While Lake Zurich High School fell short of winning a state football title, the community treated the players and coaches like champions Sunday afternoon with a parade and rally.
Lake Zurich Mayor Thomas Poynton was among the speakers in the high school field house. He said there was no shame in perennial power Mount Carmel High School defeating the Bears 30-0 in Saturday's Class 7A championship game at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb
"You were a state championship game finalist," Poynton told the squad seated on the basketball floor behind the second-place trophy. "You are in very rare company. It's a phenomenal achievement that I will celebrate through you.
"But there is something bigger at work here to remember: family, teammates, coaches, supporters. It's about community. That's the bottom line for me. This is a community and, win or lose, we support our own."
Kildeer Mayor Nandia Black also spoke and got the crowd fired up, at one point saying she wanted to proclaim "this is Bears football appreciation day all across America" on behalf of village residents.
Sunday's festivities started with the parade at Lions Park on Main Street in downtown Lake Zurich, which went north on Church Street and ended at the high school. Police and fire vehicles with sirens sounding were followed by the players, marching band, and cheer and pom squads.
Team captains Colton Moskal, Sam Walstrum, Sean Lynch and Noah Allgood stepped forward toward the end of the rally. Walstrum thanked the community for its support and the coaching staff for its dedicated work in helping the players become successful on and off the field.
Lynch, a senior running back/defensive back, gave the crowd an idea of what Lake Zurich was up against in Mount Carmel when he relayed what an official said to him during Saturday's game.
"He looks over at Mount Carmel and he looks back at us, he looks at me and he goes, 'So, where's all the big kids?'" said Lynch, drawing laughter from the spectators. "I looked at him and I laughed and I said, 'This is it.' He goes, 'So how did you guys get here?' and I pointed at my chest."
Head coach Dave Proffitt thanked the fans for attending the rally after a lopsided loss that was painful to the players. He said the reaction from his team is what he would have expected, because the coaches teach the teenagers to play football with plenty of passion.
"Yes, it didn't go our way," Proffitt said, "But I'll tell you this: I didn't see any blue-jerseyed young man giving in. We teach them things in life. Football is a great arena for teaching young people about life."