DEKALB — Two years ago an injury-riddled Central A&M team limped into Argenta-Oreana and lost in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.
Jacob Paradee was a sophomore who missed the game with an injury and his older brother, Tate Paradee, was a senior on the team. They never got their moment for a deep playoff run, and Jacob said Tate likes to remind him of that.
In Friday's 58-20 loss to Lena-Winslow in the Class 1A state championship game, Jacob Paradee got to play his final football game with a brother at his side, his younger brother James Paradee.
“It’s awesome being able to play with my younger brother," Jacob Paradee said. "(Tate's) senior season, I actually got hurt. He puts the season on me. He says, ‘We lost in the playoffs because of you.’
“There’s nothing like playing with your younger brother. It’s awesome."
Jacob Paradee set the single-game record for receiving yards in a Class 1A state championship game with 157 yards, had a pair of receiving touchdowns and 14 tackles; James Paradee had one catch for 41 yards to go with four tackles and a tackle for a loss.
“It means a lot," James Paradee said. "He’s been a big part of helping me get better through the years. I owe a lot to him because he’s helped me a lot. He makes me work harder every day."
Their father, Joe Paradee, is an assistant coach on the team and was on the 1997 state championship team.
“It was super proud moment for me, seeing them be able to play together and do as well as they have done this year," Joe Paradee said.
On to basketball
When Central A&M head coach Brent Weakly took the job in 2015, he and head boys basketball coach — and football assistant Rob Smith, knew they were on the cusp of something. They saw this senior class when they were in eighth grade and issued a challenge: Repeat the Maroa-Forsyth method and win the football state championship and basketball state championship in the same school year.
Saturday's loss stops that goal one game short, but their legacy is cemented and basketball begins on Tuesday on the path back to the state final four in Peoria.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group of seniors," Weakly said. "When I took over, we were 0-9 and these guys were eighth-graders. I made a challenge to them to be the next team since Maroa in '06 and '07 to go football and basketball. We were right there at the doorstep for it. I’m super proud of these guys. Not many teams have the athletes to be able to do what these guys have accomplished."
The Raiders finished third in Class 1A in basketball last season and went to super-sectionals two years go. Quarterback Connor Heaton remembers the interaction in eighth grade with Weakly and Rob Smith clearly.
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“They both kind of chimed in about, ‘Hey, why don’t we win them both?'" Heaton said. "We just kind of bought in. We’ve always been competitive, always been a winning group. We just thought, hey, we’ve got the talent to do it. We might as well."
If Jacob Paradee had his choice, basketball would start tomorrow. Instead, they'll have a few days of practice beginning on Tuesday before starting to rev back up the engine in games.
“We want to be known as the winningest class in A&M or class in our area," Jacob Paradee said. "We want people to remember us forever."
Iowa commits pose challenges
Running into one Division I, Power Five conference commit in Class 1A is a rarity. Two of them on the same team — running back and defensive lineman Isaiah Bruce, and offensive and defensive lineman Gennings Dunker — is an issue. Both are headed to Iowa.
Bruce was a freight train in the back field, a mix of speed and power. Dunker set the tone in the trenches and was the lead blocker for most of the Panthers' 310 rushing yards
“They were both incredible players," A&M lineman Jeske Maples said. "Hats off to them. I don’t think I played up to my game, but I’m still proud of the rest of my line. We came out. We knew they were going to be good and they definitely were."
On the first play of the game, Jacob Paradee tackled Bruce and his helmet flew off.
“It’s crazy," Jacob Paradee said. "This is DI. It’s awesome to see where you’re at playing against a DI player. The first play I went up and tackled him and my helmet popped off."
Said Heaton: “We knew they had two Iowa kids before the game, so we were up for the challenge. That’s just unmatched. They were huge kids and fast as well. We couldn’t handle them today and that’s how it fared. Hats off to them. They played a great game. Hopefully they have a great year next year."
PHOTOS: Looking back at Central A&M football
Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25