St. Charles Bulldogs Win 1999 State Championship
Patrick Wilding

As a sophomore lineman on the varsity team for the St. Charles Bulldogs, we were considered one of the worst teams to ever come through St. Charles. As a player on this football team, I would walk through town and hear the people talking: "Your team is not going to win a ball game this year, and they should cancel football in St. Charles forever." This was not what I wanted to hear as an athlete.

As a result, we players decided to take things into our own hands; we held a team meeting to figure out what to do. You would think the first thing anyone would say is, “Win a State Championship." Well, it wasn't. The first thing said was, "We need to turn some heads," so we set a goal for ourselves that when the season started it was going to be different than in the past. Our goal was not to win every single game or to score one hundred points; it was to bring this small community together in a big way.

Throughout the summer we worked like lions on the prowl, slowly getting better but keeping on task. My fellow teammates and I were in the weight room every day, religiously working on getting bigger, faster,and stronger. After we got done there, it was time to go outside and do speed drill and speed drill, until we couldn't walk anymore, and then we would do more. We did this from November 1998 to the first day of practice of 1999. The best part about these practices was that no coaches were allowed there; we did this on our own and didn't let them show up. The coach would say, “Boys, or should I say men, I never thought that this team would have the desire and determination to take it on its shoulders to get the job done." Coach Rusz always put his two cents in too, saying, "I've see better things drop out of a tall cow!" or "You ain’t nothing but a bunch of Turkeys!" I think we worked harder during that summer than we did at our schoolwork. It felt as if we were ants in this giant city of put-downs. We used these comments from the town as fuel for our fire.

It was the first game of the season, and we had a showdown with Ithaca. Our team was pumped up; we were breathing fire and ready to explode with desire and determination. On the other hand, our fans had the same attitude as in years past. You could hear them talk about how “this was just the start of another losing season." These remarks only seemed to help, making us work harder to prove ourselves. Our undersized and undermanned team took the field, with our completely black and red uniforms shining like the smile on a kid's face when he receives a new toy. We came out in our traditional fashion, running down the sidelines, meeting in the middle, and forming a giant circle that stretched the entire width of the field. As a captain I would say, "Are you ready?" The rest of the team would respond, "Yes sir!" I would yell this again just to make sure. This moment would always make the hairs on my body stand up, and at that point I knew we were ready to play. Ithaca had quite the brigade this year, and it was a very hard-fought battle. Our team won the squabble 14-0. This didn't even impress the fans. To some it did, and we could hear things like, "Man, they looked good tonight!" Other fans, however, proceeded to say, “Aw, they got lucky, they will find some way to screw the season!"

As the season rolled on and the team won and continued to win, there was a weird feeling inside this little town. The town was starting to come together. Now, as I drove down Main Street or M-52, there were signs encouraging the DAWGS. These signs were the most unique things I have ever seen. There were bright shimmering colors, and the signs were football players and each one had a player's number and last name on it. Some people were even donating money to help out in any possible way they could. The attendance at football games was unbelievable; I didn't realize we had that many people in our town. It was like looking out into space and seeing all the stars. Our town was now becoming a close-knit community. Better yet, our town was becoming one big family.

I couldn't believe the great change that had suddenly occurred. I mean I would walk down the street and people would ignore me before, but now it was like I was a hero. People I knew and mostly people I didn't know would stop and ask how I was doing and how the team felt about this week's game. It was actually a really great feeling, knowing that I helped change a stubborn community into a great place to live. I helped this little town of St. Charles grow up and mature.

Eventually, the St. Charles Bulldogs went on to win the 1999 Division 6 State Championship. Our team was furnished with two charter busses. When we arrived and looked into the stands, it looked as if they had shut down the town of St. Charles for this particular day. I mean, there had to be no one home. If you were a robber, this was the time to strike. This wasn't the highlight of the season, I mean it was, but the fact that one team brought together a whole town together was even better. It was like a light clicked on in the dark community that didn't have faith in itself. I'm really glad that I was able to be a part of this team and its accomplishments.

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