DeKALB – The Illinois Chaos minor league football team lost its first-ever home game in DeKalb on Saturday, June 1. The team fell to the Stallions of Country Club Hills, 52-12.
"This is my old stomping ground right here," said Will Lewis of DeKalb, quarterback for the Chaos. Lewis, a 2007 graduate of DeKalb High School, was a quarterback for DeKalb and practiced on the field at what is now Huntley Middle School, the same field that the Chaos used for their first home game.
The Chaos previously played in Aurora, where they were known as the Kane County Chaos. The team is part of the Great Midwest Football League, a semi-pro summer league with 41 teams in seven states.
"When I heard they were coming to DeKalb I had to hop on the opportunity to get back on the field," Lewis said. Of the 52-man roster, 33 players list their hometown as DeKalb or Sycamore.
"There are some players who have played on NIU's teams," said Roger Votaw of DeKalb, who is helping to promote the team and generate community interest. "There are some high-quality athletes. They are serious, they are competitive, and they want to win."
"We need to make it something that the community can make its own," Votaw said. "There's really nothing that you can take the whole family to except an NIU game or high school game."
Chaos head coach Lloyd Hatcher said “we want to be DeKalb's hometown team during the summer.” He said the team struggled for five years to attract spectators in Aurora, adding that it was “hard to get that hometown buy-in there."
Hatcher said he is optimistic about the hometown feel of DeKalb and the early support of local fans. Char and John Marx of DeKalb sat huddled under an umbrella on the bleachers among a sparse crowd during a rain delay just before halftime June 1.
"We know one of the players, No. 99, Derrius Warren," John Marx said. "We are going to try to make it to all the home games."
"It would be nice to get some of the little kids out (and involved)," Char Marx said.
"We need to look at setting things up on the side that it would be fun and safe for kids to go to, like jumpy slides or a dunk tank," he said. The team is planning to have a Father's Day theme for its June 15 game; the July 6 game will have a patriotic theme.
"In remembrance of my father who was a firefighter for 26 years, we are having the National 9/11 flag for that game," Hatcher said. The 20-by-30-foot patchwork flag includes a flag that was partially destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack in New York, and has been restored using portions of flags from all 50 states, a small part of the flag that Abraham Lincoln was laid on after he was shot and threads from the original “Star-Spangled Banner” that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
“It’s something I feel is ... going to help the Chaos put its name on the map in DeKalb, but as well build its relationship with the community, say, ‘Listen, we’re not just some fly-by-night team, we’re here to stay,’” Hatcher told the Daily Chronicle. “We want to be part of the community, we want to give back to the community. And by bringing this flag, it’s just a great opportunity to do that and show the community what were able to do.”
Semi-professional players pay a fee to play on a team, and keep their college eligibility. Players can also earn college scholarships or play in arena leagues.
The team's four remaining Saturday home games will be held at DeKalb High School, 501 W. Dresser Road in DeKalb, with kickoff at 6:15 p.m. The next home game is Saturday, June 15, when the team takes on the Lake County Renegades. Tickets are $7, and kids 9 and younger are admitted free. Season ticket packages are available. For more information, find the team on Facebook or visit chaosfootball.com.