Mercer County's first full-fledged senior class enjoys home football finale


Share
Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2012, 7:42 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Terry Duckett, tduckett@qconline.com
ALEDO -- The Class of 2013 from Mercer County High School will be the first group of students to have completed four years in the district born of the '09 Aledo-Westmer consolidation.

On Saturday afternoon, the 16 senior members of the Mercer County football team made their final home game at George Pratt Memorial Field a memory they will take with them for the rest of their lives.

"This is your Senior Night, fellows, and that's how you finish,'' head coach Nat Zunkel exhorted his seniors following the 13-0 Golden Eagles' 26-7 victory over Clifton Central in Saturday's Class 2A semifinals, a win that sends Mercer County on to its first state football final in Champaign.

"It's awesome,'' said one of those 16 seniors, quarterback Tanner Matlick. "We knew this would be our last game here at George Pratt, and we wanted to make the most of it. All of us seniors came out here highly motivated. We had a chance to go to state, and here we are.''

Adding to Saturday's moment for the Golden Eagles was the atmosphere at their home gridiron, which hosted one of the biggest crowds in its long history as the always football-hungry Mercer County fan base's ranks were swelled by a large Clifton Central crowd that made the long trek across the state.

"This is an awesome venue and a beautiful field,'' said Zunkel, "and it felt like the people here were on top of you (Saturday).''

"I think they got here around 10 a.m. to start tailgating,'' said Matlick. "You had the feeling this was a big game, and we got a ton of support from our community. This win was for our community, and I think we're going to put a big dent in Memorial Stadium on Friday.''

Just to have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the Aledo Green Dragon teams that called George Pratt Memorial Field home over the decades -- including six state finalists and three 2A state-title teams (1998, 2001, 2002) -- is something that also strongly appeals to the Eagle seniors.

"It's overwhelming,'' said wide receiver/kick returner Payton Holmes. "It's what we've wanted for the last four years. When the time finally came, we had to make the most of it. After we lost here last year in the quarterfinals (7-0 to Lincoln Trail Conference rival Stark County), we told ourselves we'd never let this happen again.''

One of the Golden Eagle seniors, nose guard Tim Willet, watched Saturday's game from the sidelines on crutches after breaking his ankle in the previous week's 33-21 quarterfinal win at Amboy. His classmates dedicated the victory to him.

"That's what's special about these guys,'' said Zunkel. "They play for each other.''



















 




Local events heading








  Today is Thursday, April 17, the 107th day of 2014. There are 258 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Journeymen shoemakers of Rock Island struck for higher wages yesterday morning, asking 25 percent increases. Employers have acceded to their demand.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Lighting struck wires of the Merchants Electric Light Co. during a furious storm, and many Rock Island business houses were compelled to resort to gas as a means of illumination.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, decided to erect a new edifice at a cost of about $60,000.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Willard Anderson, junior forward for the Augustana College basketball team, which won 17 out of 22 contests, was elected captain of the quintet.
1964 -- 50 years ago: John Hoffman, Moline, president of the Sac-Fox Council of Boy Scouts, will be honored for his 50 years in scouting by members of the council at a dinner Thursday evening.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Quad-Cities has what is believed to be the area's first elite-class gymnast. It's the stuff upon which Olympic competitors are made. Tiffany Chapman, of Rock Island, not only has earned the highest possible gymnast ranking, she won the honor at age 11.






(More History)