CHAMPAIGN | There is a fine line between confidence and being cocky.
The Crete-Monee football team walked that walk in completing a 14-0 mark and winning the Class 6A state title on Saturday.
The Warriors beat Cary-Grove 33-26 at Memorial Stadium and it even came down to the final seconds. In true Crete fashion, it stopped Cary-Grove on downs and ran the clock out.
This is what has been talked about all year, even last year when the team lost to Peoria Richwoods in a second-round playoff game.
While the Warriors knew they were capable of winning the school's first team state title, they never were too full of themselves. There were people telling them how good they were, the hangers-on who never were.
"We didn't pay attention to that," senior wide receiver Lance Lenoir said. "We kept our focus."
Superstar Laquon Treadwell, who has offers from over two dozen schools, stepped in for his buddy.
"We cared about winning and making sure we were ready to play," Treadwell said. "It was about us and winning a championship."
It is also about the program coach Jerry Verde has built. The program was good when he took over in 2007. He took it to the next level, but kept everything in perspective and in line.
It is not easy to get 50 or so teenagers on the same page, but they bought into what he wanted to accomplish and the result is a state title for a program that once was a doormat of the south suburbs.
Nobody ever thought about Crete-Monee unless they needed a Homecoming opponent.
Verde got the job done and he did it with class. He did not bury opponents and he and his coaching staff were tireless workers.
What the community needs to do is make sure he stays. Crete graduates a lot, but has a lot of good players returning and the feeder system with the Crete Bulldogs and University Park Lions is in good shape.
People are moving into the district and the football program is certainly an attraction.
If I am a Class 7A or 8A athletic director or principal with a coaching vacancy, I would go after Verde. This is the man you want to build your program or take over an existing successful one.
The community needs to get together and see if it can do some things to upgrade the school's football facilities. It's tough to raise money or ask people to pay more taxes, but it can be done through fundraising or put political issues or petty differences aside and come together.
Let's not let this great moment be a one-hit wonder.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.