Football feud: High school rivalry lives on

By Jessi Haish

Chants of “Go home, Sycamore” could be heard from Huskie Stadium Friday, but that didn’t stop Sycamore High School from taking home a trophy for winning a football game for the sixth year in a row.

The Castle Challenge, organized by Castle Bank, between DeKalb and Sycamore football was another chapter in the schools’ rivalry. The teams met at Huskie Stadium and funds raised benefited both schools’ sports boosters. The final score was 48-26. The Castle Challenge was started in 2000 as a way to support local sports boosters, bringing together sponsors and the towns for healthy competition.

The event was one of the last of its kind for seniors at both schools. Sycamore senior Michael Hermes said the event had a “surreal feeling.”

Hermes considers himself a “superfan” and created a formal outfit, complete with a blazer, for the event with yellow duct tape. Hermes said he was at home preparing for the game and saw the yellow duct tape and “everything felt right.”

“I’m happy for the time that I’ve had,” Hermes said. “I feel very lucky to have lived and grown up in a community like this where we have the university and we have DeKalb and Sycamore, and it’s such a good rivalry.”

On the other side, DeKalb senior Will “the Orange Man” Ferguson reflected on his last rivalry football game in an orange body suit.

“It didn’t really hit me until just now,” Ferguson said. “It’s weird. But I’m going to make sure this game is the best.”

Ferguson said his DeKalb pride runs in the family, following in the steps of his older brother, who also attended DeKalb schools.

DeKalb pride is also a tradition for second ward alderman Bill Finucane. Finucane represented the city at the game for Mayor John Rey, who was in Idaho with NIU President Doug Baker for the Huskies-Vandals game Saturday.

“It was a unique experience for me, especially since I’ve been here since my freshman year at NIU 43 years ago,” Finucane said. “I’ve been going to the games even before my children went there.”

Finucane said all three of his children went through DeKalb schools.

For Sycamore principal Tim Carlson, the event has been a change of pace since he switched from Sycamore athletic director to his current role in 2008.

“I’m not so much running the event but keeping track of the kids,” said Carlson, who was standing near Sycamore’s student section.

Carlson said it was his 14th rivalry football game, spread over his years as a teacher, athletic director and principal.

The event brings together the efforts of not only the football teams, families and fans, but also the schools’ bands.

Sycamore band director Ken Goodman said the Sycamore band held many practices leading up to the event and said the crowd is one of their biggest of the year.

By the game’s end, members of DeKalb’s band rebelled and approached Sycamore’s side, starting a band battle between the competing groups. A handshake between sides at the end settled the battle with a truce.