SAVANNA – Sports memories both on and off of the playing surface were shared Sunday night at Manny’s Pizza in Savanna, as the Northwest Illinois Sports Hall of Fame welcomed 16 individuals and two teams into its ranks.
Area inductees were Lena-Winslow football coach Ric Arand, Tukes Ayangbile of Fulton, Sammy Biggs of Morrison, Jackie Cahill Dick of Stockton, Angie Eissens Eacker of Thomson, Scott Gallentine of Mount Carroll, the late Richard Lopez of Chadwick, Keri McFadden of Savanna, Tim Pauley of Pearl City, and Dan Wolf of Milledgeville.
The 2003 Eastland volleyball and 1966 Galena football squads were named as honor teams.
Ryan Castro of Savanna, a 2017 inductee, also was honored.
Pauley and Arand used part of their time at the dais to talk about the current rivalry their respective schools share.
“This may not be the most popular thing [to open] with Coach Arand in the building, but EPC locked up the conference championship at 8-0, so congrats to the Wildcatz,” Pauley, a 2002 graduate, told the crowd.
Eastland-Pearl City beat Lena-Winslow 20-14 in Week 5. Arand, a 1985 Stockton alum, knew he had to get even when his time to talk came up.
“I preach to our kids at school, and to our kids at home, not to live in the past. But, Lena-Winslow to EPC, three championships to one championship,” Arand closed with laughs all around the room.
Pauley also spoke about how high school sports taught him the difference between being cocky and confident. He shared a story about a football game with Warren-River Ridge where he made a big hit and stood over the kid before a large Warhawk ran after him.
Wolf, a 1977 Milledgeville grad, shared a similar story about the first touchdown he scored in high school.
“I was walking off, pounding my chest, I thought I was something,” Wolf said. “My coach [Rick Malson] grabbed me by the face mask, and said, ‘Hey Glory Boy Wolf! You ran it through the wrong hole! Talk about getting knocked down to nothing.”
Wolf grew up on a dairy farm with eight siblings. Like many inductees, he shared memories of playing sports with his family and being appreciative that they were there for him in high school.
“I remember playing in Ashton one Saturday, I look out and his semi is sitting along the football field in Ashton,” Wolf said. “They never missed a game, and I’m thankful for that.”
When Ayangbile, a 2001 Fulton grad, thought football wasn’t going to be the sport for him, both his father and brother Jaba convinced him to maintain course.
“I’m dogging, it’s hard, and my body’s trying to figure out what’s going on,” Ayangbile said. “There was a point where I figured that it wasn’t going to work out for me, I’m done. I come him, have a conversion with my father, have a conversation with my brother, and they said, ‘You’re going to stick it out. You’ll be OK, you’re having a tough time right now but you’ll do fine. You are going to make it.’
“You guys [acknowledging the crowd] have shown me that I’ve made it.”
Eacker, a 2002 Thomson grad, hopes her children have just as much fun as she had.
“I spent an hour looking at all of my past, and thought, ‘I was good,’” Eacker said. “When you’re out there with your friends, you don’t look at yourself like that. You’re there to play, to have fun, and to win. Now, 15 years later, I’m looking at my stuff and I can’t wait for my kids to start playing so that I be their cheerleader.”
Mandy Rahn accepted on behalf of her grandfather, Richard Lopez, a Texas native, Golden Gloves boxer and minor league baseball player. The family moved to Chadwick, where he coached many youth sports, breaking down lessons in “bite sized nuggets” for kids to understand.
“Sports was an enormous part of grandpa’s life,” Rahn said. “As a young boy, he played a multitude of sports. He studied them, he practiced them, he played them. As a father, he coached his four sons and countless others in summer leagues.”
Eastland High School’s 2003 volleyball team went 36-7 and took fourth place in Class A.
“Each great team from Eastland was inspired by another great team, the team before them,” said sophomore coach Jeanette Linker, reading from a letter from head coach Kristy Pierce. “The 2003 team was inspired by the 1999 team of Shelley Schreiner Martz, Tally Diehl Hollin and Sarah Martz Spears, who only lost one match the entire season before losing in the sectional championship. Eastland’s state teams of 2008 and 2009 were inspired by these girls.”
Also honored were Kristy Bourquin of Warren, Jerry Crawford of Hanover, Dave Davis of Scales Mound, Jeremy Knauer of Elizabeth and Donna Schmitt of East Dubuque.