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.

By Steve Robinson | October 6, 2018 - 10:57 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Although Danville played a tough defensive scheme against Normal Community High, holding the Ironmen to just a single score in the first quarter, the Vikings could not keep that defensive pace going for a full contest while the home crowd at Ironmen Field relished their team’s defense keeping the visiting team scoreless for three quarters. That plot line resulted in NCHS defeating Danville , 36-8 in front of a homecoming crowd of nearly 2,500 fans Friday night.

Having the ball first from the opening kickoff of the Big 12 Conference contest, NCHS (6-1 Big 12, 6-0 overall) junior running back Jake Hileman ran for a 2 yard touchdown, topping a 9 play, 75 yard drive, giving the Ironmen a touchdown. But a bad snap from center forced junior backup quarterback Aidan Oliver, who served as holder for the extra point to improvise and run in for a 2-point conversion, giving NCHS an 8-0 lead at 8:37 in the quarter.

Danville (3-4 overall, 2-4 Big 12) saw their opening drive come to an end after five plays on an interception by Ironmen junior defensive back Michael Showers which put the ball at Normal ’s own 41 yard line. Nine plays later, senior quarterback Daylen Boddie ran in for a 4 yard touchdown with 1:47 left in the quarter followed by senior kicker Camron Hinman’s extra point, advancing NCHS’ lead going into the second quarter, 15-0.

An NCHS fumble recovered by Danville senior defensive end Cauis Coon put the ball in the Vikings’ hands at their own 47 yard line, and four plays later, senior running back Josiah Payne rambled in for a what would be his team’s only score on the night followed by a two-point conversion pass from junior quarterback Delrey Crowder to sophomore Devaughn Bright cut NCHS’ lead, 15-8.

On the ensuing possession, senior quarterback Daylen Boddie would score from 5 yards out to top an 8 play, 72 yard drive, followed by Hinman’s extra point to push NCHS further in front, 22-8 at the half.

Danville received the ball to start the third quarter, but NCHS defenders stopped them at the Vikings’ 35 forcing a punt. Five plays later, Hinman showed off his running skills scoring from 2 yards out, increasing the score, 29-8, after his next extra point. The drive was enhanced by a 73 yard dash from senior tight end Max Lowery who breezed by defenders as he got into Vikings territory.

Danville punted to end their next possession, giving NCHS the ball at Danville ’s 45. From Boddie connected with Lowery scored the last touchdown of the night, followed by Hinman’s kick for the final score.

NCHS head coach Jason Drengwitz said Danville ’s physical defense contributed to his team’s not being able to score more once the game began. He said Danville played a tighter game which “took away our running game a little bit.” He said penalties and turnovers were the reason for his team not appearing to have their normal flow during the game.

“They made us earn the win because they’re sound, they’re disciplined, they’re well coached,” Drengwitz added.

“We were able to play right with them in the first half,” Danville head coach Marcus Forrest said, but he quickly added, “If you don’t match their intensity and the aggression that they play with, then you’re going to have some problems. When we came out in the second half, we didn’t match them in those areas.”

By Steve Robinson | September 29, 2018 - 10:56 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Normal Community High School senior quarterback Daylen Boddie scored four running touchdowns totaling 80 yards and threw over 200 yards passing as the visiting Ironmen defeated Bloomington High School at Fred Carlton Field Friday night, outpacing the Purple Raiders, 49-28, for a Big 12 Conference victory.

BHS (4-2 overall, 3-2 Big 12) could only mount single-digit scoring each quarter but surprised their fans and stunned the visitors when senior wide receiver Drew Crooks took the contest’s opening kickoff at his own 13 yard line and then weaved his way through Ironmen defenders and then found a hole in the defense which he used to score the game’s first points. That gave BHS a quick 7-0 lead at 11:48 in the first quarter following freshman kicker Jack Weltha’s extra point.

After each team failed to score on a possession and BHS punted, NCHS (5-0 Big 12, 5-1 overall) and Boddie received the ball at his team’s own 46. From there, he weaved through defenders for his team’s first score of the game followed by senior kicker Camron Hinman’s extra point to tie the game, 7-all, with 5:35 left in the quarter. Boddie scored his next touchdown from five yards out with 55.2 seconds left in the quarter followed by Hinman’s extra point, putting the Ironmen up, 14-7.

Junior running back Jake Hileman scored from five yards out to cap a 3-play, 53 yard drive for NCHS putting the Ironmen up, 21-7, following Hinman’s extra point at 3:56 in the second quarter.

BHS’ ensuing drive resulted in a 6 yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Griffin Moore to junior wide receiver Diontay Griffin with 47.5 seconds until halftime capping an 8 play, 64 yard drive. A 2-point conversion pass from senior wide receiver C. J. Hyde to junior wide receiver Ivan Smith provided a surprise for fans and cut NCHS’ halftime lead to 21-15.

NCHS received the ball after the half and marched 65 yards on 7 plays for their next score, a 26 yard pass from Boddie to senior wide receiver Connor Lay at 9:14 in the third quarter followed by Hinman’s extra point, increasing the Ironmen’s margin, 28-15.

Following a BHS punt, the Ironmen scored again, with Boddie running into the end zone from 14 yards out to put the visitors up, 35-15, after Hinman’s next extra point at 6:07 in the quarter. BHS pulled within 13, 35-22, when Moore connected with senior wide receiver Mauliek Johnson on a 22-yard pass play followed by Weltha’s next extra point, with 3:42 remaining in the third quarter.

But NCHS increased their lead by 20, 42-22, at 11:31 in the fourth quarter when Boddie connected with senior wide receiver Dishon Hall II on a 20 yard scoring pass followed by Hinman’s extra point.

Starting with an interception of a Bloomington pass by Ironmen Hall playing defensive back, NCHS began their next drive at the Purple Raiders’ 16. Three plays later, Boddie scored from seven yards out to top the drive, followed by Hinman’s extra point, with 8:16 left, pushing the Ironmen up, 49-22.

BHS scored their last points of the night thanks to Smith’s 19 yard running touchdown with 5:58 remaining in the contest but Weltha missing the extra point.

Explaining the Ironmen’s performance in the second half, Boddie said rhetorically afterward, “It looked like we got a little juiced at half, didn’t it?,” and then referring to Ironmen head coach Jason Drengwitz, added, “Coach told us to keep our composure and play our game, and that’s what we did. We just played our game.”

Referring to the contest overall, Drengwitz said, “ Bloomington was doing some things we had to adjust to and they were playing physical and their assignments were sound.” He said his team put itself behind in a couple instances but were still able to come away with a win.

When BHS scored on the opening kickoff, Drengwitz said, his players showed no panic and took that as a sign “they needed to step up.”

This contest, BHS head coach Scott Godfrey said afterward, is “why our guys need to be in the weight room. NCHS was more physical than us and they took the fight to us in the second half. That Normal Community team is bigger and more physical than we are.

“If we don’t close that gap down,” Godfrey added, “The result’s not going to change.”

“We knew at some point we would have to match score-for-score with them,” Godfrey pointed out. “We told our guys ‘you have to keep going against this team,’” explaining to his players that NCHS has the ability to run away from opponents during contests.

“We knew what NCHS was capable of. At a certain point, we knew we would have to match score for score with them,” he explained. Godfrey said his players managed to achieve that matching in the first half, but he added, by the second half, “the better team won.”