Perhaps the most excited person around kickoff for the Class 7A state championship football game will be in the press box at Memorial Stadium in Champaign Saturday.
That’s where Jim Covert sits for every state championship game since 1997 involving the state’s second largest class. Covert has been the color commentator for KOST Broadcasting almost as long as he left coaching in 1995. Only this time, Covert’s former team will be on the field.
Covert coached the Hilltoppers to their last undefeated season in 1983 when the Hitters beat Bartonville-Limestone 21-7. Covert lives in Glen Ellyn, continues to substitute teach at Glenbard West and watches as many Hilltopper games as he can during the season. Otherwise, he works on his golf game.
Glenbard is back in the state final for the first time in 26 years, and Covert will broadcast with play-by-play announcer Tom Stocker at 4 p.m. on WPWR-TV (Ch. 50). The Hilltoppers play Wheaton Warrenville South (12-1) in the final. For several years, the two teams were season-opening opponents until a few years ago. It will be Covert’s second broadcast of the day. He also is the regular commentator for the Class 5A state championship game.
“I’m going to be very fair,” Covert said. “Of course, I’ll be rooting for West, but I know both programs. I’ve got to make sure I don’t say ‘We, we, we.’ I’m going to say West.”
Covert was the commentator for last year’s Class 5A championship, won by East St. Louis over Geneva. Glenbard West nearly made it, losing 27-20 to East St. Louis in Glen Ellyn.
“Last year I was hoping (Glenbard) would be here, but East St. Louis got us in the semifinals,” Covert said.
Covert knows Wheaton South coach Ron Muhitch well. The two worked together for several years each summer as volunteer coaches in the Jim Rexilius/John Thorne Football Camp.
Glenbard West graduate Joe Kish is an assistant coach on the Tigers.
Covert retired as Glenbard West coach one year after former standout quarterback Matt Bowen graduated. Bowen played at Iowa and became one of Glenbard’s only pro players, and its most successful one after spending several years as a safety with the Packers, Rams and Redskins.
Covert was Bill Duchon’s assistant coach when Glenbard lost to St. Laurence 22-21 in overtime in the 1976 Class 5A state championship. Covert took over the following season and one of his players from that team was Jim Mesch. In 1977, West went undefeated in the regular season, but lost to East Leyden 8-7 in the first round of the playoffs.
Now two of Mesch’s sons are on this year’s state final team. JT Mesch, a senior, is one of West’s starting wide receivers and Justin Mesch, a junior, is a linebacker.