NORMAL – Neither Normal Community West High School nor home team Normal Community High School were blowing smoke at each other in the days leading up to the annual “Chili Bowl” rivalry game held on Ironmen Field Aug. 31, but a student activity designed to have a little fun to start the game nearly kept fans from seeing Normal West’s first score of the game.

But NCHS saw a clear path to victory in the first meeting between these two teams in a season where both sides had new coaches, as the Ironmen outpaced the Wildcats, 49-27 before roughly 2,500 fans. As a result of the victory, NCHS holds a 17 wins to 6 advantage on the Wildcats in the series.

As Wildcats junior running back Aimry Schieler recovered the football after a scramble of an NCHS fumble 10 seconds into the contest, students in NCHS’ front rows of the student section tossed pink-colored baby powder in the air which blocked some fans’ and the media’s view of the play. What some fans missed as a result was Schieler scoring on a 27 yard run. That was followed by an extra point by senior kicker Parker Theobald, putting West up, 7-0.

Senior running back Dishon Hall’s 9 yard touchdown reception of a pass from senior quarterback Daylen Boddie tied the game at 7-all at 9:35 in the first quarter after senior kicker Josue Nsukami’s extra point.

Senior wide receiver Connor Lay closed out the scoring in the first quarter first, with a 15 yard run but Nsukami saw his extra point blocked by the Wildcats’ front line. However, NCHS led 13-7. After Normal West (1-1) punted to finish the next series of downs, Lay scored from 7 yards out to complete five play, 59 yard march for the Ironmen’s next score with 1:49 left in the quarter. Lay’s touchdown, followed by a two-point run by Boddie gave NCHS (2-0) a 21-7 lead going into the second quarter.

Boddie starred in the second quarter scoring twice before halftime. First, from 19 yards out to top a 9 play, 63 yard march, followed by another Nsukami extra point, putting NCHS up, 28-7 at the quarter’s 8:27 mark. Then, after an interception by senior defensive back Myles Doggan disrupted West’ next drive, Boddie scored again, this time from five yards out, followed by Lay’s two-point conversion, putting NCHS up, 36-7 with 2:22 until halftime.

West went 75 yards on five plays to score on the ensuing drive, with junior wide receiver Cole Hernandez scoring from 12 yards out on a pass from Camp followed by Camp kicking the extra point, cutting the Ironmen’s lead, 36-14, with 1:07 until halftime.

West’s turnover on downs following the second half kickoff gave NCHS the ball at their own 24 and three plays later, partly due to a rushing the passer call against West, Boddie scored on a 40 yard keeper play followed by Nsukami’s next extra point, putting NCHS up, 43-14 with six minutes until the end of the third quarter.

West tried a little diversionary tactic with a direct snap to senior running back Davion McQuirter who ran from two yards out for a score followed by a failed two-point try, reducing NCHS’ lead, 43-20, with 8:59 left in the contest.

From there, each team would have a series of downs, NCHS’ ending in a punt while Normal West’s resulted in a turnover on downs. When NCHS got the ball back as a result, they went 61 yards on four plays for their last score on the night, Boddie’s fourth touchdown on the night from 4 yards out. But NCHS (2-0) held a 49-20 lead despite West defenders managing to block the extra point.

West junior backup quarterback Delane Matthews saw action toward the end of the contest scoring from 12 yards out followed by another Theobald extra point.

Following the initial Wildcats score that opened the game, NCHS head football coach Jason Drengwitz explained, his team kept their cool, both players and coaches, appearing not to be rattled by their opponent’s quick opening score. Assessing the remainder of the contest, Drengwitz said, “Defense played well, we put a lot of points on the board, gave us a cushion, we took care of the football.”

He added he “couldn’t have been happier with how the half went after West’s opening score. After that, he said, “Our defense played well, we put a lot of points on the board and gave ourselves a cushion, and took care of the football.”

“Normal is a very good football team and we just have to come out and take care of the ball a little bit better and execute a little better on both sides of the ball,” Normal West head coach Nathan Fincham explained. “Boddie is just a really good football player and tough to stop.”

NCHS will play host to Urbana Friday while Normal West visits Danville. Both games start at 7p.m.

By Steve Robinson | May 1, 2018 - 10:07 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

The visiting Iron scored in the first inning as pitcher Mackenzie Leonard was dodged by West pitching all day, being walked five appearances at the plate. With two out, she scored on a Jenna White single, giving NCHS a 1-0 lead and keeping two on base only to see the Iron’s own pitcher, Jessi Grove, become the third out in the opening inning.

The Lady Iron put two more on the board in the top of the third inning when shortstop Ashley Klinzing singled followed by center fielder Reese Johnson singling and West pitcher Bailey Turner getting walked for what was the second time in the contest at that time. Ella Fletcher’s base clearing single gave NCHS a 3-0 lead. A single by Fletcher in the fourth inning cleared the bases of Klinzing and Johnson a second time in the fourth inning, giving the Lady Iron a 5-0 lead midway through that inning.

A single by Bailey Turner advanced Jess Jacobs and allowed Mikayla Fairfield to cross the plate for West for the first time in the bottom of the fourth inning, cutting the Iron’s lead, 5-1. a double by Josi Grove aided by a single and advancing to second by Jacobs helped with that score. A single by Addi Boundy scored Grove who doubled earlier in the fifth inning, putting NCHS up, 6-1

But Jacobs gave Wildcats faithful in attendance a glimmer of hope blasting a bottom of the sixth inning first pitch over the center field wall for a home run, reducing the Iron’s lead, 6-2. But while that was seen as a momentum booster, the Wildcats couldn’t boost run production beyond that. With one out in the top of the seventh, leadoff hitter Klinzing singled and then scored to avoid a single with two out resulting in the final score.

The win lifted NCHS to 14-2 overall including a perfect 5-0 in the Big 12 Conference. Normal West slid to 11-10 overall which includes a 4-1 conference mark. Leonard earned the victory while West’s Savanna Mattson had the loss.

Leonard was intentionally walked at all five of her at-bats and NCHS head coach said he understood that logic on the part of his cross-town opponent. “We’ve been seeing that quite a bit and we’re just used to it now,” NCHS head coach Jeff Cole said. “Mackenzie did a lot of damage to these guys her freshman year. As a result, Cole added, he didn’t fault West head coach April Schermann for employing that strategy.

“We haven’t been able to piece together seven consecutive innings of great softball,” said Schermann. “We had some innings where we fought back and had some momentum going. But we need to do that consistently for all seven innings. Every loss is a learning opportunity and we have a lot of notes from this game that we’re going to work on.”

By Steve Robinson | April 10, 2018 - 10:59 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Eight days not playing baseball due to poor weather conditions after having been on the road down south was bound to get to a team sooner or later. For Normal Community High School as they took on Unit 5 arch rival Normal Community West, sooner was the first inning on Tuesday on their home field. That four-run first inning was all it took for the visiting Wildcats to beat the Ironmen, 4-2, in what were still blustery conditions.

The contest was the Big 12 Conference season opener for both teams, and Normal West (5-6 overall and 1-0 Big 12) wasted no time getting runs on the scoreboard thanks to a lead-off walk by designated hitter Brennan Diedrich. That was followed by a base hit by first baseman Jake Marti, who achieved a first base hit for his team in the game against NCHS starter J.D. Thiele. A base hit by catcher Ben Smith drove home Diedrich and Marti to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.

With the next batter, right fielder Cody Hardt at the plate, Smith stole second. Hardt singled and the pair advanced to second and third on a balk called against Ironmen starting pitcher Thiele. A single by left fielder C. J. Lewis brought Hardt and Smith across the plate with one out for a 4-0 lead.

Walks were the mode used to get two runs across the plate for NCHS (5-2) in the home half of the fourth inning. With one out, right fielder Sam Kahwaji singled. He was followed by first baseman Jacob Russo who walked. With two on, the next batter, first baseman Logan Fricker, also walked. With bases loaded, Normal West pitcher McCade Brown walked in Kahwaji and Russo before Normal West pitcher Tyler Thierry grounded out and was followed by a walk of left fielder Brody Fletcher. That resulted in what turned out to be the final score. The inning ended with designated hitter Nick Gilhaus striking out on a Brown pitch. Gilhaus was one of 11 batters who struck out with Brown on the mound. The victory gave Brown a 3-1 record.

Of Brown’s fourth inning struggles, Normal West head coach Chris Hawkins said, “He had one tough inning and getting his control back.” Prior to this contest, the Wildcats’ last game was a road game at Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin on April 2, Hawkins explained.

NCHS head coach Ryan Short encouraged his players to “have a short memory about that first inning.” Once they did that, he said, his players did well. “We did have some base runners in the first two or three innings, but we just couldn’t get anybody around.”

Short said his team practices under these conditions as much as possible to adjust to the cold because during the season, it’s likely to be like that until mid-May.

By Steve Robinson | January 29, 2018 - 10:14 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BasketballNORMAL – Once Normal Community West High School’s boys’ basketball team got the jump on rival Normal Community High School Friday night in their rivalry contest, there appeared to be no stopping them the rest of the evening. But NCHS did manage to put the breaks on the Wildcats late in the fourth quarter but it couldn’t keep Normal West from staying in front for a 42-37 road victory.

Sandwiching two missed free throws by Wildcats sophomore guard Drew Wollenschlager were two deuces by teammate junior center Francis Okoro which gave the Wildcats a quick 4-0 lead. NCHS junior Dishon Hall put the Ironmen on the scoreboard with a layup at the quarter’s 3:27 mark, cutting that lead to 4-2. Another deuce by Okoro gave Normal West a 6-2 lead. A trey by NCHS junior Daylen Boddie sliced that lead to one, 6-5. But a trey by West guard Shea Cupples gave the Wildcats a 9-5 lead with which to open the second quarter.

Boddie opened the second quarter by fouling senior forward Drew Yonker who sank two free throws and was followed by a trey from senior forward Terance Montgomery-Fisher, and after an Ironmen timeout, senior guard Brady Cupples hit a deuce which pushed Normal West ahead, 16-5. Boddie hit a jumper and senior Dalton Tevis followed, to come within seven, 16-9 with 2:20 left in the quarter. Okoro’s next basket doubled the Wildcats’ lead, 18-9 with 1:17 left in the quarter and he followed that up with a jumper to put Normal West up 20-7, with four seconds left.

But Boddie startled the full crowd of roughly 5,000 fans with a half court shot to beat the buzzer and cut Normal West’s lead, 20-12, going into halftime.

NCHSBrady Cupples’ opening shot for the third quarter put West up, 22-12, and was followed by a bucket from Boddie, changing the score to 22-14. From there, West went on a 7-0 run that was all Okoro except for the last two points. Up until that point, the 6 foot-9 junior scored three baskets and answered a foul with two free throws before Wollenschlager answered a foul with a free throw giving West a 29-14 lead. Coleman reduced that to 29-17 with a trey at 2:48 in the period but Coleman and junior Joe Lippert responded with unanswered baskets to cut the lead to 10, 29-19, with 2:30 left in the quarter. An Okoro bucket put West up, 31-19 and a free throw by Wollenschlager made the lead, 32-18. NCHS came within 11, 32-21, on a Boddie shot and Okoro closed out the quarter on a basket for a 34-21 Wildcats lead.

Boddie opened the fourth quarter for NCHS with a trey, closing West’s lead to 10 again, 34-24, and then Cupples was fouled where he answered with two free throws putting West up, 36-24 with 7:09 left in the game. After a Wildcats timeout, senior Jalen Coleman’s trey at 3:49 pulled NCHS within nine, 36-27. But Coleman fouling Cupples got West one free throw to put the Wildcats up 10, 37-27, with 2:46 left.

Normal WestA free throw by Boddie closed the Wildcats’ lead to nine, 37-28, and West called a timeout with 1:45 left. A C. J. Chastain basket cut the Wildcats’ lead, 37-30 and a free throw by Alec McGinnis gave West an eight-point advantage, 38-30 until a fouled Boddie cut that lead at the line, 38-32. That prompted Wildcats head coach Brian Cupples to call time with 59.5 seconds left. following the timeout, a fouled Okoro went 1-for2 on the line to stretch West’s lead, 39-32. Cupples then fouled Christian who sank one, closing in on West, 39-33. But Cupples then was called for a technical for something he said to an opponent. That cut West’s lead, 39-35 with 32.3 left. Two NCHS fouls against him sent West junior forward Nate Duckworth to the line where he sank 3-of-4 giving West a 40-35. The last basket of the night came from Boddie with 3.8 seconds left.

“I thought we were great defensively, and I thought we were great rebounding,” said West head coach Brian Cupples. “NCHS’ kids did a great job battling and that got it down to a one or two position game which got it tight on us. We had a great start defensively. NCHS made tough shots.”

“We dug ourselves in a whole and West did a great job of taking care of the ball and made just enough free throws and did enough to win,” explained NCHS head coach Dave Witzig. “Okoro was a ton tonight and they handled the ball well tonight, and they did a great job.”

By Steve Robinson | January 28, 2018 - 10:22 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BasketballNORMAL – The annual North-South Girls’ Basketball Shootout featuring teams from Normal Community High School, Normal Community West High School, Belleville East and O’Fallon rotated its way to NCHS Saturday, Jan. 27 giving fans something other than cold weather or politics to ponder. NCHS went 2-for-2 in victories over their opponents while Normal West dropped both sides of their contests.

Belleville East 68, Normal West 44: An opening 10-0 lead from the game’s tip-off by Belleville East (15-9) featuring two baskets each from juniors Kayla Rainey and B’Aunce Carter helped put the Lady Lancers in front of Normal West quickly to begin their day. Two baskets by junior Jess Jacobs and Carrie Sims allowed the Wildcats to cut that lead to 16-9 going into the second quarter, but Carter would add 8 more points before halftime, joined by senior Grace Tantillo who added one more bucket to give the Lady Lancers a 38-24 halftime lead. West’s biggest basket in the second quarter was a trey by Jacobs at the quarter’s 6:15 mark.

Carter and senior Jailyn McClenney each had three baskets in the third quarter helping increase their team’s lead, 56-35. A trey for West by Jacobs added the Wildcats’ biggest points in the quarter. Junior Whitney Bozarth’s trey in the 4th quarter toward the game’s conclusion helped to narrow the score.

Carter led Belleville East in double-figures with 35 points followed by 13 from junior Bryce Dowell and 10 from McClenney. Jacobs was the only player to hit double digits for Normal West (13-9) with 10.

NCHSNCHS 63, O’Fallon 39: NCHS (20-5 after their second game) closed out the event with a 63-39 win over O’Fallon. The opening quarter was highlighted by three treys for the Lady Iron from senior Summer Stoewer giving NCHS an 11-6 lead until O’Fallon senior Sydney Thurwalker hit a trey cutting the lead to 11-9. Thurwalker scored 9 of the Panthers’ points in that opening quarter, but NCHS went into the second quarter with a 17-14 lead.

After NCHS junior Abby Feit and O’Fallon’s Ashley Scholer exchanged buckets to keep NCHS up 19-18 early in the second quarter, NCHS demonstrated a 12-0 outburst featuring baskets from sophomore Kylee Schneriger, sophomore Maya Wong, and senior Hannah Johnson pushing NCHS’ lead to 31-18 before O’Fallon’s bench called time. O’Fallon would only score four points after that though, while NCHS entered the 3rd quarter after holding a 40-22 halftime lead.

Defender for O’Fallon (24-3 after their second game) held NCHS to just 8 points in the third quarter while only scoring 9 themselves topped by a trey at 1:09 in the quarter by junior Rayna Bullock. That reduced NCHS’ lead to 48-29. NCHS lead 48-31 going into the fourth quarter.

As she had at the start of the contest, Stoewer led off the fourth quarter with a basket to put the Lady Iron in front, 50-31 and the team got a boost courtesy of three baskets in the quarter from Molly McGaugh to seal the victory. Stoewer led NCHS’ scoring with 18 points, including four treys, and was followed in double-figures by Feit with 16. Thurwalker was the only O’Fallon player in double-digits, scoring 11.

Normal WestNCHS Starts Day With A Win: NCHS appeared unfazed by their 10a.m. tipoff which started the annual rotating event, defeating Belleville East, 69-55. Although Carter did the heavy lifting for the Lady Lancers by scoring 14 of her team-high 24 points in the first quarter, NCHS’ Feit matched that pace and exceeded it finishing with a game-high 26. NCHS held leads of 21-19 after one quarter, 42-30 at halftime, and 58-41 after three quarters. Schneringer was the only other Lady Iron player in double-figures with 15 points. Rainey and Dowell each had 9 points apiece for the Lady Lancers.

Normal West Drops First Game: Normal West started their morning game against O’Fallon strong, with scoring led by junior Ayanna Gibbs, scoring 6 points in the opening quarter and powered further by a trey by Bozarth giving the Wildcats an 18-14 lead going into the second quarter. Second quarter treys from sophomore Claire Demosthenes and Bozarth gave West a 35-32 halftime lead before two treys from Schloer and a trey each from sophomores Kayla Gordon and Makayla Best helped push the Panthers in front, 50-47 as the game went into the fourth quarter.

The Panthers stayed in front on the strength of a trey by Best followed by two deuces each from Schloer and Thurwalker. West only scored 15 points in the last quarter powered mainly by buckets from senior Arie Sims and a trey from Kaitlyn Hardin. Schloer led double-digit scoring for O’Fallon with 16 points followed by 10 each from Best and Thurwalker. Gibbs led West with 14 points followed by 13 points each from Demosthenes and Jacobs.