Taft to play at Soldier Field in rematch of 1960 Prep Bowl
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School football team will face Mount Carmel High School next August at Soldier Field in a rematch of the 1960 Prep Bowl that drew 71,000 people.
The Taft Eagles lost that game to the Caravan, a perennial powerhouse in football, 27-0. The Eagles and the Caravan will meet in the annual “Kickoff Classic,” which features several games on a single day at Soldier Field in late August, Taft principal Mark Grishaber said.
The first Prep Bowl was held in 1927, and for decades it was the premier high school game in the state, pitting the Chicago Public League champion against the Chicago Catholic League champion. A crowd of 120,000 was recorded at a Prep Bowl in the 1930s.
However, with the start of the state playoffs in 1974, the Prep Bowl began to lose some of its luster, and the size of the crowds have dropped significantly in recent years. The Prep Bowl, often held the last week of November, now features teams that do not make the state playoffs or that lose in the early rounds.
Taft football coach John Tsarouchas said that he attended the 2015 Prep Bowl at Gately Stadium and that there were no more than 300 people there, in part due to poor weather.
The 2002 Prep Bowl was the first not to be held at Soldier Field, where renovation work forced the game to be played at Hanson Stadium for one year. All but a few Prep Bowls have been played at Soldier Field.
Grishaber said that he hopes that the captains from the 1960 game can serve as honorary captains in the game in August.
Taft’s captain in 1960 was halfback Al MacFarlane. He played football at the University of Louisville and had short stint in the National Football League, as he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and later served on the reserve team for the Chicago Bears.
Grishaber has said that he wants Taft to play the best teams in the state, and he will get its wish in Mount Carmel, which has won 14 Prep Bowls and a dozen state championships.
Grishaber also hoped that Taft would be the first Chicago public school to win a state football championship, but Phillips Academy earned that distinction when it won the Class 4A title this year.
Fan support for Taft football is at its highest in a long time, Grishaber said. “We had 2,000 at our homecoming game,” he said.