There is something about winning a championship that bestows a sense of majesty upon those who reach such a pinnacle of success.
No matter what happens in life, nothing can take away that moment when you were the absolute best.Such a regal thread connects five of the six skill-position players on the 2008 Tribune All-State Football Team.
Running back Gary Wilson and wide receiver John Lantz were integral parts of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin's run to the 6A championship, while receiver-safety Terry Hawthorne did it all for East St. Louis' 7A champion.
The only All-State skill player who didn't win a title was running back Michael Ratay -- and only because his Geneva team was defeated by East St. Louis in the championship game.
Imagine an offense headed by the Vanderbilt-bound Goro, who accounted for 3,836 total yards and a whopping 50 touchdowns, hooking up with Hawthorne and Lantz, who combined to catch 118 passes for 2,246 yards and scored a total of 53 touchdowns.
This duo, which starred in multiple roles, combined to return eight kickoffs for touchdowns, returned three punts for scores and ran back five interceptions for touchdowns.
Lantz averaged 48.3 yards per kickoff return and scored on a 103-yard interception return against Chatham Glenwood.
No wonder Ron Zook can hardly wait for Hawthorne to put on an Illinois jersey next year. Lantz, meanwhile, has offers from Southern Illinois and Eastern Illinois with plenty of interest from Mid-American Conference schools.
You can add to this mix the rushing prowess of Ratay (3,124 total yards and 47 total touchdowns), along with Kachmer and Wilson, who combined to run for 3,664 yards and score 66 touchdowns.
"Give us those guys, and we could take on any team in the country," Goro said. "Bring on the best from California or anywhere else. I'd love to play on a team like that."
Kachmer has the kind of perspective that can lead to a state championship.
"It was the team that made me so special," said Kachmer, whose 58-yard touchdown run less than three minutes after the title game's opening kickoff sparked St. Francis to a 49-35 triumph over Metamora. "Any success I had this year was because of the guys around me."
Hawthorne is defined by the unselfishness he exhibits on and off the field. With the Flyers he is willing to do whatever it takes -- including playing offense and defense, returning kicks and punts and averaging 45 yards per attempt as the punter. He had 74 solo tackles (118 total) and eight interceptions on defense.
Off the field, he does what he can for his 23-year-old brother, Antonio Hawthorne, who was diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia at the age of 2.
"Sometimes it's hard, but I do whatever I can," Hawthorne said. "He listens to me, and I take him shopping whenever I have some money in my pocket."
While East St. Louis got to Champaign thanks to a lineup loaded with superb athletes, Geneva arrived there by different means.
"In the beginning, a lot of people doubted we could make it that far," Ratay said. "They didn't know how unselfish we were and the team chemistry we had.
"This season was more about heart than athletic ability."
Athleticism abounds throughout the All-State team, including offensive linemen Chris Watt of Glenbard West and Patrick Ward of Providence. Watt is an effective post player and scorer on Glenbard's basketball team.
Defensive linemen Theo Odom of Glenbard West, Ty Phillips of East St. Louis and Zach Timm of Maine South combined for 58 sacks. Phillips and Timm played for state champions while Odom's Hilltoppers lost to Phillips and the Flyers in the 7A semifinals.
Wheaton Warrenville South linebacker Pat Dansdill had five interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns.
Two-way standout Tim Riley of Oswego ran for 1,886 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Proviso East junior Corey Cooper, who has committed to Illinois, caught 40 passes for 600 yards and six touchdowns on offense and had 60 total tackles, two sacks and four interceptions on defense. He also returned two kickoffs and two punts for touchdowns.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL