By Steve Robinson | February 16, 2019 - 10:47 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – From the opening tip, Normal Community High School’s girls’ basketball team appeared to be ready to race toward winning the Illinois High School Association Class 4A Bloomington High School Regional Title. The Lady Iron managed to do just that, outpacing Normal Community West, 58-39, to advance to the Sectional semifinal Monday night against Rock Island. That game, ironically, will be played at Normal West. Also, with this victory, NCHS managed to win the season over the Wildcats by a 3 wins-to-1 tally.

As a result of the win, NCHS advances to Sectionals which will be played at Normal Community West High School where they will face Rick Island High School. The Rocks got to the Sectional semi with a win 63-55 win over Moline.

Junior guard Maya Wong scored the first points of the game for NCHS (23-9 after this game) to begin the scoring and was followed by a deuce by West junior guard Olivia Demosthenes to tie the game at 2-all. Senior forward Cassi Kraft’s basket, followed by a trey by Wong pushed the Lady Iron up, 7-2, prompting Normal West head coach Corey Ostling to call timeout.

Two free throws by a fouled senior forward Ayanna Gibbs cut that margin, 7-4 before NCHS scored on back-to-back deuces by senior forward Abby Feit and sophomore forward Mallory Oloffson for an 11-4 advantage. One free throw by Wildcats freshman guard Averie Hernandez reduced that lead to 11-5 before another set of back-to-back baskets for the Lady Iron by Wong and Feit extended NCHS’ lead to 10, 15-5, with 50.8 seconds to go in the quarter. That deficit prompted another Wildcats timeout. Following that, fouled Wildcats senior forward Tresoir Newson sank 1-of-2 free throws and was followed by another bucket by Wong, helping increase NCHS’ lead, 17-6, going into the second quarter.

Sophomore guard Madison Feeney opened the second quarter with a trey and was followed by back-to-back unanswered deuces from junior guard Kylee Schneringer to push the Lady Iron up, 24-6, with 5:29 remaining the period. At this point, Normal West took another timeout to regroup, and managed to cut the lead to 24-8 on a basket by Demosthenes with 4:18 on the clock.

But from there, NCHS launched into a 6-0 run, with Schneringer hitting a deuce between two baskets by Feit, putting the Lady Iron up, 30-8, prompting another Normal West timeout with 2:57 until halftime. Back-to-back deuces by Gibbs and Demosthenes reduced NCHS’ lead, 30-12, before a free throw by NCHS’ Feit and a deuce for West by Feeney led to the Lady Iron owning a 31-14 halftime lead.

Wong opened the third quarter with a three-point play for NCHS, having scored and been fouled by West’s Newson, and sinking the free throw, giving the Lady Iron a 20-point advantage, 34-14 with 7:15 left in the quarter. Newson scored next cutting that lead to 34-16, but a trey by Schneringer followed by a Newson deuce gave NCHS a 37-18 lead, and prompted a timeout for West at the six minute mark in the quarter.

Two free throws by a fouled Craft put NCHS up 39-18 before the Wildcats tacked three straight unanswered buckets on the board from Newson, Gibbs, and Demosthenes, pulling Normal West (19-11) within 15, 39-24, causing the Lady Iron to take a time out with 3:11 left in the quarter. Following the time out, Normal West got one more basket from Gibbs at 2:03 to pull within 13, 39-26 before NCHS would close out the quarter on a 5-0 run with a basket by Oloffson and a three-point play from Schneringer which included a free throw. That gave NCHS a 44-26 edge going into the fourth quarter.

Newson opened the fourth quarter with a deuce to reduce NCHS’ lead to 44-28 with 7:47 left in the contest, but back-to-back scores, an Oloffson deuce and a trey by Feeney pushed the Lady Iron up, 49-28 at the 6:37 mark. A trey by West senior forward Jess Jacobs cut that lead to 49-31 with 6:32 left. But having been fouled by Jacobs in the next possession, Feit hit two free throws putting NCHS up by 20, 51-31, prompting the Wildcats to call time. A three-point play by Kraft and a deuce by freshman guard Karleigh Creasey put NCHS up 56-31, followed by a Lady Iron time out.

West’s Demosthenes and NCHS’ Feit swapped deuces leading to a 58-33 lead for the Lady Iron with 2:17 remaining, but the Wildcats closed out the scoring with Bozarth hitting a deuce at 1:48, a trey from Jacobs at 1:09, and a free throw from Demosthenes.

Schneringer and Feit led all scorers each pocketing 14 points. They were followed in double-figures for the Lady Iron by 12 from Wong. Demosthenes and Newson led West’s scorers, each scoring 11 points.

After the presentation of the regional championship plaque, Lady Iron players gathered with family members and posed for pictures with the plaque. NCHS senior shooting guard Katie Broad could be seen on the hardwood of Robert Frank Sports Complex on BHS’ campus receiving congratulatory hugs from family and friends who attended the contest. She said she was excited to have been part of the win and that when the team works together toward a win, “that’s when we seem to do our best.”

“I’m very excited about our going to Sectionals,” Oloffson said. She added when Normal West began a steady scoring pace in the second half, her team “just tried to stay relaxed the whole time and just play our game. I think we did a really good job of it.”

“We’re excited to come away with a win,” stated NCHS head coach Marcus Mann. “We’re definitely excited to come away with a win and to do it against a crosstown rival as good as Normal West is.”

Although NCHS owned a large lead at the half, Mann said he knew the Wildcats would be resilient and come back from the deficit they had been handed by his team at half. “We just knew we’d be weathering that storm and that it would be coming at some point.”

“We wanted to compete,” explained Normal West’s Ostling afterward. “I told them at the half we couldn’t get all the points we needed all in one shot. We just did it little bit by little bit, doing things correctly, and then maybe, the ball starts falling in for us and we start a turnaround. The ball bounced around and went in a couple times for NCHS, and bounced around and didn’t go in for us. Sometimes, that’s how it goes.”

He added his team showed a lot of perseverance this season and times could have decided to fold, and yet didn’t. “They just kept battling and I’m proud of my girls,” Ostling concluded.

By Steve Robinson | February 12, 2019 - 10:34 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Didn’t we all start to think this was a distinct possibility?: That although the two Normal-based Unit 5 School District high schools have already seen their girls’ basketball teams play three times this season, with Normal Community High School holding a 2 games-to-1 edge, that the two sides could face each other one more time before the season was out with advancing to Sectionals on the line?

No doubt while that was in the back of our minds, none of us could predict how those two local teams would do in their individual Illinois High School Association Class 4A regional semifinal matchups held at Bloomington High School Tuesday night.

Second seed NCHS discarded 7th seed Danville to open the evening, 76-42. Fans of 3rd seed Normal Community West watched their favorite team outpace 5th seed Bradley-Bourbonnais, 47-35. As a result, the two local teams will meet for a fourth time this season. That showdown will take place at BHS Thursday night starting with a 7p.m. tipoff.

Normal West 47, Bradley-Bourbonnais 35: Normal West started hot right from the opening tip, jumping out to a 6-0 lead on a trio of deuces – two to start the game from junior guard Olivia Demosthenes and one from senior forward Tresoir Newson. That lead was extended to 10-5 on baskets by senior forward Anna Gibbs and Demosthenes, and became 13-7 on another Demosthenes deuce and a free throw from junior guard Jess Leftwich. But Bradley-Bourbonnais closed out the quarter with a deuce from junior forward Gaetana Davis, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to four, 13-9, entering the second quarter.

But the Wildcats opened next quarter on a 6-0 run thanks to baskets by Newson and senior guard Jess Jacobs, putting Normal West up, 17-9, prompting Boilermakers head coach Evan Tingley to call time with four minutes until the half. After the timeout, West continued the scoring strike in the form of two free throws from junior forward Rosh Webb, to increase her team’s lead to 10, 19-9, with 2:04 left. A layup by Davis cut West’s lead going into the half, 19-11.

West managed to double their score, 22-11, to open the third quarter thanks to a trey from senior guard Whitney Bozarth. Boilermakers senior guard Zoie Langlois countered with a jumper setting off an exchange between the two teams that pulled Bradley-Bourbonnais within six, 26-20 prompting the out-of-town team to call time with 3:52 left in the quarter. Following the timeout, a trey from Demosthenes followed by a Gibbs free throw pushed Normal West in front, 30-22, on the way to a 36-24 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Boilermakers would pull within eight twice more in the last quarter – 39-31 and 43-35 – before a trio of fouls would send three Normal West players to the free throw line for a combined 4-for-5 to finish achieving the victory.

Demosthenes was the lone Wildcats player in double-figures on the night with 14 points. Freshman guard Addison Lombardi and Langlois each pocketed 13 points for the Boilermakers on the night.

“That’s a very good team,” said Normal West head coach Corey Ostling in complimenting Bradley-Bourbonnais. He then pivoted to how his team performed, stating, “My team executed the scouting report better than they have all season long. They knew which player was going to do what, and it’s one thing to know what to do and another to do it, especially in a regional.”

“We had a slow second half, and we missed some layups, and in a 10-point game, layups really make a difference,” Tingley admitted afterward. “I thought we guarded well enough when we held them to 19 points in the half. Unfortunately, we only scored 11. Defensively, we battled all night. Offensively, we got some pretty good shots in the second half that didn’t fall for us.”

NCHS 76, Danville 42: NCHS went on a pair of scoring spurts in the first quarter – a 9-0 run an 8-0 run – which featured two treys from junior guard Maya Wong in the first quarter which helped push the Lady Iron to a 17-4 lead with 2:37 in the period. Only sophomore guard Erin Houpt’s trey at the 2:12 mark followed by baskets by senior forward Makala Gray and senior center Naomi Woods would push the Lady Vikings into double-digits, trailing 24-11, to start the second quarter.

A second quarter trey from Houpt for Danville, and a trey each from sophomore guard Madison Feeney and senior guard Katie Broad, topped off by two free throws by junior guard Jess Leftwich and two unanswered buckets by junior guard Kylee Schneringer sent the teams into the locker rooms at halftime with NCHS holding a commanding 45-19 lead.

Third quarter baskets for Danville spurred by an initial basket by Houpt helped close the gap slightly, 50-23, before the Lady Iron, on the strength of buckets by sophomore forward Mallory Oloffson, Schneringer, Wong, and senior forward Abby Feit bombarded the Lady Vikings defenders, extending their lead to 64-25 with 3:50 left in the quarter. After that timeout, deuces by Gray, freshman guard Nau’tika Conway, and freshman guard Tharija Rose helped close out the quarter although NCHS entered the fourth quarter owning a 66-34 lead.

Feit led all players in scoring with 21 points. She was followed in double-figures for NCHS by Wong with 14, Oloffson with 11, and 10 from Schneringer. Haupt was the only Danville player to achieve double-figures with 17 points.

“We had a pretty good night..can’t complain,” stated NCHS head coach Marcus Mann. “They’re a tough team. They’re a little young and inexperienced, but they were going to bring everything that they have and we’re lucky to come away with the win that we got.

“We’ve got a young team and we’re still learning how to compete,” admitted Lady Vikings head coach Demetric Hightower. “In going up against Normal, we knew we’d up against a team that’s going to play hard. In the second half, we wanted to drive more. But in the second half, we drove a lot more to the basket. Normal wanted us to take shots they wanted us to take in the first half. The second half, we drove to the basket and we looked like a different team.”

By Steve Robinson | December 2, 2018 - 10:59 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – For one quarter, the first quarter of Normal Community High School ’s Big 12 Conference matchup against unbeaten Peoria Notre Dame, it looked like the Ironmen had the chance to keep pace and outpace their guests from the River City . But it only took a 9-0 run to start the second quarter for the Irish to overturn that advantage and stay in front of their hosts en route to a 57-45 victory.

It took nearly three minutes before any player on either side could penetrate the opposing defense to score the game’s opening bucket, but senior center Evan Pogge did so at the 5:13 mark putting NCHS (3-2) ahead, 2-0. That became a 5-0 run for the Ironmen when senior guard Blake Foster’s trey went through the hoop at 4:25. Peoria ND hit back-to-back unanswered deuces from junior Connor Dillon and junior Ben Kouri to close the score to 5-4 at the 2:35 mark. A three-point play, including a free throw by senior forward Christian Wilbourne doubled the score for NCHS, 8-4. But a trey from Kouri closed out the first quarter, with the Ironmen holding a one-point lead, 8-7.

From the opening of the second quarter, though, Peoria ND (4-0) went on a 9-0 scoring blitz which featured deuces from junior Declan Dillon, Connor Dillon, and senior Matt Pudik, topped off by a trey from senior Joe Gustafson, putting PND in front, 16-8 with 4:27 left in the half, prompting Ironmen head coach Dave Witzig to call a timeout. A trey by Ironmen senior guard Drew Kagel at the 3:17 mark closed that lead to 16-11, but the half ended on back-to-back unanswered buckets by Connor Dillon and Pudik, putting PND in front, 20-11.

Foster hit a trey to open the third quarter for NCHS, putting the Ironmen within six, 20-14, but Pudik replied with a trey of his own, putting PND up, 23-14. Foster hit another trey, closing the score within six, 23-17, but back-to-back treys by Pudik and Connor Dillon gave PND a 12-point lead, 29-17, before NCHS senior guard Daylen Boddie added a three to help keep the home team within nine, 29-20, with 3:49 left in the period. Wilbourne added a deuce to put the Ironmen within seven, 29-22.

Another Connor Dillon deuce and free throw by Kouri gave PND a 10-point lead, 32-22, with 3:02 left in the quarter. NCHS got five unanswered points from a Wilbourne rebound and a trey from Boddie pushing the Ironmen within five, 32-27, with 1:25 left in the quarter, but the Irish closed out the quarter on a 6-0 run thanks to back-to-back unanswered treys from Gustafson, putting PND in front, 38-27, going into the fourth quarter.

Senior forward Dishon Hall II’s deuce opened the fourth quarter for NCHS to help close PND’s lead, 38-29, with 6:41 remaining. Between free throws by Kouri and junior Declan Dillon for PND, Hall hit a deuce, but PND remained in front by 10, 41-31. Pogge and Wilbourne went back-to-back to the free throw line courtesy of fouls from PND, going a combined 3-for-4 to pull NCHS within seven, 41-34, prompting visiting head coach Tom Lacher to call a timout with 3:21 remaining.

Coming out of that timeout, however, two NCHS fouls – including a technical foul called on Foster – sent Kouri to the line to answer for the technical and Declan Dillon to answer for the game penalty. Combined, the pair went 2-for-3, and were followed by a basket by Connor Dillon to put PND up, 45-37. Connor Dillon squeezed a deuce in between two sets of Wilbourne free throws, Wilbourne going a combined 4-for-4, but PND owned a 47-41 lead with 1:59 left in the contest. Wilbourne fouled Declan Dillon, who went 1-for-2 at the line, putting PND up, 48-41 with 1:55 left. Boddie hit a deuce at the 1:45 mark to keep NCHS within five, 48-43. The margin and time remaining prompted Witzig to call timeout.

But coming out of timeout, NCHS fouls sent Gustafson, Declan Dillon, and Kouri to the free throw line where they went a combined 5-for-6 allowing the visitors to restore a 10-point lead, 53-43, with 56.7 seconds left. A Wilbourne put-back shot helped pull NCHS within eight, 53-45, but fouls called on Boddie and Foster sent Gustafson and Declan Dillon back to the free throw line where they went a combined 4-for-4 to help their team arrive at the final score.

Gustafson led PND in scoring with 14, followed by 12 from Connor Dillon, Kouri’s 11, and 10 each from Declan Dillon and Pudik. Wilbourne and Foster led the way for NCHS, scoring 13 points, and 12, respectfully, on the night.

PND’s Lacher complimented his coaching counterpart, Witzig, saying, “He’s a great coach. We figured we’d see some pressure, and we figured it would be Wilbourne at the top and get him where if he couldn’t score, he could at least facilitate some scores with the guys around him. They also had some guys who came off the bench and stepped up and knocked down some shots and made some plays. Wilbourne facilitating hurt us in the fourth quarter.”

“NCHS turned up turned up the defensive intensity on the parimeter,” Lacher said, adding his squad had not been exposed to that sort of defensive maneuvering during a Thanksgiving tourney the Irish played in.

“I’ve chosen for our team to play man-to-man whereas Notre Dame plays a 1-2-2 defense,” explained NCHS head coach Dave Witzig. “In the first half, we didn’t play very hard and that put us down, 20-11. We didn’t compete at a high level like we need to in the Big 12. You have to give Notre Dame credit. They came in here and they competed and got after it and it was a good win for them.”

By Steve Robinson | October 28, 2018 - 10:56 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – St. Charles North head coach Rob Pomazak stated something most Ironmen fans who have been coming to games in the last few years know probably very well. “Those guys don’t know what it’s like to lose, fellas.” He made those comments to his team in postgame comments to his team after they finished their Illinois High School Association Class 7A first round game against Normal Community High School Saturday at Ironmen Field.

A scoreless first half for the Ironmen was the beginning of what would be just the second loss of the season for first season head coach Jason Drengwitz’s troops, dropping a 44-29 decision to the North Stars, and eliminating them from the playoffs.

Two touchdown passes – from 35 and 18 yards – from junior quarterback Kyler Brown to senior wide receiver Alec Kritta, one in the first quarter and one in the second quarter, and a 37 yard field goal in the second quarter by senior kicker Luke Barresi put the North Stars in front, 16-0 going into halftime before NCHS (8-2) found ways to put points on the board in the second half.

St. Charles North (7-3) punted away their 3rd quarter opening possession and put the ball at NCHS’ 10 yard line. Seven plays later, Ironmen senior quarterback Daylen Boddie dashed 60 yards for his team’s first score of the contest followed by a 2-point conversion pass to senior tight end Max Lowery, cutting the North Stars’ lead in half, 16-8, with 8:13 left in the quarter.

But hope of NCHS catching the North Stars early faded on the guests’ next possession when their sophomore running back Nicholas DeMarco scored on a 78 yard touchdown run on their first play after the ensuing kickoff. That extended St. Charles North’s lead, 23-8 with 7:51 left in the third quarter.

Junior running back Jake Hileman chewed up yardage, too, during a 66 yard touchdown run which topped off a 5 play, 92 yard march for NCHS’ next score, cutting the North Stars’ lead, 23-15 with 5:50 left in the quarter.

But a 28 yard touchdown run by senior running back Tyler Nubin with 1:13 left in the quarter doubled the score on NCHS for the North Stars, 30-15, following Barresi’s extra point try.

Brown connected with Nubin on a 30 yard scoring pass at 10:05 in the fourth quarter, followed by Barresi’s extra point, increasing the North Star’s advantage, 37-15. But a Boddie keeper play from 25 yards out kept NCHS within range following senior kicker Camron Hinman’s extra point, 37-22, with 9:03 left.

A 22 yard touchdown by DeMarco with 4:30 remaining, followed by Barresi’s extra point, doubled the score on NCHS, 44-22. What would be NCHS’ last touchdown of the season came from Boddie to Lowery in a 5 yard pass with 1:23 remaining followed by Hinman’s extra point. The Ironmen successfully followed that up with an onside kick which they recovered but were unable to capitalize on after four incomplete passes.

Pomazak said his team had lost two games to Batavia and Wheaton Warrenville South, both on last plays of the game, “so I would categorize us as one of the top 10 teams in the State and knew we had just as good a chance to win. What we saw on film was just a chance to get the ball vertical and our running back, Nick DeMarco did a great job of finding gaps and taking out big chunks and Tyler Brown was able to find open receivers.

“Defensively, we kept a really good offense in check for the majority of the game,” Pomazak added. “We really wanted to focus on Boddie. He’s a great player and a fine young man.”

For NCHS’ Drengwitz, “Number one, offensively, we didn’t do enough to put us into a position to compete a little bit better, and our defense played lights out,” he admitted. “In the second half, we made enough plays to get us back in the game and get an opportunity to win, but when the crucial moments came, both on offense and defense, they made the crucial plays and we didn’t.

“But to our kids’ credit, we came back in the second half and made it a ball game and gave ourselves some opportunities,” the first season head coach added. “But when their kids’ backs were against the wall, St. Charles made plays and they executed well down the stretch.”

By Steve Robinson | October 20, 2018 - 10:55 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – When they came to Ironmen Field for their last game of the regular season, Big 12 Conference opponent Peoria High knew defeating Normal Community would give them an assurance of getting into the Class 7A Playoffs. Losing to Normal , however, would put the Lions at 4-5 for the season having lost two games their coach said he didn’t anticipate losing, and would send them home for the season.

NCHS proved to be too much for PHS, however, when the two sides met, with the Ironmen caging the Lions, 61-14 before roughly 700 fans.

As a result of Friday’s victory, NCHS finished 8-1 on the regular season, and Illinois High School Association seeded first season head coach Jason Drengwitz’s team 11th. They will host 22nd seed St. Charles North.

Junior wide receiver Aidan Oliver’s catch of a 4 yard pass from senior quarterback Daylen Boddie at 8:26 in the opening quarter capped a 4 play, 10 yard drive for NCHS’ opening score, followed by an extra point by Oliver, putting NCHS up, 7-0. The Ironmen got inside the red zone thanks to an interception of Peoria senior quarterback Gabe Hernandez by senior defensive back Ke’Juan Pleasant who ran 34 yards to achieve the field position for the score.

Later in the quarter, after a turnover on downs by Peoria gave Normal the ball at their own 48, Boddie’s rushing touchdown from 26 yards out, followed by Oliver’s next extra point, increased NCHS’ lead, 14-0, with 3:30 left in the contest, capping a 6 play drive.

Junior defensive end Quyncee Hunter’s interception of a Hernandez pass allowed him to dodge defenders for Normal’s next score, going 41 yards into the end zone, followed by senior kicker Camron Hinman’s extra point, giving NCHS a 21-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Peoria’s ensuing possession ended in a turnover on downs at their own 28 yard line. Three plays later, Boddie scored from 8 yards out, followed by Hinman’s extra point, putting NCHS up, 28-0, at the quarter’s 10:06 mark.

An interception by senior outside linebacker Hayden Wiese stopped Peoria’s ensuing drive as he dashed 35 yards for a touchdown followed by Hinman’s point after, putting NCHS up, 35-0 at 9:26 until halftime.

The ensuing possession for Peoria (4-5 overall and Big 12) got the Lions to Normal’s 40 yard line, but a second interception by Pleasant followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct call against the Lions allowed NCHS a shorter field from which junior running back Jake Hileman emerged with a 6 yard touchdown, capping 3 play drive followed by another Hinman extra point, putting NCHS up, 42-0, with 6:29 until halftime.

At that point, game officials employed IHSA’s “Mercy Rule,” – as a result of the 40-point difference in the game score, game officials used a continuously running clock, stopping it for only timeouts taken by a team or because of an injury. The running clock began as the third quarter opened.

Peoria’s next possession ended in the Lions beginning at their own 20 following the ensuing kickoff but only gaining three yards before needing to punt on fourth down. That play ended in a blocked punt by junior defensive lineman Brock Griffin who picked up the ball and got to the Peoria 7 yard line, where NCHS’ next possession started and ended in a touchdown pass one play later when Boddie connected with senior tight end Daniel Horton followed by Hinman’s extra point, sending NCHS into halftime up, 49-0.

Although Peoria received the ball to start the second half, they would up giving it right back to NCHS with an interception by senior defensive back Caleb Zbrozek who gave NCHS the ball to begin at the Peoria 15. Three plays later, with 5:51 left in the quarter, sophomore running back Justin Potts scored from 11 yards out, putting the Ironmen up, 55-0, after Hinman missed the extra point.

Senior running back JVon Vinson’s 2 yard dash into the end zone gave Peoria their first score, but the Lions’ 2-point conversion try failed, cutting NCHS’ lead, 55-6 with 6:33 in the fourth quarter. A 28 yard running score by junior Camron Jackson followed by a missed extra point by Hinman pushed that lead to 61-6 with 2:20 left.

What turned out to be Peoria’s last score of the season came courtesy of a 73 yard pass from sophomore quarterback Cam Ford to senior wide receiver Kyric Evans followed by a successful 2-point conversion from Ford to senior wide receiver Kenta Horton, resulting in the final score.

“Offensively, we capitalized on a lot of short fields,” explained NCHS head coach Jason Drengwitz, adding, “we have so much for their program and how well-coached they are.” Because he knew the Lions were known for having an explosive offense, Drengwitz relayed, “I never felt comfortable with a lead because they are so explosive. It was probably just the best overall game we played all year in a game’s three phases.”

Regarding the interceptions made by his team, Drengwitz added, “We’ve been challenging our guys to come big and they’ve made a lot of plays. Peoria had to go to the air because we were doing a good job controlling the line of scrimmage, and we made tough, contested plays which is something you have to do to beat good teams. It’s also something you have to do to win in the playoffs.

“I feel like the guys in our secondary stepped up and made a lot of plays tonight,” Drengwitz said, singling out senior defensive back Ke’Juan Pleasant, Hunter, and his defensive line players.

“I knew they were a good team, and I thought we’d do a little better up front against NCHS,” admitted Peoria High head coach Tim Thornton. “Their defensive line was really fantastic tonight and they beat up our offensive line. Anytime that happens, it really restricts what you can do on offense.

“We gave our defense really short fields all night and put them in really tough situations,” Thornton added. “I think it was clear to everybody we were outmatched tonight by a better team.” He admitted his team should have made it to the playoffs again this season but that earlier losses and not their performance against the Ironmen were responsible for that.