TOULON, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Stark County knows a thing or two about the high school football playoffs.
Getting back to the playoffs last year was huge for program. The perennial small school power made the playoffs for 22 straight seasons until 2018.
Then the Rebels went four years without a postseason berth. Last year’s breakthrough to the playoffs has jump- started this year’s undefeated regular season, the school’s first in eight years.
“Getting back there, knowing we could play beyond week nine, these kids have that experience,” said Stark County head coach Jade Noard. “Now they’re sights are higher than just getting into the playoffs. Last year was an important year for us.”
This year’s run to the playoffs has fans in Toulon and Wyoming thinking about the 2015 Rebels, the last SC team to bring a 9-0 record into the playoffs. Some seniors on this year’s squad were in the stands watching that team finish as state runner-up.
“I remember being a kid and going to that state game. It was fun,” said Stark County senior quarterback Luke Rewarts. “Just the environment of that game. watching the older kids play. That’s where I wanted to be one day.”
That 2015 team took a 13-game winning streak into the class 1A state title game.
“The atmosphere was amazing. So many fans there,” said senior wide receiver Matthew Bowser. “Those games were fun to be at. I was playing JFL thinking about playing on that big field.”
Stark County hosts rival conference Princeville Friday night at 7:00 in a first round playoff game. The Rebels are looking for their first playoff win in seven years.
But they feel equipped for a playoff run.
“They’ve reacted well, played in tight games and won them,” said Noard. “Now they have confidence. It’s what you love to see.”