Rob Oesterle: 2005 Morris
Having spent most of my time in and around Morris, it stands to reason that the best team I ever covered was the 2005 Morris team. It was the first year that Morris was in Class 6A for the playoffs, and they still went undefeated and won the state title.
But those that think the 2005 Morris team was John Dergo and a bunch of other guys are sadly mistaken. Yes, Dergo was the centerpiece, but the rest of the table was very well-dressed.
For example, there was Jamie Cumbie, a 6-foot-7, 260-something pound man-child who transferred in from somewhere in South Carolina and deservedly earned the nickname Big Country. As great as Dergo was as a running back, Cumbie was equally as dominant on the defensive line. When the situation called for it and he got a bit more amped up than usual, the poor quarterback on the other side had no chance. It's no wonder that he went back home to play his college ball at Clemson.
Cumbie was just one-half of the monstrous two tight-end set the Redskins employed, the other being 6-5 225 Dane Zumbahlen, who went on to have a nice career at Illinois State. And, let's not forget tackle Alex Perry (6-6. 250), who only went on to be a starter at Indiana. The rest of the line was big, too, and first-year coach George Dergo kept things simple. You knew who was going to get the ball. Heck, George would tell you if you asked him. But could you stop it? The answer was a resounding 'No.'
Defensively, with Cumbie stationed on one side of the line, Kyle Komperda as the linebacker on the other side and Dergo, a two-time state wrestling champion at 171 pounds, as the strong safety in the middle, there was nowhere for an offense to go, and they generally didn't. Cumbie's total of 24 sacks ranks as the third-best season total in IHSA history, according to IHSA.org.
Also according to IHSA.org, Dergo had one of the six 3,000-yard rushing seasons, 3,010 to be exact, in state history, and his total of 376 points scored ranks him second. He was on top when he graduated, but Aurora Christian's Anthony Maddie has since topped him in that category. He scored 52 touchdowns in 14 games and also kicked extra points. The few times the Redskins had to punt that season, he also took care of that. It's no wonder that the number 5 he wore on his jersey looked like an S. It was said that year that Superman wore John Dergo pajamas. I think even Chuck Norris wore John Dergo pajamas.
There were a lot of great players on that team, players that in other seasons would have been the unquestioned star. But they all knew who their leader was. There was no jealousy. They just wanted to win, and they knew what it took to do it. They had been brought through the system by one of the best to ever oversee a program in Dan Darlington and, when Darlington was gone and George Dergo took over, they took on some of George's one-of-a-kind, easy-going, yet intense, personality. It was a perfect match.
John Dergo had a habit of cutting back against the defensive flow once he got into the secondary, and his linemen knew it. They never gave up on a play. That showed itself in the season-defining win over Joliet Catholic Academy. Dergo broke loose was near the left sideline before cutting toward the middle of the field. Perry had finished off his block at the line and was sprinting behind Dergo, looking for someone else to hit. He found him. That poor JCA defensive back. I still don't think he knows what hit him.
That was the essence of that team. They knew each other so well. They knew what their teammates were going to do and where they were going to be, and they were always there to give each other a hand. It wasn't surprising to me when I heard that John Dergo had become a foreman for a scrap metal company and hired some of his former teammates. He knew he could always count on them.