The 2017 Monroe City state champion football team will be forever linked with the 1994 Panthers squad, which was the first in program history to finish on top.
It’s common nature to compare a current championship team to those of the past.
It didn’t take long for the talk in Monroe City to commence after the Panthers claimed the Class 1 state championship on Nov. 25.
The state title marked the third time a Panthers team accomplished the feat and the first since 1996.
But this year’s championship team will be forever linked with the 1994 Panthers team, which was the first Monroe City team to win a football state championship.
The ‘94 Panthers finished with an unblemished 14-0 record.
The 2017 Panthers played one more game and finished a perfect 15-0.
One person associated with both teams is Jamar White.
A senior running back and defensive back on the ‘94 team, White is an assistant on this year’s team. The former player and now coach tried to rank the two teams.
“The comparison is already there,” White said. “I will say this. This year’s team is the closest-built team to our team in ‘94. I don’t know what would happen if you could line us up against each other, but this is the best team I have been around in 20 years.”
All the players from this year’s team are well aware of how their assistant coach’s team fared 23 years ago.
“Every single one of them brought up they won one more game than we did,” White said laughing. “But that is OK, because the one thing in common is I am a part of both of them.”
If White wants to get technical, he could proclaim his championship team finished with less defeats over a three-year period than this current Panthers team.
White cracked the Panthers varsity lineup his sophomore year. Monroe City went 10-1 in ‘92 and 12-1 in ‘93 before the first perfect season in ‘94.
This year’s senior class finished with a 3-8 record as sophomores and a surprising 11-4 last season.
It’s because of those 12 losses, mainly the eight defeats two years ago, that White says this team is more special.
“We never had to endure a 3-8 season like these guys did,” the defensive backs coach said. “When we won it I don’t recall ever shedding a tear. I remember being happy that we finally were able to win the big game, but this year’s team just had a different feel. You know what they have been through. And seeing them come together like they have, it’s something special. I think I was crying still two days later.”
Besides the perfect seasons, White mentioned the two teams shared a similar fate the season before.
“My junior year we went to Lutheran North and we got hammered,” White recalled of the 38-20 loss in the Class 2 semifinals. “And then last year, this team gets hammered by Penney in the championship game. When we came back my senior year we had the mindset we were going to go win it all. And that is exactly what this year’s team did.”
Although White helped shaped the Panthers defensive backs into a feared group this season, he stated he could not take any credit for their success.
“Yeah in ‘94 I could say I made some plays, but this year I can’t take any credit,” he said. “It’s like someone giving you the keys to a ferrari and and saying, ‘Hey, don’t wreck it.’ You just let them do their thing. They did it and they earned it.”
White would not state who he thought had the better overall season, but he did admit which he received more joy from.
“I hope my guys on the ‘94 team don’t get upset at me, but this one meant a lot more,” he said. “We will always be the first team to win it, but to overcome what this group has over the year and go 15-0, that is pretty special.”