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 Friday, Dec. 13, the 347th day of 2013. There are 18 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: Merry sleigh bells jingle in our streets in the wake of a driving northwest storm of snow and rain. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Thomas Campbell was elected commander of John Buford Post 243, Grand Army of the Republic. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Thomas B. Reidy was named consul of C.W. Hawes Camp No. 1550, and L.H. Eihl was named consul of Camp 29, Modern Woodmen of America. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island aldermen last night upheld the view of a petition signed by 150 businessmen that the city should not install parking meters. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Total volume during the Christmas mailing season may reach 12 million pieces in Rock Island, according to Rock Island Postmaster Carl J.L. Wessel. 1988 -- 25 years ago: The aromas filling the air at the Rock Island Lines depot in Rock Island soon will be prime rib and roast duck rather than sawdust and plaster. A tourist train will be offering dinner excursions in mid-February or early March, according to Dan Carmody, executive director of the Development Association of Rock Island.