Before this year, most Illinois fans knew of Rockford Boylan High School as the alma mater of junior kicker Derek Dimke. But this year, Boylan wrote another chapter in its history books as it achieved a great milestone.
Dean Lowry and his Rockford Boylan team earned the title of state champions in Illinois after a hard fought and decisive victory over Aurora Marmion in the 6A title game. The win renews old success in Rockford and sets a new standard at Boylan.
"It's been pretty exciting," says Lowry. "It was the first state football title since 1985 for Rockford and first ever for Boylan."
Boylan ran the table, going 14-0 on the season. Rather than settle, the momentum has carried over into the offseason and serves as motivation for the team.
"Every year, Coach (Dan Appino) wants us to work harder than the class ahead of us, and the intensity is good. We have a lot of players coming back, and we want to go for another 14 straight wins."
Boylan didn't preconceive the notion of a state title but rather put in the effort and maintained the focus to be successful this year.
"We knew we could definitely compete for it, but we figured with a little luck and some hard work we could do it."
Lowry was a big part of Boylan's success this year. At 6'-5" and 230 pounds, Lowry is a tough matchup for any opponent. Combine that with his 4.83 speed, and he is a force off of the edge.
"I think at the next level I could be a good pass rusher. One of my strengths is getting off the ball fast, and I can pursue the ball well."
Lowry's individual success has caught the attention of numerous college coaches. He is especially hearing from the Big Ten, and the interest is completely mutual.
"I definitely want a program that can compete in the Big Ten. Academics are important, and I want schools that offer really good academic programs."
How adamant is he about his college destination?
"My goal is to play in the Big Ten."
His goal will likely be accomplished as he is already hearing from some of the top programs in the Midwest, and his list has a strong Big Ten flavor to it.
"I probably get a letter a week from different Big Ten schools. Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all have sent me mail."
At this point Lowry hasn't received any offers, but after the 2011 signing day, that is likely to change as coaches can shift their focus to the junior class.
"No offers yet. The schools say they know that I can play, but they want to see tape first."
Lowry has another teammate who was instrumental in the title run. Tyreis Thomas is a shifty junior back who is also gaining the attention of college programs. Lowry and Thomas are both helping each other throughout the experience.
"Tyreis and I work out together. We study for an hour then go work out. Tyreis has been working really hard, and he has a lot of the same goals I do. So I think we can do it."
Illinois is one of the schools that Lowry has strong interest in. He has made a couple visits to campus and has a solid relationship already with Assistant Head Coach Joe Gilbert.
"I know Coach Gilbert is the guy in my area. I met him once when I went to one of the camps, and I went to one of the games. I went to the SIU and Indiana games."
The idea of playing for his state school is appealing to Lowry, who enjoyed the Illinois campus.
"The campus is really cool. Illinois has a great campus. It's a home state school, so it would be cool playing for my home state."
Keep an eye on Lowry as recruiting of the 2012 class heats up. Meanwhile, he and his Boylan teammates will continue to work in the offseason, gearing up for what is likely to be another successful season.