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Michael O’Brien’s final 2021 Super 25 high school football rankings

Four contenders vie for the top spot.

Cary Grove’s captains accept the trophy for the Class 6A state championship in DeKalb.
Cary Grove’s captains accept the trophy for the Class 6A state championship in DeKalb.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Eight state football champions were crowned Friday and Saturday in DeKalb.

There was Fenwick as the debutant, winning its first title. Joliet Catholic, the king of Illinois high school football, added to its state-record trophy haul.

Lockport and Wheaton North returned to glory for the first time in many years, and Cary-Grove continued the Fox Valley’s recent tradition of excellence.

One thing that wasn’t settled is the matter of No. 1. Maine South entered as the top-ranked team, based on its résumé. But the Hawks were beaten soundly by Lockport and lost their claim to the No. 1 spot.

Fenwick had two losses during the regular season, and the Class 5A field didn’t provide significant opportunities for it to improve its résumé. So set the Friars aside.

That leaves Lockport, Wheaton North, Joliet Catholic and Cary-Grove as the contenders for the spot on top of the final Super 25.

Some years there will be a reporter (OK, probably me) who asks coaches and players whom the No. 1 team is. That didn’t happen this past weekend. But one coach gave his opinion without being asked.

‘‘We told our kids on Monday we thought we were the best team in the state of Illinois,’’ Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said Saturday. ‘‘And I think we did everything today to prove that’s certainly a possibility, if not a definite thing.’’

Seaburg is right. East St. Louis was considered the best team in the state all season long by everyone who does any form of rankings or spouts an opinion publicly.

Cary-Grove beat the Flyers in what was hailed as one of the greatest championship games in Illinois High School Association history. That only happens when a game is close and played at a high level.

East St. Louis, loaded with probably a dozen or more future FBS college players, just couldn’t stop the Trojans’ double-option.

Cary-Grove’s full-season résumé isn’t as strong as Lockport’s. The Porters defeated Bolingbrook, Glenbard West, Glenbard North and Loyola. That’s a terrific season. They also showed they were clearly better than Maine South in the title game.

But the Porters have a blemish on their résumé: They lost at home to Lincoln-Way East. Starting quarterback Hayden Timosciek handled punting duties in the game but was too injured to play quarterback. That’s obviously a factor, but other teams managed to pull out victories this season while missing injured stars.

Joliet Catholic’s case is also strong. The Hilltoppers dominated on their run to the Class 4A title and had impressive regular-season victories against Brother Rice, Crete-Monee and Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis.

Wheaton North saved its best performance for the Class 7A title game, dominating St. Rita a week after beating Brother Rice. But the Falcons’ résumé has a blemish, as well: They lost at Batavia in overtime in Week 3.

Any of the four teams can make a legitimate claim to the top spot. But I agree with Seaburg: Cary-Grove’s performance Saturday at Huskie Stadium proved it to me. The Trojans are No. 1.

2021 Final Super 25

With record and preseason ranking

1. Cary-Grove (14-0) 12

2. Lockport (13-1) NR

3. Joliet Catholic (14-0) 7

4. Wheaton North (13-1) 9

5. Maine South (12-2) 10

6. St. Rita (11-3) 1

7. Loyola (12-1) 4

8. Brother Rice (10-3) 3

9. Fenwick (12-2) 17

10. Neuqua Valley (10-2) 15

11. Lincoln-Way East (9-3) 5

12. Mount Carmel (8-4) 11

13. Batavia (10-1) 16

14. Marist (9-4) 6

15. Glenbard North (8-4) NR

16. Kankakee (13-1) NR

17. Warren (9-2) 2

18. Crete-Monee (9-4) NR

19. Lake Forest (10-3) NR

20. Lemont (11-1) NR

21. Glenbrook South (9-3) NR

22. Hinsdale Central (9-2) 8

23. Wilmington (14-0) NR

24. Prospect (10-3) NR

25. St. Ignatius (9-2) NR