By Gabe House
Sun Jan 11, 2009, 02:06 AM CST
Stefan Flynn spent the last several months running.
Flynn wasn't running from anything, but rather, toward one thing in particular: a state championship.
The prolific tailback from the Illini West Chargers - who sported an undefeated 14-0 record and captured the IHSA 3A state championship - was instrumental in a football campaign that perfectly captured all the hallmarks of a storybook season.
"It was great, something I've been looking forward to all my life," Flynn said. "It was a great accomplishment, and it gives us a sense of pride. I think it gives our towns a sense of pride too."
But even as Flynn spoke of pride - as well he should with 1,552 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in a remarkable junior year - one could hear the humility tempering his voice.
The Chargers' opponents only saw one side of Flynn all season long - the bulldozing battering ram that refused to go down. What they all missed was the young man's supreme ability to remain modest while making trip after trip to the endzone.
"He's very humble," said Illini West head coach Jim Unruh. "When you go to interview him, I'm going to guess the first thing he's going to talk about is the offensive line he was able to run behind. He's very sincere in giving credit to other people."
And that is exactly what Flynn did. And has done all season long. Game after game, surrounded by a throng of media on the field, Flynn always deflected individual praise, instead opting to give credit to the members of his offensive line.
Ross Hutson, Kane Sherman, Travis Hobby, Kyle Hartzell and Luke Burling were the unsung heroes in Flynn's mind. If he said it once, he said it 14 times. Those guys were the reason he rolled up a ton of yards and points throughout the season.
"All of them put in the time in the off-season," Flynn said. "They all had the same goal to win a state championship. They work just as hard, if not harder, than anyone on the team."
And all that hard work paid off.
Between Flynn, his offensive line and Unruh's stalwart single-wing offense a perfect storm had coalesced for the Chargers. Just one year after getting bounced out of the playoffs in the first round with a 7-2 record, Illini West turned around and surprised many pigskin pundits with its domineering ways.
Illini West's championship run came just two years after the towns of Carthage, LaHarpe and Dallas City converged to become the singular entity known as the Chargers. As playoff season descended on Carthage, signs sporting such slogans as "3 towns, 1 Dream" dotted the roadways and schoolyard.
And with three communities providing support - and young men eager to play football - the Chargers never had a lack of a fervent fan base, something Flynn particularly enjoyed.
"The fans are great and they come out to every single game," Flynn said. "We had just as many people at the state game as we had at our home games. It's a great help to hear them cheering you on."
The cheering has subsided for now, though. The Chargers proved themselves and ran the table. Now, Flynn has other things on his mind.
There's next season to think about, for one thing. And church. Flynn said he regularly attends services in Colchester and wouldn't have the success and accolades without that presence in his life.
Also, of course, there is school. Flynn - who said math is his favorite subject and engineering will be his chosen major - stays pretty busy with his studies. Engineering seems an apt choice for a young man who helped fabricate a banner season on the football field.
"I feel that the college coaches, if they're not already recruiting Stefan Flynn, then they're just asking to get fired," said Illini West athletic director Troy Noble. "He's only going to get better. He's a kid who's not satisfied ... because he realizes how fortunate he was this year."
When asked to sum up Flynn's character Noble also said if he had a daughter that Flynn, or someone like him, would be the ideal candidate to date her. That's a pretty big endorsement.
Flynn, though, wasn't sure how to take that one.
"Uh ... I don't know," Flynn said with a chuckle. "I might be a little scared if I was dating Troy Noble's daughter. I'd have to be running a few more wind sprints if I did something wrong."
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