You could only imagine the looks I received when I told my family and close friends that I was going to spend last Saturday afternoon in Fisher, Ill. to watch the host school Class 1A Fisher Bunnies (4-0) host Dakota (1-3) in a rare non-conference Week 4 game.
Fisher? The mascot is really a bunny? Really? Where is Fisher? And why are you covering a 1A school?
During the offseason it was proposed to me by my loyal audience that we adopt a small school as the EDGYTIM.com Team of the Year and throw our support behind some small school football. After some very solid suggestions and nominations it was decided that the Fisher Bunnies was out team.
In the nearly 20 years of publishing and scouting Illinois prep football, I've never publicly rooted for any team. Sure, I've been accused of being a "homer" for at least 200 different trams yet unless you're a real die-hard fan (and who shouldn't be) you would be hard pressed to know where I went to high school (TF North) or where I live (Joliet area).
[More: Students helping soldiers makes a difference]
Yet for this 2013 season, I'm a bunny. I even have a plaque saying so, which was presented to me by Fisher AD Ben Derges on Saturday proclaiming me as an honorary Bunnie. Next to the birth of my kids, marrying my best friend and winning a Midwest Emmy in 2003 (Best Sports Series) that no one believes I won, this honor is right up there.
Anyways, off to Fisher I went.
So what's the point of all of this you ask?
I was on a quest to cover My Team and to also get a feel again for some small school football.
It gets very easy to just stay focused on say Chicagoland or the larger enrollments. I'm guilty as charged and have been for many years now. Outside of, say, the IHSA state finals I hadn't been anywhere near small school football for well over 20 years until Saturday.
Sure, the difference between the larger classes and the small schools is at times noticeable. The small schools have limited numbers and the overall speed is also a bit different in 1A ball. The only 5-wide offense I saw in Fisher on Saturday were five wide offensive linemen pounding away on the opposing defensive linemen. Also, Class 1A is about as close as you'll get to old school "Iron Man" football. Playing both offense and defense is the norm here. Your best 11 play both ways. Dare I say that those 1A kids might be as tough or maybe even tougher than those bigger school kids? Just a thought there.
Yet outside of bigger rosters, along with maybe more of a passing offense and depth, in the end it's still just football.
The players and the fans showed as much passion in Fisher on Saturday than the fans did at my game Friday night in Oak Park. I was treated like a long lost son on Saturday in Fisher by people I had never met until Saturday. The small schools might be small in numbers but big in heart. Again, there is nothing better than small town hospitality. I drove away from Fisher on Saturday afternoon feeling better about high school football. Talk about a unique experience and something that I never really expected to be honest.
[Highlights: Oak Park-River Forest 16, Downers Grove North 10]
So in the meantime I'll be out and about all season long at some larger Chicagoland school, covering a game with a big smile on my face.
Yet if you catch me checking my phone I'm most likely trying to catch that Fisher Bunny score, my team for the 2013 season.
In the meantime....Fear The Ears! Follow the Fisher Bunnies @fisherbunnies.