J. Thomas McNamara

     For Central A&M football, it was a very, very, very good year, despite what happened on the turf at Huskie Stadium last Friday morning on Northern Illinois University’s campus in DeKalb. With Raider Nation in full throat, Head Coach Brent Weakly’s Raiders, fell, 58-20, to Lena-Winslow in the Class 1A state championship game. Weakly and others there wand watching on television feel correctly that the Panthers could have won the Class 2A, 3A and probably 4A as well since Max Preps has them ranked 12th in the nation for good reason as they are led by their two Division 1 Iowa recruits.

     Central A&M was one of three teams from central Illinois playing for state titles with Williamsville and Rochester playing for the 3A and 5A championships, respectively. And the Bullets posted a scintillating 46-42 comeback win, scoring two touchdowns in the final minutes for their championship. By the way that is four straight years the Sangamo has had a member competing for the state titles as Maroa-Forsyth finished second the last three years. From Decatur and Macon County, that’s four teams as we count the Raiders as Macon County since they compete in the Macon County boys and girls basketball tournaments.

     That’s also the second time in four years that a Central Illinois Conference team had played for the title with St. Teresa finishing as runnerup in 2016. Weakly’s Raiders entered the title game with a perfect 13-0 record with its closest game coming against the Bulldogs, a two-point victory which illustrates again the competitiveness of the CIC. And it was a record-breaking game for both Lena-Winslow and the Raiders. First, L-W’s Sean Ormiston ran 23 times for 187 yards and five touchdowns to set an Illinois High School Association record for the most rushing touchdowns in a Class 1A state championship game and he scored on a 46-yard interception return as well. Second, the Raiders Jacob Paradee set one and tied another in his late morning/early afternoon play for his team. He set the single-game record for receiving yards in a Class 1A state championship game with 157 yards. His 11 catches in the game tied the reception standard.

     They also won the CIC football championship for the first time with Connor Heaton, Paradee, Connor Hutchins, doing the majority of work in running clock games for the majority of their Friday night outings. For the history books, they added more hardware to the Raiders trophy cases, fifth runnerup trophy to go with their 1997 championship trophy. The last time they came home with the runnerup trophy was 2001 when Weakly played which has been well-chronicled by many. While the Raiders can’t become the next team to win state football and basketball titles in the same calendar school year as Maroa-Forsyth did in 2006-07, they can win the Class 1A basketball championship in March where they finished third.

     These Raiders have some unfinished business ahead of them and Peoria will be alive with rad-and-black clad Raiders fans in March. Anything less than that will be a huge disappointment since they have set that as their goal since leaving Carver Arena last March. They’re also out to defend their first-ever Macon County boys tournament championship when it tips off Monday where the Raiders will be the top-seed in the tournament that is being played at Meridian.

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