Marian Central's Chris Streveler probably isn't a better singer than he is a quarterback. That's not why Minnesota offered him a scholarship. That's not why he accepted it. But if you take a trip on the team bus, you might wonder if Streveler has missed his calling.
"I'd like to think I'm a good singer," he said. "I thought about joining the school chorus this year but I didn't do it because it wouldn't work out with my schedule. I'm graduating early so I can enroll at Minnesota in January to prepare for spring football."
Ed Brucker, Marian Central's veteran coach, will never mistake the Beach Boys for Frank Sinatra. In 44 years, he never has experienced bus rides like this. He couldn't tell you what the lyrics are--if he knew, he probably would have to ban the song--but he's never had so much fun on a road trip.
"It's a fun group, the most relaxed group I can ever remember," Brucker said. "But they work at football. It's the best of both worlds. They know when to turn it on and when to have fun.
"They like singing as a team, on the bus and before the game in the locker room, at home and away. Streveler leads them. It's a certain song all the time. They did it last year, too. They always did it when I wasn't in the room. As long as it fires them up, it's all right with me. They sing songs that you and I enjoy. They go back to the 1960s, the Beach Boys, Billy Joel. Our bus rides home are amazing."
Streveler describes himself as the ringleader. The song is called "Sorry 4 the Wait," by Lil Wayne. As of Sept. 27, he passed Elvis Presley as the male with the most entries on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with 109 songs.
"It's a tradition. We started last year and kicked it up this year. Last year, only 10 of us sang it. But this year the seniors persuaded everybody to get involved. It's our thing this year. It fires us up. It's a fun thing to do after games.
"The main song before games is 'Sorry 4 the Wait' by Lil Wayne. It isn't exactly a clean song so we sing it when the coach isn't in the room. It's a cool thing. It brings us together as a team. We sing rap songs, Beach Boys, Billy Joel, country, hip hop, classical. No one knows Sinatra. All of us collaborate. Everyone sings pretty loud."
There are limits, however. The girls volleyball team wanted to play against the football team in an assembly. But Brucker wouldn't permit Streveler to participate. "He'd be too hyper and probably sprain an ankle," the coach said. Streveler understood. He has learned to calm down.
"I've been coaching for 44 years and I've never seen a better quarterback," Brucker said. "He impacts a game more than any kid I've ever had. I'm surprised in some ways. He was Player of the Year in our area last year but he has improved."
Streveler, a 6-foot-2, 205-pounder who is committed to Minnesota, is completing over 70 percent of his passes for an unbeaten team that favored to win the Class 5A championship. He has passed for 2,351 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,155 yards and 20 touchdowns. He has been intercepted only twice. He could be to the 2012 playoff what Montini's Jordan Westerkamp and Joliet Catholic's Ty Isaac were to 2011.
He passed for 196 yards, rushed for 182 yards and scored three touchdowns in Marian Central's 42-10 victory over Wauconda in the opening round of the Class 5A playoff.
In last Saturday's 41-20 victory over Woodstock North in the second round, he completed 10 of 16 passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 15 times for 104 yards.
The Hurricane also got a big lift from running back Ephraim Lee, who rushed 16 times for 142 yards and one touchdown. In 11 games, Lee has carried 170 times for 1,298 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Marian Central will carry its 11-0 record into Saturday's quarterfinal match-up against Montini. Marian Central defeated Montini 49-24 in Week 7 but Montini has ousted Marian Central from the playoff in each of the last three years.
"His efficiency is unbelievable," Brucker said. "We run the Northwestern offense. To utilize his talent, we have designed runs and scrambles for him. This is the most efficient offense I've had. It's hard for people to stop us. We have all the ingredients to win the state title.
"Last year against Oswego, we were down by 22 with eight minutes left in the third quarter and came back to win by seven. That said the juniors don't quit.
"Against Montini this year, we were down 17-0. But there was no panic. We came back and scored 43 unanswered points. They beat us last year, the only game this group has lost on the varsity level. It showed me that we have something special."
To allow for Streveler's special skills, Brucker set aside three games to allow the youngster to call his own plays. "We just signaled in the formation and he would look at the defense and call the play and call the blocks. He likes that. It lets him feel what is going on. If he has to slow down, he does it. If he has to do it more quickly, he does it. He sees things so much better. He is in total control," the coach said.
But Streveler insists he didn't make a commitment to Minnesota too early. He attended a one-day camp at Minnesota, impressed coach Jerry Kill and quarterback coach Jim Zebrowski, was offered a scholarship and accepted it. At the time, his only other offer was from South Dakota State.
"When I heard Minnesota had offered me, I talked to my parents and thought about it," he said. "They were one of my favorite schools. I like the coaches. They don't have a quarterback committed. It's the place I wanted to be. The offense fits me, like ours. I love the people up there.
"They have the right people in place to turn the program around and put it back on track. I've got a great relationship with coach Zebrowski. The senior quarterback is graduating. They started a freshman last week. I feel I have a chance to go in and compete. My goal is to start as a true freshman. I want to get as much playing time as I can as a freshman."
Streveler will take his final exams at Marian Central and graduate on Jan. 16. He will enroll at Minnesota on Jan. 22. He'll return home in June to walk across the stage and pick up his high school diploma. His friends wonder if he has started to pack yet.
"I'm excited to get up there and get a new opportunity," he said. "But I'm still focused on my senior season. I still have some things to accomplish--three more games."
How important is it to complete a 14-0 season?
"I can't express it," he said. "I've been playing with my best friends since youth football at St. Mary's. We've grown up together. For a lot of them, it's their last game each week or their last practice. I want to be a part of it. It can be something special."
Streveler reminds that 9-0 in the regular season is one thing but 14-0 is quite another, a whole new season, something that people will talk about for years. That's why this team's motto is: 1-0 every week and get better every day.
"You don't want to be satisfied," he said. "You have to get better to be where you want to be."
Streveler and his teammates don't relate to the four Hartlieb brothers Marian Central's four state championship teams of the 1980s. But they do remember the 2006 team of Jon Budmayr, Bryan Bulaga and Sean Cwynar that lost to Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin in the state final.
Streveler and his best friend, senior defensive end Liam Kirwan, think about it all the time. They met at the 2006 state championship game. It was their childhood dream to play on a state champion as seniors.
"We have swagger, a killer instinct, a mentality that we can do it every week," Streveler said. "We can see it on film when you watch the 2006 team. We talk to Bulaga (now a starting tackle for the Green Bay Packers) all the time. He donated equipment to our weight room. They were a loaded team that didn't get it done. That's a message for us."