The dream season keeps playing out perfectly for Dakota Upchurch.
The Harrisburg High School senior gave Southern Illinois University a verbal commitment Tuesday night, where he will continue his football playing career.
As a member of this past year's HHS football team, Upchurch was named All-State in 4A as he played a key role on the Bulldogs' playoff run through Class 3A, where Harrisburg reached the semifinals.
"This is definitely a dream come true," Upchurch said Wednesday morning. "Ever since my freshmen year, this is what I have been dreaming about; a chance to play football at the college level."
Upchurch admitted that even playing for SIU was part of the dream equation.
The Salukis first got a look at Upchurch when the Bulldogs traveled to Murphysboro on Sept. 14, a game in which Harrisburg won 28-25 and a game that Upchurch says was his best.
"I knew they were there. I knew I had one shot to show them what I had."
Whether or not that game sold the Salukis on Upchurch will likely never be known, but just for good measure, Upchurch went on to be named a unanimous selection for Southern Illinois River-To-River All Conference at offensive line and defensive line, as well as, All South (defensive line), All State and won Harrisburg's Most Valuable Defensive Lineman award as he finished with close to 100 tackles on the season and recorded double digits in sacks.
Harrisburg head coach Jason Roper recognizes what Southern Illinois University did and couldn't be happier.
"For coach (Dale) Lennon and his staff to recognize Dakota and his ability and for him to be recruited by SIU, I think says a lot about them as a staff. As far as Dakota, for him to have the opportunity to play at SIU, a kid from the area to play close to home, is just unbelievable."
Upchurch will sign with the Southern Illinois University on Feb. 6 at Harrisburg High School. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound senior said that like any high school player with hopes of playing at the next level, his signing with SIU will be the realization of countless hours of hard work and sacrifices.
"A lot of what I did and a lot of what I was able to accomplish this year is because of my family. I also know that playing for SIU is going to be a whole new level of football, so by no means do this mean I can stop working towards my goals. If anything, I know now I have to work harder."
Upchurch believes he will keep his position of defensive end when he arrives in Carbondale.
SIU utilizes a 3-4 defense that includes one nose guard, a defensive tackle and two defensive ends. A scheme Upchurch is very familiar with as it's the same one he used while at Harrisburg.
Page 2 of 2 - "Everything is just paying off right now," Upchurch said. "All that time in the weight room, the sacrifices. It's just good to know that hard work really does pay off."
Michael Dann can be reached at hbgsports@dailyregister. com Follow Michael Dann on Twitter @spydieshooter.