey said.
“This has been a blast,” he said.
‘An amazing ride’
Athletic Director George Dergo spoke to the team: “Guys, the pain of today will soon be overcome by pride you will feel in the future, the pride in the success — that you proved a fact to yourselves as individuals, you proved a fact as a team, and you proved a fact to your coaches. With your hard work, dedication and desire, you proved a fact to your parents, your grandparents, your teachers, classmates, your school, our community and your fans around the world.”
“You proved the fact again: Redskin pride never dies,” Dergo said to loud cheers at the assembly.
Thorson thanked the Morris police and fire departments, and the people who brought flatbed trailers for the parade that ushered the team back into town Saturday evening.
“That was just amazing for these kids, and I know they’re going to remember that for the rest of their lives,” Thorson said.
“This has been an amazing ride for myself, for these boys, for these coaches. We appreciated it from the bottom of our hearts,” Thorson said, thanking the crowd of parents, students and other fans. He also credited the high school administration.
“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to coach these young men. It’s been one of the greatest moments of my life,” he said.