ERIE, Ill. — They got the coach of the year, player of the year and a first ever home playoff victory. It's still not enough for the Panthers, according to Erie/Prophetstown head football coach Chuck Milem.
"We're not ready for this journey to be done yet, are we?" Milem said to his team, following a 50-28 trouncing of River Valley on Panther turf last Friday.
Last week, the Three Rivers Conference announced all-conference recipients. The Panthers peppered the North Division with 11 players named to the first, second and honorable mention squads. They also swept the two biggest awards — Milem for coach of the year and senior running back Nick Williams was named conference Most Valuable Player. Senior lineman Owen McConnell was also a two-way first team all-conference selection.
Accolades aside, Milem's words on Nov. 1 implied E/P is pushing for something bigger than personal distinction. Today, the Panthers find out if they'll garner the right to move forward in the Illinois Class 3A state football playoffs. Standing in their way is No. 5 seed Stillman Valley.
"It's the first time in school history we've ever won at home," Milem said. "We've been here before but we've never won one. Certainly we'd like to keep the journey going."
The coach told his players to spend the weekend in glory of last week's win. On Monday, though, they went to work.
"We're going to get in the scouting room and take a look at who we're going to play next," Milem said.
"We've got another week to go, so we'll enjoy this one for a little bit," said sophomore back Jordan Chandler. "But then it's back to work next week."
Despite winning, the Panthers took somewhat of a bruising getting there. Senior starting quarterback Ethan Howard went down with a leg injury following a 21-yard run and was unable to finish the final seven minutes of the game. While the Panthers didn't miss a beat, giving signal calling duties to Chandler, Milem will want all hands on deck when they play a higher rated opponent.
In favor of the Panthers is another home playoff game. Had Stillman Valley lost to Bloomington Central, the Panthers would have had to travel over two hours for their next game.
"It's an indescribable feeling for me," McConnell said. "I don't know if it's really sunk in that we're the first to win at home. First team to go 8-2. It just shows that we worked really hard this summer and right now, it's paying off."
Kickoff for today's game is 1:30 p.m. at Erie. The winner between the Panthers and Cardinals will play the winner of No. 1 seed Winnebago and No. 8 seed Kankakee (McNamara) in the semifinals at a to be determined site.