Double the celebration
If you ask anyone who lived in Woodstock in the fall of 1983 what was special about their hometown that year, they will more than likely tell you it was high school football. That fall, Marian Central Catholic High School and Woodstock High School accomplished the nearly impossible, when both teams won IHSA football championships — Marian in Class 2A and WHS in Class 4A.
At the beginning of the season, neither team was projected to have much success. Both teams would take different paths to their championships. Marian dominated throughout the year and finished the season 13-0, outscoring opponents 464 to 99 with six shutouts.
“In conference, we mowed everyone down week to week,” said former Marian athletic director Hans Rokus. “We knew it was one of those destiny-type years. It was very special.”
WHS started the season 2-2 and almost didn’t make the playoffs. In 1983, teams had to win their conference to qualify for the postseason. WHS played in several close games but persevered, winning the next nine games to finish 11-2.
“Basically, it was win or go home,” said former WHS football head coach Bob Bradshaw. “Then we played [Chicago Height’s] Marian Catholic in a non-conference game in the middle of the season. They were ranked No. 1 in 5A. We beat them at home [21-12]. That was a crucial point in the season. We knew we could play with anyone at that time.
“We went into the playoffs with a 7-2 record, and no one thought much about us. We snuck up on teams as we got better and better.”
Both teams had something most high school teams do not – quarterbacks who would eventually start in the Big Ten. For Marian, it was Chuck Hartlieb, who would play at the University of Iowa. For WHS, it was Greg Bradshaw, who would play at Northwestern University.
For Hartlieb, whose father Lou was Marian’s dean of students and whose brother Andy was starting running back, the experience was both surreal and special.
“It was more a culmination of three or four playoff games with us not having any idea what the experience was like,” Hartlieb said. “We were in seventh heaven. Each practice and each game had such an excitement about it.
“Part of me was just shaking my head thinking, ‘I can’t believe we’re going through this.’ The other part was [thinking] we were winning so easily that it was too good to be true. Being a part of the Marian culture all my life and being part of the first state championship was very special.”
Bradshaw shared the championship with his father, who was head coach.
“Of course, for my dad and me it was special,” said Bradshaw, who is now pastor of Harvest Baptist Church in Crystal Lake. “He had never won state before. He was really close with all my friends and their parents. It was a really special year for us to do it. We were really one big family.”
The state finals were held at Illinois State University. Since Marian was in a smaller class, the team played on Friday night. Rokus was part of the broadcast team for WMCW AM1600 that covered the game.
“During the game, it was clear we were going to win,” Rokus said. “During the broadcast, I started setting the scene. We knew we had history in the making. Within 24 hours, the community of Woodstock would be celebrating two state championships, which I said at the time would never happen again.”
Marian easily defeated Bloomington Catholic 34-14.
The WHS game was on Saturday and was not broadcast, but parents called back to Woodstock with updates. The Streaks played Washington and, with the score 35-7 at halftime, coach Bradshaw emptied the bench in the second half. The Streaks won the game 41-28.
The city of Woodstock greeted its champions. Both the fire and police departments met each team on Route 47 and led them into town.
“Cars were lined up for a parade, greeting us and honking horns,” Rokus said. “It was a first for our community. There were a lot of hugs, a lot of tears and a lot of joy. When we got off the bus, the kids got on the fire trucks and we went around the square. That was probably the highlight for the kids – holding up the trophy and getting the congratulations of the well-wishers.”
“It was great,” said assistant coach Terry Stanger, who was in his first year coaching at Marian and is still on staff. “Pulling into town was awesome, with the fire trucks and police out and people alongside the road. It was awesome.”
According to Bradshaw, the WHS championship almost didn’t happen. Woodstock School District 200 had considered eliminating sports programs that year.
“The community raised money to keep the programs,” Bradshaw said. “We had a walk-a-thon that raised $80,000. All of that brought the community together and made it more special. It was a very exciting and memorable time.”
Andy Hartlieb, now President of American Community Bank and Trust, summed up the entire experience.
“Knowing we were going to win was the greatest feeling I had in sports – when you get to the top of the mountain and you are able to celebrate it with your best friends and your brother,” Hartlieb said. “It doesn’t get better than that. You play sports your whole life and dream of opportunities like that. It was an awesome feeling.
“The community showed such tremendous support. It was such an exciting time in Woodstock. The town put on a celebration. It was a historic moment and, looking back, it was a thrill to be part of it.”