By Steve Robinson | December 3, 2016 - 10:14 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

Steve RobinsonMike Clark is back in command of the athletic department at Normal Community High School. He had the post when NCHS’ current building opened in 2003, staying there for two years. At the time, Clark said, with two growing daughters at home, running that department with all its responsibilities didn’t always mesh with family activities or with his kids’ extracurricular schedules.

At the time, his two daughters were in 6th grade and in high school, which led to “my wife, Chris, and I wondering how much I was going to be out at the school and missing the kids’ events, potentially,” Clark explained. Those daughters are now out on their own in the world. Jaci lives in Maryland and Rachel lives in Michigan.

He said his family really enjoys this area and getting a position that would allow him to work in his chosen field while still having family time, at that point, might have meant leaving Normal and Unit 5. The Clarks had really begun to call Normal home and the prospect of having to leave was a definite possibility.

But then, as sometimes happens when you need it the most, an opportunity came, from within the district in the form of an assistant principal position at Parkside Junior High School. Clark applied for and got the job. It was a position he held for seven years before he returned to NCHS at the beginning of this school year. He succeeded Andy Turner, who took the A.D. job at Maine South High School in Park Ridge.

In his stint at PJHS, Clark said, “I took another step up the administrative ladder.” As an associate principal at the junior high, being A.D. was just one aspect of his job’s regular duties. He also was responsible for being in charge when the school’s principal was not present.

“As Associate Principal, you wear a lot of hats because you’re involved much more in the curriculum, you’re involved much more in teacher evaluation,” Clark said. “The principal is the building’s instructional leader.”

Clark said doing those other items he needed to do as associate principal meant “you just can’t devote the time to just being the middle school’s athletic director.”

“At the middle school level, when it comes to sports, it should be about skill development,” Clark said, adding that as a result, he said he would never talk to his coaches about wins and losses. “To me, the measuring stick was to find out how the kids were doing when they got to high school “because that’s what middle school should be preparing them for.”

Clark said he met with his team coaches when he arrived at NCHS and is also assessing some building needs. He said among the building needs is to find an area that can be dedicated for use by the Ironmen Wrestling team and to find a way to increase the size of the school’s weight room.

As part of that, Clark said, “I’m looking at ways to generate funds to meet some of those needs.”

The school does get support from boosters and families of students, something Clark is ever-mindful of. “We, first and foremost, appreciate the support we receive,” Clark said. “We are open to suggestions because, at the end of the day, we’re a public entity, so, if people have a question about something, we’d welcome their phone calls and emails.”

Clark is looking forward to receiving that input, because, from being at NCHS before, “I found NCHS to be a place of great support and a real positive group of people to be around.”

Mike Clark will, no doubt, will look forward to helping continue to foster that support during his tenure at NCHS. It will be interesting to see what develops there during his second time around.

By Steve Robinson | November 7, 2016 - 12:27 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Normal Community High School head football coach Wes Temples said he knew his team being boosted one class up, to Class 7A by Illinois High School Association, would mean facing tougher competition when the playoffs began two weeks ago.

Saturday at Ironmen Field, the 6th seed Ironmen were able to hold their own against 11th seed Lisle, Ill.-based Benet Academy for just one quarter before the visiting Redwings pulled away to win the game, 38-14, to advance to the State quarterfinals. The Ironmen finished their season with a 9-2 mark.

After punting to close out their opening drive after the game’s kickoff, Ironmen defenders did their best to stall Benet’s first drive. But a 33 yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jack Sznajder to junior wide receiver Jack Eschenbach put the Redwings on the scoreboard first, 7-0, following junior kicker Victor Karam’s extra point at 7:57 in the first quarter.

NCHS FootballNCHS responded on the ensuing drive, as senior quarterback Grant Price connected with senior running back Dakota Cremeens on a 45 yard scoring strike, followed by senior kicker Cooper Zogg’s extra point, tying the game, 7-7, with seven minutes left in the opening quarter.

Benet Academy (9-2) pushed forward later in the quarter, first by returning an Ironmen punt back to NCHS’ 34 yard line and then scoring two plays later on an 11 yard rushing touchdown from senior wide receiver Marty Dosen with 24 seconds left in the quarter, followed by Karam’s extra point. That pushed the visitors up, 14-7.

NCHS responded quickly on the ensuing drive which was highlighted by a 60 yard touchdown pass from Price to senior running back J. D. Villefuerte followed by Zogg’s extra point. That tied the score at 14-14 with five seconds left.

But from Karam’s 21 yard field goal at 9:36 in the second quarter, Benet Academy took a 17-14 lead and never looked back, while the Ironmen struggled.

Part of that struggle included Price being sacked with 2:10 left in the third quarter by Benet Academy defenders forcing him to leave the game. Sophomore backup quarterback Daylen Boddie took command for the remainder of the contest. After the game, Temples told reporters Price was being checked for a concussion.

IHSA“First off, congratulations to Benet Academy,” Temples said after the game. “That’s a darn good football team and they’re well-coached. They did a lot of good things. We were beaten by a better team by a bigger margin than you want. But my hat’s off to them. They did a good job.”

“In 7A playoffs, we took some strides,” Temples added. “But today, Benet was just better. They didn’t make mistakes, they made plays. You have to do that at this level. We’ll use this game as motivation and we’ll get better in the years to come.”

Benet Academy head coach Pat New his defensive coaches gave credit to NCHS’ staff for the “great scheme of plays” that led to the Ironmen’s first quarter touchdowns. “They are so well coached,” New said of the Ironmen. “I’m so impressed with how these guys play. They play physical and they love playing, I can tell.

“NCHS hit our receivers and they had a great pass rush, so how physical they were is what I was most impressed with,” New concluded.

By Steve Robinson | October 22, 2016 - 10:18 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – From the opening kickoff – literally – Normal Community High School made their intentions clear they were eager for the Illinois High School Association playoffs to start. To prove that, junior running back Nick Hesse took the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, putting the Ironmen up, 7-0, following senior kicker Cooper Zogg’s extra point.

That score was just the start for NCHS on their way to a 54-14 homecoming victory over Champaign Central in a Big 12 Conference regular season finale at Ironmen Field on Oct. 21. Champaign Central needed one more victory to look toward being considered for the playoffs.

Instead, NCHS, seeded 6th in Class 7A (8-1, 7-1 Big 12) will look to face 27th seed Belleville West (8-1) in the first round of the IHSA Class 7A playoffs.

NCHS added to their lead in the first quarter thanks to a 1 yard run from senior quarterback Grant Price at 7:43, capping a seven play 50 yard drive followed by Zogg’s extra point, putting NCHS up, 14-0.

Price added to that total at 5:55 in the second quarter connecting with senior wide receiver J. D. Villafuerte for a 20 yard touchdown pass, followed by Zogg’s next extra point, increasing the Ironmen’s lead, 21-0.

NCHS FootballChampaign Central (4-5, 3-5 Big 12) punted the ball away after their next possession and NCHS made quick work of the situation, scoring three plays later as Price scored on a keeper play from a yard out to get into the end zone, followed by Zogg’s extra point giving the Ironmen 28-0 lead at 3:58 in the second quarter.

When the Maroons surrendered the ball by punting to end their next series of downs, Price scored again, from 2 yards, out to complete the Ironmen’s next possession, with Zogg’s extra point helping give NCHS a 35-0 lead with 1:50 left until halftime.

NCHS got the ball to begin the second half and wasted no time getting back into Maroons territory and the end zone, scoring on a 16 yard pass from Price to senior wide receiver Steven Towns, followed by Zogg’s next extra point, putting NCHS up, 42-0, at 9:56 in the third quarter. Towns’ score also provided the 40-point margin necessary for game officials to employ the Illinois High School Association’s “Mercy Rule,” using a continuously running clock, stopping it only for team timeouts or injury timeouts.

Champaign Central got on the scoreboard thanks to a 63 yard scramble by senior running back Jake Beesley, cutting NCHS’ lead, 42-7, once senior kicker Ryan Chalifoux made the extra point with 7:47 left in the third quarter.

Sophomore running back Daylen Boddie added to NCHS’ lead with a 2 yard run at 10:51 in the fourth quarter but a missed extra point afterward made the Ironmen’s lead, 48-7.

Champaign Centennial FootballBeesley duplicated his earlier feat by running 63 yards for a touchdown, followed by Chalifaux’s last extra point on the night, cutting NCHS’ lead, 48-14. But that was followed by the Ironmen grinding up yardage to get into the end zone for a 12 yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Jeremiah Glenn for NCHS’ last points of the night, followed Zogg’s extra point try which sailed away from the uprights.

Being homecoming week at NCHS, “we had a lot of distractions this week and I thought our young men did a great job of handling it,” explained NCHS head coach Wes Temples. “They came out and they kept going and played hard. They played at a very, very high level. We’re excited for what begins when the playoffs get here.”

Conversely, Champaign Central needed a victory to stay in the hunt for any chance at being in the playoffs. “This game ended our season, so I’m just so sad for our seniors,” Maroons head coach Nate Albaugh said. “You hate to see your season end. We want to say thank you to them for the career they’ve had here.”

FootballNORMAL – If a person hadn’t attended the start of the annual “Chili Bowl” showdown between Normal-based Unit 5 School District’s two high schools at Ironmen Field on Friday, Sept. 16, after hearing the score at the end of the first half, that person could have thought the two sides were playing and scoring in that half as though a storm was coming. Normal Community High School’s Ironmen and Normal Community West High School’s Wildcats scored a combined 49 points before halftime.

The weather did hastened getting the Big 12 Conference rivalry game in, and NCHS managed to hold off Normal West despite the game being delayed roughly an hour, beating the Wildcats, 49-21, earning another “Chili Bowl” victory.

NCHS FootballIn fact, storms had been predicted to hit the Twin Cities as the game was winding down or possibly after it finished. The moderate to heavy rain did arrive shortly around halftime and intensified as the second half progressed. At 3:03 in the fourth quarter, a lightning strike near Ironmen Field forced game officials to employ an Illinois High School Association policy concerning contests, waiting a half-hour until the last lightning strike to declare the game could resume, and give players a 15-minute warm-up period beforehand. It was a delay that lasted roughly an hour.

Junior running back Genesis Forrest put Normal West (1-3 overall and 1-2 Big 12) got on the scoreboard first with a 65 yard touchdown dash just 11 seconds into the contest, followed by a successful extra point by junior kicker Matt Lage, putting West up, 7-0.

Junior running back Varshaun Dixon turned a fumble recovery into a touchdown from 20 yards out for NCHS’ first score of the night at 10:42 in the quarter, helping tie the game, 7-7, following senior kicker Cooper Zogg’s extra point. Dixon added an 11-yard scoring dash to give the Ironmen a 14-7 lead following Zogg’s extra point, at 4:10 in the opening quarter.

Forrest helped West return fire with a 61 yard touchdown dash at the quarter’s 3:19 mark, followed by another Lage extra point, tying the game at 14-all at 3:19 in the opening quarter. A 10 yard touchdown score by Dixon put the Ironmen, ranked 9th in Class 7A prior to the start of the contest, up 21-14 as the second quarter opened.

West opened the second quarter unable to move the ball in nine plays, forcing them to turn the ball over on downs, giving NCHS the ball at the Ironmen 35 yard line. NCHS senior running back Dakota Cremeens made the most of the situation, rumbling 65 yards for the Ironmen’s next score, followed by Zogg’s next extra point, doubling NCHS’ lead, 28-14 at the 10:15 mark in the second quarter.

Normal West FootballCremeens increased the score for NCHS to 35-14 with a 52 yard run for another score with 1:33 until halftime, followed by another Zogg extra point. Shortly before the half started, light rain began falling which prompted school officials to pre-empt the performance by the Ironmen Marching Band, but the teams retook the field as the rain intensified.

NCHS got the ball to start the third quarter and were able to return the kickoff to midfield. Seven plays later, Ironmen senior quarterback Grant Price ran the ball into the end zone for a 19 yard touchdown, followed by Zogg’s next extra point, increasing the Ironmen lead to 42-14 with 10:10 left in the quarter.

West senior tight end Nick Filosa scored the Wildcats’ last points on the night catching a 20 yard pass from senior quarterback Peyton Dillingham for a score, followed by Lage’s extra point, cutting NCHS lead in half, 42-21 with 11:55 left in the contest.

Cremeens got in a third touchdown run from 32 yards out to give West its final score of the night, followed by Zogg’s extra point, increasing the score to 49-21.

As West was trying to mount a response to that score and the rain continued to intensify, a flash of lightning forced game officials to employ IHSA lightning protocols, stopping the game with 3:03 left in the contest, for about an hour before an all-clear was granted. Once the game resumed, however, NCHS defenders stymied the Wildcats preventing them from being able to score further.

By Steve Robinson | September 3, 2016 - 10:18 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

FootballBLOOMINGTON – Under new head coach Joe Walters, Bloomington High School won their first contest of the season at Peoria Manual. But returning home to Fred Carlton Field for the second game of the season, the Purple Raiders faced Normal Community High only to be outmatched by the Ironmen. The score proved that as NCHS, led by five touchdowns scored by junior running back Varshaun Dixon, beat the Purple Raiders, 54-21 before roughly 1,000 fans.

Senior running back J. D. Villafuerte got scoring underway for NCHS (2-0), receiving a 23-yard pass from senior quarterback Grant Price at 8:42 in the first quarter, putting the Ironmen up, 7-0, following senior kicker Cooper Zogg’s extra point. The score completed a 10 play, 70 yard drive.

Price connected with senior wide receiver Brady Lay for a 37 yard score, capping a 3 play, 61 yard drive for NCHS’ next points at 3:58 in the quarter. Zogg’s extra point put NCHS up, 14-0.

BHS (1-1) struck quickly on the ensuing kickoff as senior running back Cary Lockhart took the ball 94 yards into the end zone delighting the home fans and stunning those sitting in the visitor’s sidelines. Junior kicker Jose Pacheco’s extra point cut NCHS’ lead, 14-7, as the game entered the second quarter.

Dixon’s second touchdown, a 22 yard dash into the end zone came at 9:28 in the second quarter and completed an 8 play, 80 yard drive, followed by Zogg missing the extra point opportunity, putting NCHS up, 20-7.

NCHS increased that lead with 7:16 in the quarter as Price connected with senior wide receiver Steven Towns on a 27 yard pass, increasing NCHS’ lead, 26-7, following a muffed 2-point conversion attempt.

BHS FootballAfter BHS was forced to punt at the end of their ensuing possession, NCHS got the ball at the Purple Raiders’ 14 yard line as a result of senior running back Dakota Cremeens’ return run which began at midfield. Two plays later, Dixon scored from five yards out, but a Bloomington defenders blocked Zogg’s next extra point attempt. That gave NCHS a 32-7 lead with 5:38 until halftime.

An interception by NCHS led to the Ironmen’s next points – a 5 yard Dixon run followed by a successful two-point conversion play, giving the Ironmen a 40-6 lead with 4:06 left in the quarter.

BHS scored their second touchdown of the half when Sandage connected with senior tight end Ian Sweeney from 51 yards out for a score, followed by Pacheco’s extra point, reducing the Ironmen’s lead, 40-14.

Dixon scored from 35 yards out with 57 seconds left in the half, followed by Zogg’s next extra point to put NCHS up, 47-14 going into halftime.

NCHS FootballDixon’s 14 yard run into the end zone with 12 seconds left in the quarter completed a 10 play 74 yard drive, which increased NCHS’ lead, 54-14, following Zogg’s extra point.

Sandage connected with senior wide receiver Avonni Brown for a 25 yard touchdown pass, followed by Pacheo’s extra point to achieve the final score.

For NCHS, having patience was key for his team to achieve victory, explained Ironmen head coach Wes Temples. “Our kids are having fun. They’re playing at a high level and was patient and watched for the right time to do what they needed to do to,” he explained.

BHS first season coach Joe Walters, who had previously coached at Peoria Notre Dame, explained afterward, “that game challenged us not to give up at halftime and we didn’t. After the half, I thought we came out strong. Our coaching staff needs to fix errors on our end so we can instruct better.” He admitted some of the errors the Purple Raiders committed were “coaching induced.”