Sports are arguably one of the most inclusive aspects of regular high school life. Whether you are the star player on the team, or one of the many fans packing the stands, cheering and chanting for your favorite team, many people are, in some way, affiliated with high school sports.
Despite the sheer amount of talent possessed by some of the players, the pride and spirit of the student sections, and the calm, level-headed wisdom of the coaches, high school sports, even extremely popular ones such as football, receive very little coverage outside of local media, local news outlets and coverage affiliated with the state series and playoffs.
While it makes sense that a high school basketball team would not be nearly as well known as the Chicago Bulls, there are significant highlights and moments of blazing glory associated with both, from spectacular student sections, perilous plays, and moments forever seared into the memory of those who witnessed them. One man changed the game for high school sports coverage. One man with a dream that built a legacy on high school talent, stats, highlights, and clips. That man is Sloche.
Derrick Echols, the man behind the website known as Sloche, has made a name for himself through his careful and attentive coverages on Illinois sports. While he writes coverages and status updates for professional sports organizations such as the Chicago Bulls, including spotlights on famed player DeMar DeRozan, and the Chicago Bears, with one example being a closer look at quarterback Justin Fields, Echols is primarily known for his devoted and loyal attention to high school sports. In fact, Libertyville High School’s football team has been featured twice on the page. As a result, the Wildcats have cemented themselves as a standout in teams across Illinois.
One example of this Wildcat trend of being featured on Sloche’s page came from the 2021-22 football season, when the Libertyville Wildcats took on the Warren Blue Devils. Despite losing heavily to the now state-ranked Blue Devils, Libertyville students dressed in pink for the game were featured on the Sloche account’s highlights reel when they, according to Sloche, “played the harmonica while losing by 35.” Sure enough, a video later shown in a highlight reel on the page clearly showed several students playing and singing a rendition of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Morale in the bleachers rose high despite an overwhelming defeat in the background.
Junior Jack Gold, who has previously played basketball for Libertyville High School, was one of the several players who had the chance to meet Echols himself at a game during the 2021-22 season. Gold spoke highly of the work that Sloche’s account has done for Illinois high school sports. “He impacted Illinois sports on the whole,” Gold said, later stating that the account also had an impact on “athletes that were good and needed to be recognized.” Gold also shared his thoughts on the legacy that a page like Sloche will have on the sports field. “I think he was a part of a major trend towards putting everything on social media,” Gold said. “He, as well as other people like him, do a very good job of giving recognition to more schools.”
The interactions between Derrick Echols, the Sloche account and LHS did not end after 2021, but have continued. One example of this happened on September 2, 2022. With a record of 0-1, the home team faced off against the Evanston Wildkits in a heated football battle. Not only did the Wildcats win, but they were once again featured in a Sloche highlight reel. This time, a coach on the team was recorded doing a backflip in the locker room with cheers in the background.
Junior Henok Wojack, a soccer and basketball player for LHS, is another student athlete who has met the man behind the account. During the game where Gold met the sports icon, Wojack was given the opportunity to do the same. Wojack has been following the account since he was in eighth grade, the same year that sports worldwide suffered a tremendous blow with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before his eyes, the account has grown tremendously. Sloche has now reached roughly 90,000 followers, over 2,500 posts, and currently advertises his own official merchandise shop. Wojack also admires how Sloche has the ability to bring competing schools closer together and celebrate the best of all teams, by enabling them to enjoy the game “instead of competing for conference.”
Another feature that Sloche is known for, besides its wildly popular highlight reels, is its ranking systems for sports such as football and basketball. These rankings, provided by the Chicago Sun Times, are featured regularly on the Sloche account’s page. During the respective seasons, a weekly list of the top ten teams statewide is posted on Sloche’s home page, including useful information such as the team’s current rank, their previous rank on the list, and a quality photo of the team or a specific player on the team. These rankings give credit to the best of the best, teams that have fought tooth and nail to be the true outstanders in their respective sports.
One example is the Simeon Wolverines, a team that came into the season unranked and relatively unknown. Following the games played on September 2, 2022, the Wolverines earned a special place on the page when they upset Bolingbrook then ranked fifth in the state, defeating them in that night’s football game with a final score of 35-30. Schools like Simeon have no doubt benefited from the extra coverage and support provided by the account, which gives all schools, regardless of location or ranking, a chance to make history.
The legacy of Derrick Echols and his account cannot be overstated. Through his tireless efforts and constant care for Illinois sports, he has brought a new incentive to high school competitions: now, every Illinois school has a chance to be featured, to gain the recognition they deserve, and to gain the admiration of the man known as Sloche.