Elgin-area superfan Dave St. John will be recognized at halftime of Friday night's boys basketball game between Larkin and Elgin for his unwavering support of the athletic programs of each high school.
St. John, 77, has deep ties to both schools. He is a 1954 graduate of Elgin High, where he met his wife, Nila (Class of '56).
The couple's five sons later attended Larkin. Three played sports. St. John soon became a fixture at Larkin sporting events. He even worked the chains for Royals home football games for 10 years. "That's when I got hooked," he said.
Through the years St. John has traversed Illinois to see both boys and girls sporting events with the same vigor. He has attended state championships in girls volleyball, softball, baseball, boys and girls cross country, girls basketball and wrestling, the latter of which he lists among his favorite events.
Remarkably, St. John has attended the boys basketball state finals every year since 1953, with the exception of the three years he served in the Army. Such support prompted his 2005 induction to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame as a friend of basketball.
Locally, St. John has witnessed every Town Jug football game contested between Elgin and Larkin since the inaugural meeting in 1963.
The two schools have squared off 124 times in boys basketball (Elgin leads the series 79-45) and St. John has been in the gym for most of them. He was a freshman in 1950-51 when Elgin hired a guy named Bill Chesbrough to replace John Krafft.
A board member of the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame himself, St. John is a recipient of that organization's Vic Masi award, which recognizes the contributions of volunteers who contribute to Elgin athletics.
Through it all, St. John never let on whether he preferred Larkin or Elgin.
"I'm sure they don't know who I am pulling for, and I don't tell anybody," he said. "I only want a good game, no blowouts. I wish games would end up in a tie. Let them flip a coin."
St. John has indulged his passion for prep sports since his retirement from the Elgin Sweeper Company 14 years ago. He attends Larkin or Elgin events primarily, but is known to pop up at other high schools in the nearby area when good matchups arise. He owns sweatshirts for several area teams, including the Royals and Maroons, but you won't catch him in either school's colors at the 125th meeting.
"I'll probably wear an orange sweatshirt and tell people I'm from St. Charles or DeKalb or something," he joked. "I'm neutral."
Huntley welcomes No. 1: It has been a few years since a team as talented as undefeated Fremd has paid a visit to Huntley.
The Vikings, ranked No. 1 in the Daily Herald Top 20 for the past three weeks, drop in for a rescheduled nonconference game on Monday at 7 p.m. Fremd enters weekend games against rival Palatine and at Evanston with an 18-0 record.
Led by 6-foot-4 senior guard Riley Glassmann, 6-6 senior forward Ben Carlson and 6-4 forward Matt Ochoa, the Vikings represent the stiffest test No. 11 Huntley (14-4) has faced on home hardwood since Jacobs invaded with Johnny Moran and Conrad Krutwig on Jan 11, 2008.
"They are very good and well coached," Huntley coach Marty Manning said of Bob Widlowski's veteran squad. "They know exactly what they are looking to do, which is a big thing in high school basketball. They understand their roles and what they want to accomplish offensively and defensively. You can tell they've played together for a long time. They have talent and physicality with their big guys, which is tough to overcome.
"From our perspective it's a great test to see how we defend against them. And it will be interesting to see how aggressive we are offensively and what kind of shots we take."
Stop and start: Thursday's Upstate Eight Valley contest at East Aurora ended the second 13-day break between games for Bartlett in a little over five weeks.
The Hawks were idle from the end of the Jacobs Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28 until a home game against Metea Valley on Jan. 10.
Then came a cluster of activity with 7 games in 10 days, including the Wheaton Warrenville South Martin Luther King Tournament. Bartlett has been idle since a 39-29 loss to Waubonsie Valley on Jan. 24. It was the third straight loss for the Hawks and it dropped their record to 13-10 overall, 3-5 in the UEC Valley.
"It's the weirdest schedule I've ever been part of," said coach Jim Wolfsmith, whose team went 6-9 after a 7-1 start. "You go through a sequence with all those games in a short time, and we played like it at the tail end of that run. It's just been bizarre, like having a double-bye."
Bartlett's seventh-year coach said his team used the break to begin mentally preparing for the postseason since the Hawks were out of the UEC Valley race.
"If you're not in the conference race, then all you care about is getting ready for the postseason," Wolfsmith said. "Every practice has been fine tuning, taking lessons from recent games and getting better."
A shot to remember: Harvest Christian Academy senior John Vislisel scored his 1,000th career point last Thursday in a 75-30 win over Faith Lutheran, but the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for a player who scored his first career points.
Junior Nate Ellis isn't going to threaten Vislisel's school scoring record anytime soon. A 6-foot-6 center playing basketball for the first time at the age of 17, his skill set lags behind many of his teammates due to inexperience.
Nevertheless, Ellis got his chance to shine when Harvest Christian coach Jeff Boldog inserted him in the lineup in the fourth quarter of a decided game. Soon thereafter, Ellis caught a pass to the left of the lane, turned and immediately fired a jump shot so smooth it looked like he'd made 1,000 of them. "Confidence is the key," he would say later.
Ellis' teammates were beyond thrilled to see him score his first career basket. As soon as the ball cleared the rim, the Harvest bench exploded with joy, reacting in a manner normally reserved for game-winning shots. The crowd erupted, too. Ellis loved it.
"It was just an amazing feeling seeing the bench light up like that," he said. "It's a great feeling to hear the crowd roar and hear your teammates cheering for you on the court. I'll take that with me to my grave."