Watching the quarterbacks of Aledo's past helped inspire Tanner Matlick to ensure that Mercer County's football future would be paved in gold.
"Adam Hines is a big reason I am who I am today," said Matlick, referring to Aledo's starting signal-caller for its 2005 and 2006 state runner-up teams. "Seeing him play in two state finals was a big reason why I wanted to play, why I committed to football."
Capping a stellar prep career by throwing for 1,977 yards and 21 touchdowns to earn Class 2A All-State honors from the Illinois Football Coaches Association, the 2012 Area Player of the Year for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus used his senior season to leave his own signpost to inspire future Golden Eagle quarterbacks.
Matlick helped guide Mercer County to a 14-0 season, capped with a 14-7 victory over Belleville Althoff in the Class 2A state finals at Champaign that gave the Golden Eagles their first state championship since Aledo and Westmer consolidated in 2009.
Was state the team's ultimate goal? "Yeah, somewhat. Our seniors came in knowing we could do something special this year. One of our main goals was to get to Champaign, and we accomplished that."
Did you feel this team could go 14-0? "We knew we were a special group -- in 8th grade, Aledo and Westmer played each other for what was like the junior-high title; we were both 6-0 -- but we didn't realize it until Week 2 of the playoffs, when we beat Rockford Lutheran pretty bad (42-14). That's when we realized that maybe this is the year we'd go all the way."
Season's highlight? "Definitely winning the state championship. I've wanted that since I was little, watching the guys at Aledo when I was growing up and seeing them play down at state."
What will you miss the most about this team? "I'd say our closeness. We have 16 seniors, and for the majority of the guys, it was like a second family. It's a great group of guys, and wherever I play college football, I won't feel that kind of closeness. High school football is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you should cherish."
College plans? "I've been talking to a lot of college football coaches. Monmouth is getting serious about me, and I've also talked to Western Illinois, Quincy, Wisconsin-Platteville, but I haven't really decided yet. I hope to major in business, and I'll take some visits and see where it goes from there.''
Today is Tuesday, Sept. 16, the 259th day of 2014. There are 106 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: A fine lumber mill is on the course of erection at Andalusia. A flouring mill at that location is doing a fine business. 1889 — 125 years ago: J.B. Lidders, past captain of Beardsley Camp, Sons of Veterans, returned from Paterson, N.Y., where he attended the National Sons of Veterans encampments. 1914 — 100 years ago: President Wilson announced that he had received from the imperial chancellor of Germany a noncommittal reply to his inquiry into a report that the emperor was willing to discuss terms of peace. 1939 — 75 years ago: Delegates at the Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church in Springfield voted to raise the minimum pay of ministers so that every pastor would get at least $1,000 annually. 1964 — 50 years ago: An audience of more than 2,600 persons jammed into the Davenport RKO Orpheum theater with a shoe horn feasted on a Miller-Diller evening that was a killer night. Phyllis Diller sent the audience with her offbeat humor. And send them she did! It was Miss Diller's third appearance in the Quad-Cities area. 1989 — 25 years ago: A few years ago, a vacant lot on 7th Avenue and 14th Street in Rock Island was a community nuisance. Weeds grew as high 18 inches. Today, the lot has a new face, thanks to Michael and Sheila Rind and other neighbors who helped them turn it into a park three weeks ago.