Ten years later, eight-class football a hit

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Former coach Brent Pearlman led Prospect to the first two Class 7A state football championships. | Jeff Krage~For Sun-Times Media.

I missed the 10th anniversary of eight-class football last November when Wheaton Warrenville South won its second consecutive Class 7A state championship. I only noticed recently that this year begins the 11th season of eight-class football in the state when I went back to look at all the schools that have won 7A championships. Class 7A didn’t exist before 2001. Congratulations, Class 7A. You’ve lasted 10 years and given the state many thrills starting off with Prospect’s first two titles in 2001 and 2002. The Knights added another one in 2005.

Wheaton South might have lost its season opener to fellow Class 7A member Glenbard West on Sunday, but the Tigers will try to tie Prospect for their third Class 7A state championship this fall.

I was skeptical at first, and many old-timers were in hysterics, when the IHSA decided to expand from six football classes to eight. But if it wasn’t for eight-class football, would any of these schools won state championships in the old six-class format? Here’s to Immaculate Conception (Class 3A, 2002), Plano (Class 3A, 2006-07), St. Francis (Class 5A, 2008) and Cary-Grove (Class 6A, 2009).

How about just getting to Champaign to play on the turf at the University of Illinois? Without eight classes, I’m not sure these teams would have been able to play in a state final: Batavia (Class 6A, 2006), Lake Zurich (Class 7A, 2006), Geneva (Class 7A, 2008) and Hinsdale Central (Class 8A, 2008).

Brent Pearlman, who led Prospect to three of the first five state championships in Class 7A, has moved on to Lake Zurich starting this season. No one should be surprised anymore if the Bears get to a state final. Before 2001, I must admit that I would be stunned if anyone even mentioned Lake Zurich as a ranked team in the Chicago area.

The following schools have won Class 7A state titles:

2001 Prospect

2002 Prospect

2003 Oswego

2004 Libertyville

2005 Prospect

2006 St. Rita

2007 Lake Zurich

2008 East St. Louis

2009 Wheaton Warrenville South

2010 Wheaton Warrenville South

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