The campaign to Champaign: Looking back at 2004 state champions


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Nov. 30 will mark the ten year anniversary of the 2004 football team’s state title. DGN defeated Maine South by a score of 33-13 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. The Trojans finished the season with a (12-2) record including a (5-1) mark in conference. The team was led by a defense that allowed less than 13 points a game including three shutouts. Junior quarterback and West Suburban Silver Conference Player of the Year, Garret Edwards, paced an offense that scored nearly 35 points a game.

The football state title was the first in DGN boys’ school history. Coach John Wander took over the program as head coach before the 2002 season. That season started a run of six playoff appearances in seven seasons under Wander. Including the 2014 season he has compiled a (76-64) record and eight total appearances in the IHSA playoffs.

During the 2003 season, the team went undefeated in the regular season. The Trojans run for a state title ended in a semi-final loss to eventual state champion Oswego High School 28-7. Expectations were high for the following season because of the 29 seniors returning.

Returning senior Cody Cielenski was a key member of the defensive unit that forced more than 30 fumbles. As an individual, Cielenski posted 22 sacks, the sixth highest in Illinois history for a single season. Returning senior running back Sean Conroy was part of the option offense that ran for over 270 yards a game.

Following his record setting season, Cielenski was recruited by multiple colleges, but ultimately chose Western Michigan University. As a Bronco he registered 12 career sacks. Edwards was recruited by Iowa State and Purdue, but chose to play at the University of Illinois. During his Fighting Illini career he compiled 100 tackles, four pass breakups and an interception.

Former Trojan running back Max Gilbert has returned to coach at DGN. He serves as an assistant coach with Wander. Jack Brady, an offensive and defensive lineman, attended Harvard following his DGN football career. He competed in track and field as a thrower and has the tenth furthest discus throw in school history (164’7”). He now is an assistant coach for track and field at Harvard.


Q&A with the former players of 2004 state champs team

Matt Briscoe:

  1. How has winning State impacted your life?

It was a great experience.  It is an achievement that I am proud of.  It was a top to bottom team effort, and it is an example of what can happen when everyone is striving for a common goal.

  1. How do you think you contributed to winning the title?

As a Captain I like to think my leadership contributed to some degree, but I just did my part.  Everyone on the team contributed.

  1. What do you think made it possible for that team to win State?

It was a mix of talent and hard work.  The whole team was made up of guys who loved to play football and we were always pushing each other.  Probably a little bit of luck too.

  1. Do you remember how you felt when you won?

It was a great feeling.  The bus ride back from Champaign was a lot of fun.  I think the DGPD met us when we got back to Downers Grove and drove in the front of the bus with their lights and sirens on.  We thought we were big time.

  1. Did you play football in college?

I went to the University of Illinois, does intramural flag football count?


Max Gilbert:

  1. What is it like to be an assistant coach for a team that you played on?

Coaching at DGN has a lot more meaning to me because I was student here and also played for most of the coaches that I now work with.  We have a great group of guys who coach here and it’s honestly just a lot of fun day in and day out.

  1. What are some of your best/worst memories from that season?

There are tons of awesome memories from that season!  One that sticks with me is at halftime of the Glenbard West game. Coach Wander had the team sitting under the tree at Duchon Field and gave the team a little pep talk.  You could say he talked some sense in the team and it was from that point on that we started to have things really click. An off field memory will always be the nights we went to Fuddruckers, which the boys still do!

  1. Do you remember the feeling you had when you won the title?

Of course, it’s something that you’d never forget.  I always think about the seniors and how cool it was that the last high school football game they ever played was winning the 8A state championship.  I mean how can you top that?

  1. How do you think you contributed to winning the title?

We didn’t have a big team from a numbers aspect but like any other team sport every player has a role and contributed. It takes an entire roster to win a championship, not just the guys who make the paper.

  1. How has winning State impacted your life?

For one thing, it’s made DGN a pretty special place for me.  One of the dad’s spoke to us during our post season banquet and one of the things he talked about was that as players we will forever being linked together. He told us that as years go by and as we get older football will be what we talk about.  He’s been right so far, when you see a guy you played with, the first thing I always think about is football.


Bill Kleckner:

  1. What were some of the best and worst moments you can remember from that season?

After a 2 and 2 start our team stayed the course believed in themselves and continued to improve leading to a State Championship. That was the best.

  1. How did winning the title impact your life?

It did not impact my life but it was a sense of a great accomplishment it is something that every team in the state of Illinois has as a goal.

  1. What were some aspects of the team that made it possible for them to win a title?

First of all it was talent. Next, it had experience with 6 players who were 3 year starters and lastly, it had excellent leadership.




Damian Margarites | Advertising Editor
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