ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — What a decade this has been for the Lena-Winslow Panthers in football. The Panthers won four state championships between 2010 and 2019. It’s first championship team that started the run in 2010 that we’re focused on this week in our ‘Glory Days’ segment.
The Panthers faced Tuscola for the 1A Championship in Champaign. Both teams went into the game with 12-1 records. Tuscola had won the championship the year before, but this time Tuscola was overwhelmed. The Panthers ran all over the Warriors rushing for 372 yards on 60 carries. Tevin Sellers got the scoring started with this ten-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Moments later Quinn Haas busted a 66 yard touchdown run. Haas rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns in all. Lena-Winslow led 25-7 at halftime. The Panthers scored three more times in the second half. Trey Griffin had the biggest play….Haas’ backfield mate broke off a 61 yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Griffin rushed for 156 yards. Seth Dascher, and Collin Heer also scored touchdowns making it five different Panthers who found the endzone. The Panthers won 47-14.
“It’s awesome. I don’t know words can’t express it,” said Haas after the game. “We were trying to get this all year and it finally happened.”
“Every week we got better and better and better,” said Griffin. And we knew if we played our perfect game we could win state and we played pretty close to a perfect game.”
Other key players on that team included Adam Werhane, Casey Schroeder, defensive tackle O’Shay Smith and the gentleman joining me on the phone right now the quarterback of that Lena-Winslow team Joe Edler.
[INTERVIEW WITH JOE EDLER/LE-WIN QB 2010]
((SCOTT)) Joe that championship game you guys did everything right. You ran the ball successfully. You won the turnover battle big 4-0. You won the game 47-14. Was there a feeling of, ‘Man this is too easy?’
((EDLER)) “Yea, I think at halftime I remember coach telling us, ‘Stay even keel.’ But before the game when we woke up all of the newspapers said we were going to lose by 20. Some of them said even more, so we just came and went to the field ready to win and just play our game and see what happens. It was kind of shocking towards the end of the third quarter when coach came up and he was like, ‘Hey we’re going to sit you for a little bit.’ You walk off the field and you take that last look and you’re up by 40 and it’s the State game, but really looking back that was pretty cool to do and I wouldn’t want to change it for anything.”
((SCOTT)) You had the luxury of some great running backs to hand the ball off to in Quinn Haas and Trey Griffin. Everyone knew Le-Win’s offense was built on the run game. How did you view your role in that offense as the quarterback?
((EDLER)) “Yea, like you said we had the three-headed monster I think is what they called it in the video and stuff, but as the quarterback we just had to be the facilitator. We knew coach would call on us to throw it once or twice a game and we had to deliver and with running backs like that, as a coach myself why would you need to throw if you have that really good running back corps like we had back then. It was working so why go away from it?
((SCOTT)) Do you have a favorite memory or moment from that championship game?
((EDLER)) “I’d say at the end of the game when that clock hit zero we turned around and you saw the fans, the whole community of Lena and Winslow and the surrounding area…it was just packed and everyone was going crazy. I can still think back to that and still see it like yesterday, so it’s still a moment that stays with me.”
((SCOTT)) You guys lost only one game that season. That was the opener against Dakota, and they got you pretty good 25-7. What did that opening loss do for you guys? How did it set the deck for the rest of the season?
((EDLER)) “Yea, it really set the tone because we had high expectations. We got beat pretty good and afterward I remember we were sitting out on the front stoop at Dakota High School and we just, we knew that we had to change-up some things. Change the way we did some things at practice, and work a little harder, and the coaches really helped out with that and we kind of turned a corner and didn’t look back.”
((SCOTT)) Since that championship in 2010 Lena-Winslow has won three more championships. How much pride do you and your former teammates take in saying, ‘We were the first and just maybe we inspired younger kids in the school district by showing them what could be achieved?
((EDLER)) “There’s a lot of pride in that, in just wearing that Le-Win jersey. You see it, my brothers have played through the program, I’ve got that bragging rights I guess you could say I got the first one, but really it’s just cool to see the inspiration and the love of sports that’s still going on over there, and they still have a great program to keep doing it. I guess there is a little, ‘We got the first’ but it’s always good to see that black and gold on the field and just get those shields again, reminisce and we were a part of a great program.”
NOTE: Edler is now the head football coach at East Dubuque High School.