It's probably a good thing Le Roy head football coach BJ Zeleznik coaches a team in class 1A and not 8A. His pizza party bills would be astronomical.
"No kidding," Zeleznik chuckled. "Well, we used to co-op with Downs Tri-Valley and we would have close to 90 kids join us on Selection Saturday. But we still have 45 kids in the program this year, freshmen through upperclassmen. They'll all joins us. It's a nice tradition."
And it's a ritual that dates back to 1986. BJ's father, Jim, who coached Le Roy from 1979-2000, came up with the idea of having a pizza party on the Saturday after the prep football regular season was complete. The gathering was centered on watching the high school pairings show. Coaches and players would eagerly anticipate hearing their school's name called on the broadcast.
"It's just one part the whole excitement around having a good year," Zeleznik said. And it's a great time of year; the harvest comes in, leaves are falling, it's good to get everyone together. It's a lot of fun."
Le Roy is a town of roughly 3,500 people, just north of Interstate 74 in McLean County. And the bond between the football program and the people of Le Roy goes back generations.
"With some of the kids on our team ... their fathers played for my father. So they know the party is all about. The pizza party can be a motivational tool -- maybe even more so for the coaches."
It's part of the charm about this part of the high school football season. Many teams from around the state will gather together to watch the IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show, this Saturday at 8 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and CSNChicago.com. Some schools will have pizza parties. And others will celebrate with a setting that only Norman Rockwell would dream of capturing. Just west of Le Roy, the Downs Tri-Valley football team will gather to watch the show in the town's fire station.
For other schools, Saturday night represents a zenith of excitement in overcoming challenging times. Take Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, for example. The Warriors didn't win a single game last season. This year, they're going to the playoffs. Or how about Aurora Central Catholic, which hasnt been to the playoffs, period, since 1997? And if Bloom High School in Chicago Heights beats Rich Central on Friday, it will clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time since ALF was dominating the NBC Monday night lineup (1989).
Those schools represent just a small portion of the 256 playoff qualifiers across eight classes who will be anxiously waiting Saturday night. Five weeks later, high school football fans will be able to check out Comcast SportsNet's coverage of the state championships from Memorial Stadium in Champaign-Urbana. The 1A-4A title games will take center stage on Friday, Nov. 23. The 5A-8A games will be on the marquee the next day, Saturday, Nov. 24.
The pairings show and championship games can be seen in Comcast SportsNet's entire viewing territory. Viewers are encouraged to check out csnchicago.com for channel locations or the IHSA's channel finder by market.
Better yet, regardless if you (or your team) made the postseason, you can join in on the fun this Saturday. Fans can interact via live chat on CSNChicago.com and fans are also encouraged to interact via Twitter using the hashtag IHSA.