HIGHLAND | The joy was all around. The postgame celebration of last Friday's Class 4A Sectional 9 semifinal was as thick as a brick.
After Highland's 41-34 upset win over West Side, Trojans coach Trent Grider walked over to his senior fullback LaKice Brooks and said one thing.
"You just made some money," Grider said.
Brooks, who carried the ball 40 times for 226 yards and two scores, wasn't sure if his coach was going to hand him a $20 or what. Then, the next sentence was uttered.
"Someone is going to see a tape of this game, and it's going to get you a scholarship," Grider said. "It was the best game I've ever seen LaKice play."
Consequently, the Trojans (3-8) will play at Morton (6-5) in Friday's championship game. It is the first sectional championship game for the Trojans since 2004.
Highland hasn't won a sectional title since 1987, the same year the Trojans advanced to the Class 5A state championship game.
It's been awhile.
"We came into the game wanting to run right at them," Brooks said. "They had a passing offense, and we wanted to control the ball. I'm feeling good. I wasn't tired at all.
"You never get tired when you're winning."
The Trojans had only one win in the regular season. Drawing Griffith and West Side wasn't easy. But a growing program, which has been weakened by injuries early, finally got the boost it needed.
There is a buzz around the school. Grider said for the first time in a long while a student fan bus is heading to Morton on Friday. The conversations he's heard at school are uplifting everyone involved with Highland football.
"I hear students saying in the hallway, 'I can't wait until Friday,'" Grider said. "'Are you going to the game?' It's exciting to me. And our kids are hearing the same thing, and that is getting them excited for the game."
Highland's Wing T offense was sparked last summer when the Trojans went down to Pioneer for a camp. The coaches told Grider to put Brooks at fullback and not to move him, no matter what anyone said.
He didn't play much as a junior, but Brooks has been a major boost in this historic season.
At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Brooks also plays safety/linebacker.
"He's a senior, and he played last week like a good senior does," Grider said. "He only had one game guaranteed, and he said he was going to control his own destinty."
The '87 Highland team also started the year 1-4. In the Trojans' sectional run they had to beat two teams they lost to in the regular season, Crown Point and Lake Central. They did.
In order for these Trojans to earn a sectional title, they would also have to beat two teams they lost to in the regular season. Griffith has been done. Morton is waiting.
"Once the sectional begins, it all starts over," Brooks said. "Everyone's 0-0. We put that into our heads. We're going to win, and that's what we did.
"We've matured a lot. The first time we played Morton, we had some guys banged up. We're a totally different team now."