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Boys soccer: Hinckley-Big Rock marks 1,000 match in program history

Updated: October 12, 2012 6:16AM

When it comes to the storied success of Hinckley-Big Rock boys soccer, yet another historic milestone is about to be added to the Royals’ tradition-rich program.

Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. home date with Hiawatha marks the 1,000th varsity match for the program that traces its roots to 1970. One of the first high schools in the state of Illinois to have a soccer-only field with lights has a trophy case that would make any larger school envious.

Hinckley-Big Rock is hoping many of its most storied alums will be in attendance for the festivities expected to begin at 5:45 p.m. following a JV contest.

The H-BR cheerleaders and Royalettes dance team aim to fire up the fans while student council members sell commemorative T-shirts.

With the Royals (8-2) considered the favorites heading into a Monday Little Ten Conference match at Paw Paw, the Wednesday home date could potentially be the school’s 720th triumph. The current all-time record is 718-223-57 — a .748 winning percentage for the 43 seasons.

The school’s tradition assumed Hoosiers-like notoriety in 1979 when Hinckley-Big Rock posted a 7-1 quarterfinal victory over Niles North in order to reach the IHSA semifinals in the days when there was only one class. With no third-place contest, H-BR’s season ended in a 2-0 loss to state champion Granite City South.

Three of H-BR’s five Elite Eight appearances came during the single-class era. Four of the eight sectional trophies also date back to the single-class period, as do eight of the school’s 11 regional plaques. Much of the success came under the tenure of Larry Peppers, whose 571 victories remain the IHSA record for most career wins.

Since 1970, Hinckley-Big Rock has claimed 20 Little Ten Conference crowns, nine LTC Tourney titles, and first place trophies from seven Stillman Valley Invitationals, three Peoria Bergren Tournaments, and one Rockford Auburn Tournament.

“While I’m glad to be associated with the program, it’s always been about the kids,” Peppers said. “They’re the ones you remember and they’re the ones who understood and created H-BR’s legend of playing hard for the win. Their pride and commitment in the program fed itself.

“Plus we were always fortunate to have people in the community willing to help the program, be it lights, bleachers or maintaining the facilities.”

Current scoring leader Bernie Conley, the fifth player in H-BR history to amass over 100 career goals, is aiming to catch Kevin Schmidt (121 career goals) — the school’s first player to once hold the IHSA scoring standard. Others ahead of Conley are Ryan Salazar (123), Justin Stiles (133) and John Thurow (142), who is still No. 5 on the all-time IHSA list.

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