DeKALB — Players and coaches will almost always be nervous before playing for a state championship, no matter how many they’ve won.
That was the case for Lena-Winslow coach Ric Arand before his team played in the Class 1A title game against Carrollton on Friday morning. The coach has built the Panthers program to one of the best in the state, winning four championships since 2010, but he was still nervous before the game kicked off.
Those nerves went away quickly once he remembered the experience he had on his roster and the tradition that he’s built throughout his coaching career at the school. Lena-Winslow won its fifth state title in 11 years when it took down Carrollton, 38-25, at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium.
“Having the experience back, having three starters back, that’s huge,” Arand said. “That’s not something you can replace. Plus all these guys were here two years ago, almost two years ago. The experience is hard to replace.”
Senior running back Marey Roby had a big day, rushing for 241 yards and three touchdowns while also intercepting a pass in the second quarter to help stop Carrollton from continuing both teams exchanging scores. Senior quarterback Luke Benson rushed in for a touchdown to score his team’s other touchdown.
Arand and seniors mentioned after the game that this was always the expectation for them, even from an early age. The Panthers knew they had the talent, but they combined that with the high standards set within the Lena-Winslow program that it became a very realistic goal that this group would win a title.
“As a class, it’s always been right there for us,” senior Brody Mahon said. “We’ve always known it’s in our future, if we wanted it we could go get it. As a class of four years of high school, we’ve been working our asses off and now it finally paid off.”
Benson and other seniors are confident that the juniors and sophomores on the team can continue the tradition of winning built at Lena-Winslow’s during Arand’s tenure. Arand has never questioned his players’ dedication to the team. He mentioned that he’s probably missed more morning lifts than any of his players.
That dedication is what has led many to ask whether this past decade from Lena-Wilson means the program is a dynasty.
Roby didn’t hesitate to call his coach Lena-Wilson’s own Bill Belichick, the Super Bowl-winning coach for the New England Patriots.
The running back also didn’t hesitate to call this program a dynasty.
“It’s definitely a dynasty,” Roby said. “Just the body of work and how the players prepare well, good things happen with good coaching and players who want to work hard.”
There might be some nerves, but there are no doubts.
Source: The Daily Chronicle