A tradition etched in history

Amy Carton

Geneseo football has been recognized as one to the top high school football programs in the state of Illinois in a newly released book entitled “Dusty, Deek, and Mr. Do-Right- High School Football in Illinois.”

The book was written by Taylor Bell of Chicago and published by University of Illinois Press in Champaign. Bell has covered mainly high school sports, but also professional sports in Illinois for more than 40 years for papers such as the Chicago Daily News and Chicago-Sun Times.

“My wife and other people suggested I do a book, so I made some proposals about football and basketball,” said Bell, who retired in 2001. “I did a basketball book and then two other sports publishings and then the University of Illinois Press asked me to do a football book. I was excited because to my knowledge there has never been a book on high school football in Illinois.”

In the book, Bell chronicles stories of top Illinois players, coaches, teams, games, small schools, midsized schools, large schools.

Geneseo’s first mention is in Chapter 2: The Coaches, where there is a section called Bob Reade: A Wise Decision. In the pages, Bell talks about how Reade came to Geneseo in 1962 and how he built his program and the success he found over his years at the helm.

“Bob was an easy choice because of his record,” said Bell. “I think he ranks second or third on the all-time coaching records for victories.

“Reade was an exceptional story, but he was too modest to mention it, but someone else said that at his interview for the job, Geneseo was coming off two years where they hadn’t won a game and the board said they had two options. The first was to drop the football program and the second was to hire Reade.”

Bell said that people are familiar with the success Geneseo has had since the playoffs began in 1974, but he also wanted to highlight the teams and players who had success prior to the state playoffs.

“There were a lot of great teams and players and Geneseo had already established themselves prior to the state playoffs,” he said.

To do research on Geneseo for the book, Bell turned to Geneseo High School athletic director Travis Mackey who put him in contact with former players and coaches who could shed light on the history of the program.

Geneseo’s second mention in the book was in Chapter 3: The Teams, with a section devoted to Geneseo 1976: The Green Machine. In the pages, Bell chronicles the 1976 team that won Geneseo’s first state title and went 13-0.

“There were pretty good arguments for several of Geneseo’s team’s, but the 1976 championship was a very special thing for Geneseo,” said Bell. “It was the school’s first state championship and put Geneseo on the map state wide for their reputation.”

Geneseo’s third mention was in Chapter 6: Midsized schools, with a section entitled Geneseo: Five Decades of Excellence.

In the pages, Bell discusses the success the program has had over the years from the streak of 52 games without a loss, to three state championships in the 1970s, another state title in the 1980s and three second-place finishes in the 1990s.

“(A section on Geneseo) was a no brainer,” said Bell.?“Reade established it as a top program in the state and the guys who followed him have sustained it. Geneseo is a trademark for great programs in the state. The winning is there and the support from the boosters and the community is there.”

Bell began work on this book December 2007 and his deadline for completion was January 2009. Over that time, Bell interviewed over 350 former players, coaches and administrators, including from Geneseo — Reade, Bob Orsi, Steve Penney,?Wayne Strader, Barry Pearson, Larry Johnsen Jr., Ted McAvoy and Denny Diericx.

“I wanted to try to catch everything,” said Bell. “I am pleased with it and I think the cover set the tone.”

The book is available for purchase online and, if not already, should be in stores such as Barnes and Noble and Borders shortly.