Le-Win and Forreston are ready for another high-stakes showdown

High School Football

FORRESTON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)–All playoff games are big, but some feel a little bigger than others. Like the game round two 1A game Saturday night in Forreston. The Cardinals will host NUIC rival Lena-Winslow. It’s another in a long line of high-stakes showdowns between these two programs.

It’s probably the best rivalry in Illinois over the past decade…at least at the small-school level. When Lena-Winslow and Forreston play each other, there’s usually something big on the line.

“There’s some statistic, seven of the last ten times going to state it’s Forreston and Lena, so obviously coming in as a senior I know it’s a huge deal,” said Forreston running back/defensive back Jacob Fiorello.”

Fiorello is right. These two schools have won seven of the last ten state championships in class 1A going back to Le-Win’s first championship team in 2010. The Panthers have four titles, the Cardinals have three. These two schools have also won six of the last seven state championships in 1A.

The rivalry of course goes back much further than the last decade.

“When I first started here Greg Wood was the head coach, (at Forreston)” said Le-Win head coach Ric Arand.  “Greg had taken that program that had seen some lean years and really brought it back into being a contender. The rivalry itself has stayed intact for almost 25 years. It’ll be there long after I’m gone. It’ll be there long after coach Janicke’s gone.”

“They have such a great program and their coaching staff, they do things the right way,” said Forreston coach Keynon Janicke. “They’ve had a ton of success in the last couple, just in the last decade. So, to have that rivalry and to say that we’re in that conversation with them the last ten years, that’s really cool.”

Since 2010 these two schools have met four times in the playoffs. Le-Win won a first round game in 2010, 40-20. Forreston won a quarterfinal game in 2016, 44-7.
Le-Win won a semifinal nail-biter in 2017, 12-8. And Forreston won a semifinal game in 2018, 34-28.

The latest thriller between these two schools was just two weeks ago, the final game of the regular season at Lena-Winslow. The Panthers led most of the game, but Forreston put together an epic 89-yard drive and scored on a one-yard touchdown on fourth down on the final play of the game to win it 22-20.

“That was tremendous,” said Janicke. “I think it tells the story of what kind of kids we have here at Forreston, and their will to fight, and their will to keep grinding even when things are tough.”

Arand is the first to admit it was an impressive drive by Forreston. “All the conversions they made, third-down conversions, fourth-down conversions, probably, especially on the losing side of it, the greatest drive I’ve ever been a part of.”

So how weird is it for the players to have to turn around and play each other again so soon?

“We know they like to compete,” said Fiorello. “We know what we’re getting into. We know they’re a tough team.”

“Every time we come together, we just go out, we play, we put on a show,” said Forreston running back/defensive back Matthew Beltran. “We run the football a lot, and it’s a pretty physical game. A lot of times that kind of is what determines the games.”

“Eventually you knew that if you want to win, and if you want to go all the way, you’re going to have to face each other again,” said Janicke.

“The momentum of winning a couple weeks ago probably still sits in the favor of Forreston I think, but I don’t know,” said Arand. “We’re just going to go about it as it’s another opportunity. It’s a playoff atmosphere now so, it kind of just takes it to a whole different level.”

Kickoff in Forreston Saturday night will be at 6 p.m.

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