Here’s Why I’ll Always Love Fans of the 1981 Liberty Eagles
The year was 1981. Nationally, Jimmy Carter left the presidency. Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States in January of that year. The Iran Hostage crisis finally came to an end. Locally, the Quincy Senior High School Basketball Blue Devils captured the Illinois State 2A Championship with a win over Proviso East High School and the Liberty Eagles took 4th place after losing to Cairo in Champaign in the Class 1A Basketball Tournament. For those who were here in 1981, basketball was on the minds of everyone. It was like a fever….everybody had it. People were saying that Coach Jerry Leggett and the Quincy Blue Devils may have the best team not only in the state, but perhaps the entire country. They answered the state question in March of that year. Meanwhile, Coach Paul Kreke had the Liberty Eagles clicking on all cylinders as well. They were “the little school that could” and eventually did that year.
In 1981, people pulled for all the teams in the area. You didn’t have to be from Liberty to become a fan. The signs were everywhere for the Eagles to succeed at “State”. When the Eagles were playing at Champaign, the Blue Devils had to go through Liberty to play in the Super-Sectional game against Kankakee Westview in Bloomington at Illinois State University. There was no I-72 then, so it was a trip on Highway 104 eastbound that took the Q.H.S. team and their fans through Liberty. I was driving there as well as I was the play-by-play broadcaster for the Q.H.S. games.
I still can remember all of the blue “Run Devil’s Run” signs posted in the yards of the people of Liberty, right next to the red “Go Eagles” signs as well. Here is a small town that had rallied around their own team that took the time to rally behind the Blue Devils as well. How cool was that?
When Liberty lost their title chances that fateful week in March of 1981, it was like the Blue Devils said, we are going to win this thing (state title) for both of us. It was 1981. It was a different time than now. I will never forget the basketball fever that went through this area that year. I’m not sure it has ever been the same since. Kudos to the fans of 1981 and especially the Liberty Eagle fans who showed a lot of class.