Members of the Naperville Central High School football team don't really know what to do with themselves now that the season is over and their goal of winning a state championship is achieved.
They've celebrated with friends and family in the school's gym after returning victorious from DeKalb on Saturday night and they've marched through downtown Naperville on Sunday night in the Little Friends Parade of Lights.
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They've walked around red and white hallways like celebrities the past few days, and on Wednesday afternoon, they were the grand finale of an all-school recognition assembly for fall athletics and activities.
But Tuesday morning, even before presenting their Class 8A state championship football trophy to Principal Bill Wiesbrook, some of the Redhawks went back to the weight room, back to work.
Head coach Mike Stine said it's sad the team he's been calling "special" since August isn't able to practice together anymore.
"I've been saying since August, this is a special group of guys," Stine said Wednesday. "All the success they've gotten, they've earned and I told them that before we took the field Saturday."
But there is a next year for some of the team, like junior middle linebacker Bobby McMillen, and that brings new goals to be achieved by the same type of hard work that brought the seventh-seeded Redhawks past the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds into the championship spot.
"I can't remember seeing a team work as hard as this," McMillen said.
Wiesbrook said hard work is almost always worth it, and the fact some team members returned to lifting weights just three days after becoming champions proves it's a lesson well learned.
"Most of the time in life, effort and persistence pays off. It doesn't always result in championships and state trophies and promotions at work, but it usually pays off," Wiesbrook said before the assembly Wednesday. "It's just a great lesson for the team and the school."
Stine said the team dressed 94 players for the state championship game against Loyola. Winning it brought Naperville Central its second state football championship in school history, and its first since 1999.
"Playing in a state championship game is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," McMillen said. "It's been crazy."
Wednesday's recognition assembly was a bittersweet moment for players, who lingered in the gym after students were dismissed to take photos with the trophy and congratulate each other once again.
Parents like Laura Getzin, whose son, Max Getzin, is a senior defensive back, also called it bittersweet. A Naperville Central graduate herself, Getzin said the era of watching her son play football -- a phase that began when Max was in second grade -- has concluded.
"It has been a crazy ride -- amazing, exciting, endless," Getzin said. "It feels like it was a journey. They just were the underdog that got it done."