NORMAL – Typically, regardless of who their opponent is, Normal Community High School’s football team comes out firing in the first quarter appearing to try to get a message across of what the rest of the night will be for the opponents. Normal Community West High School does the same thing, too, but when the two sides met Friday, Sept. 6 for their annual “Chili Bowl” matchup, the home team Wildcats defense managed to keep NCHS scoreless for the first half.

NCHS recovered enough in the second half to register a come-from-behind 19-14 Big 12 Conference win before roughly 900 people.

Following a fast scoreless first quarter, senior quarterback Carson Camp’s 11 yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Max Ziebarth gave Normal West (1-1 Big 12 and overall) their first points on the board followed by a successful extra point by freshman kicker Owen Senn, putting the host Wildcats up, 7-0, at 9:04 in the second quarter. That score would hold going into halftime.

Normal West deferred the win of the pre-game coin toss, opting to take the ball to start the second half. But their effort to start that half was short-lived when Camp, with West having the ball at their own 30, was hit on the third play of scrimmage by Ironmen defenders and coughed up the ball which was recovered by NCHS junior outside linebacker Jude Lowery. NCHS managed to start their next set of downs from West’s 23, scoring when senior quarterback Aidan Oliver connected with senior wide receiver Camron Jackson for a touchdown. Freshman kicker Ryan Millmore missed his first extra point on the night, giving West a 7-6 lead, with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

West’s, next possession, which began from their own 9 yard line, was moving forward, getting to their own 18 until it was interrupted by NCHS senior inside linebacker Grant Miller’s picking off a Camp pass at the West 40. From there, Miller evaded Wildcats players to get into the end zone for a touchdown at the 10 minute mark in the third quarter. The score was followed by a failed extra point try by Millmore, but the Ironmen went in front, 13-7, with 7:47 left in the quarter. That score would hold going into the fourth quarter.

Normal West would have two more unsuccessful possessions and NCHS (2-0 Big 12 and overall) one before Ironmen senior running back Jake Hileman’s 2 yard running touchdown at 11:57 in the fourth quarter, followed by another failed 2-point play try. That increased NCHS’ advantage to 19-7.

Following the ensuing kickoff by NCHS, the Wildcats started their next drive from their own 32. Eight plays later, Camp connected with junior wide receiver LaTre Billups on a 19 yard touchdown with 9:40 left in the contest, followed by Senn’s extra point, resulting in NCHS’ lead being cut to 19-14.

West tried to mount a march for a come from behind score as time ticked away, but one drive was hampered by two incomplete passes and Camp being sacked, forcing West to punt the ball away with 7:30 left.

“This game was emotional because we’re always so proud of our kids and how hard they play,” explained NCHS head coach Jason Drengwitz afterward. “There was never any finger-pointing. The guys just kept playing, playing hard and giving everything they could and being coachable and making the right play at the right time.

“It was a hard fought battle, a tough win against a really good team, a really good defense and great quarterback, and great coaching staff,” Drengwitz added. “It was just emotional more than anything for me.”

“The big thing about the game was about how if we had penalties and turnovers we’re not going to be a very good football team,” Normal West head coach Nate Fincham said. “In the first half, we played pretty well and stuck to the game plan. In the second half, we had some penalties and turned the ball over and NCHS scored pretty quickly off of them.

“Normal did a pretty good job in the second half of mixing up their coverages and were double-teaming us,” Fincham added.

Both Unit 5 high schools play Big 12 opponents this weekend with Normal West hosting their homecoming game against Danville Friday night at Wildcat Field starting a 7p.m. Danville beat Urbana 53-22 to go 1-1 on the season Friday. NCHS travels to Urbana for a 7p.m. game. Urbana is currently 0-2 on the season.

By Steve Robinson | August 31, 2019 - 10:26 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Community High School’s senior class has a group of kids who team up to decide the theme students in the stands will use to enjoy watching their Ironmen football team. They set the tone for the evening. The theme selected for the Ironmen’s home opener Friday, Aug. 30 was “Hawaiian Night.” Figuratively speaking, the Ironmen opened the season kicking sand in the face of Peoria Richwoods to open the season, beating the Knights, 30-7, before 850 fans.

Senior running back Jake Hileman’s 23 yard touchdown dash put NCHS (1-0 Big 12 and overall) on the scoreboard for the first time this season with 2:34 remaining in the first quarter. But that was followed by a botched 2-point play, putting the Ironmen up, 6-0, for what would be the only points in the quarter.

Peoria Richwoods (0-1 Big 12 and overall) responded scoring on defense, as Knights senior defensive back Amaris Campbell picked off a pass by NCHS senior quarterback Aiden Oliver and scrambled his way 36 yards into the end zone, followed by a successful extra point by junior kicker Marcus Lanier. That gave the Knights a 7-6 lead, but it would be their only lead of the night, at 7:02 in the second quarter.

But on the ensuing series for NCHS, the Ironmen marched 73 yards in five plays topped off by Oliver’s 18 yard touchdown run, followed by a successful point after by freshman kicker Ryan Millmore. That put NCHS up, 13-7, at the 5:34 mark in the second quarter.

Richwoods would wind up punting to end the ensuing possession. But Lanier’s punt to the Ironmen wound up going nearly straight up, allowing NCHS to have the starting possession at Richwoods’ 31 yard line. Five plays later, Hileman scored for the second time on the night, this time from 2 yards out, increasing NCHS’ advantage, 20-7, following Millmore’s extra point with 48 seconds until halftime.

Third quarter action opened with Richwoods having two unsuccessful drives and NCHS one before the Ironmen would put points on the board again. After partially blocking a Knights punt, NCHS was able to start their next drive from the Knights’ 11 yard line. But Knights defenders kept NCHS from being unable to maneuver into the end zone. That prompted NCHS to kick a field goal from 26 yards out. With the successful kick, Millmore increased NCHS’ lead, 23-7.

Senior wide receivers Camron Jackson’s fourth quarter touchdown, followed by Millmore’s extra point finished out NCHS’ scoring on the night.

But officials’ flags flew often during the contest. NCHS was flagged enough to be penalized 160 yards on the night compared to 312 yards in infractions Richwoods accumulated.

NCHS head coach Jason Drengwicz said calling play by both sides “a little bit sloppy would be the understatement of the football season. We didn’t play too well offensively, committing too many mental mistakes. We left a lot of points out there. “

But because football has three phases to it, Drengwicz said, he could give credit to the sections that did play well. “I thought our defense played outstanding and controlled the line of scrimmage. Special teams, I felt did an excellent job. We just need to pick it up on offense.”

He called the penalties his team got flagged for “self-inflicted.” “Richwoods did a heck of a job. There were a lot of penalties, a lot of false starts, a lot of holding calls – all things we need to clean up. If we want to accomplish what we want to accomplish this year, we can’t have 20 penalties or however many we had. That’s definitely going to be a point of emphasis.”

For Richwoods head coach Roland Brown, what needs to be taken care of before his team’s game next week playing host to Peoria Manual was basic. “We’ve got to generate some offense,” he said. “I don’t think that we performed very well up front. I knew NCHS had a lot of offensive starters coming back and good defense, but I think we had a little success, but our defense was on the field all day. I thought our defense flew around and played very well, and kept NCHS out of the end zone when we could have easily have let them in. Defensively, it was a pretty decent game, offensively, it’s got to go up.”

Friday, Sept. 6 is the annual “Chili Bowl” game for Unit 5’s two crosstown rivals as NCHS travels to Normal Community West High School. Kickoff is slated for 7p.m.

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.”