Mercer County's first appearance in the IHSA Class 2A state football finals at Champaign is without question the hottest ticket in Aledo and the surrounding area.
The high school's complement of 750 tickets for Friday's 1 p.m. championship showdown between the Golden Eagles (13-0) and Belleville Althoff (10-3) have already sold out, but game tickets will still be available at the Memorial Stadium box office at $10 apiece for fans making the trip.
For some of those fans, the ride down I-74 to the University of Illinois campus could come with a little added comfort and style. The school is arranging for a fan bus to leave Friday morning at 8. The cost is $5 per person, with a minimum of 20 paid riders needed in order for the trip to take place. Students of junior-high age or lower must be accompanied by an adult.
The bus is slated to leave Champaign about 45 minutes after the conclusion of the Mercer County-Althoff game, so that the participating fans may get to see the postgame trophy presentation before making the journey home.
Additionally, the Mercer County Booster Club is in charge of the school's space in "Tent City," adjacent to the stadium. Each year, the IHSA provides each participating school with tent space for tailgating and other pregame fan festivities.
First feast, then rally: After Golden Eagle fans get their fill of a different kind of bird today, they can cap their Thanksgiving activities by going to a 4 p.m. pep rally for the football team at the Mercer County gymnasium. The team is slated to depart for Champaign at 4:30 p.m., accompanied by a cavalcade of fans and local police and fire departments.
Bookending today's rally will be Sunday's welcome-home reception back at the high school gym, slated to begin at 3 p.m.
Make some noise: When Eagle fans reach Memorial Stadium on Friday, they will have the chance to bring a bit of George Pratt Memorial Field with them.
The IHSA is allowing noisemakers at this year's state contests, with the exception of whistles and horns. So, that means the homemade, rock-filled shakers that have become a tradition at Mercer County home games will get to travel along with their owners, known locally as "The Fans in the Stands."
Local crew to work 2A final: Adding to the local air surrounding Friday's 2A state final is that an area officiating crew will work the game.
Cambridge's Don Hulin, the father of Rockridge principal Katy Hasson and granddad to the Rockets' state-decorated track standout Devin Hasson and a 24-year veteran, will head up a quintet that includes Dave Mueller and Jon Pickering, of Neponset; Al Corwin, of Sheffield (Annawan volleyball coach Caitlyn Corwin's dad); and Ken Wilcoxen, of Walnut.
This is the second state final for this crew, which previously worked the 2007 1A title game between Galena and Tuscola. Also, this will be Pickering's swan song as he is hanging up his whistle following the game.
Today is Sunday, March 9, the 68th day of 2014. There are 297 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Much damage is being done to sidewalks, shade trees, fences and gardens by hogs that are running at large about town. 1889 -- 125 years ago: H.C. Cleveland was elected air knight captain of Rock Island Division Uniform Rank Knights of Pythias. 1914 -- 100 years ago: B.W. Wilson, authority on birds and their habits, spoke at the weekly luncheon at the Rock Island Club. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The famous Dionne quintuplets have been invited to visit King George and Queen Elizabeth in Toronto on May 22, but Papa Dionne thinks their majesties should include the Callander nursery in their tour. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Ever been smothered by funny stuff? Well more than 2,600 people were last night when two boys named Tom and Dick Smothers took a "rocky, twisting road to folk music" in Davenport Masonic Temple. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Moline residents soon may be asked to recycle part of their garbage and might even get paid for it.