By Steve Robinson | September 5, 2021 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Being able to win a home game and do it in a stadium that had just received a new name helped make Normal Community High School’s first victory at the newly christened Dick Tharp Field all the sweeter after the Ironmen pounded Peoria Manual, 57-22, Friday night in their first Big 12 conference contest at the newly-named field.

Prior to the game, the field which had been known as Ironmen Field from when NCHS began playing here in the mid-1990s was renamed after the man who coached the Ironmen from 1966-1987 and racked up a 158-50-5 record. Now 90-years-old and aided by a walker to get around, Tharp was present for the ceremony as were family members, friends, and many of his former players.

What they and the fans at Dick Tharp Field saw was an Ironmen victory which began quickly courtesy of a 19-yard pass from senior quarterback Chase Mackey to senior wide receiver Kyle Thierry for the opening score, topping a 5 play 75-yard drive, wrapped up by junior kicker Ryan Millmore’s extra point to give the Ironmen a fast 7-0 lead.

The Rams’ first drive ended in Peoria Manual punting the ball back to NCHS (2-0) who promptly marched down field for their next score, a 2-yard touchdown run by senior running back Michael Coleman at the 6:20 mark in the quarter followed by Millmore’s extra point, putting NCHS up, 14-0.

Peoria’s next drive was interrupted by Ironmen senior linebacker Tye Niekamp, who picked off the third pass in the drive and ran into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown followed by another Millmore extra point, increasing NCHS’ lead, 21-0.

Peoria Manual (0-2) scored on a 15-yard touchdown dash by Rams senior running back Tristen White, but with no extra point kicker, the Rams opted for a 2-point conversion play with White dashing through defenders to cut NCHS’ lead to 21-8 with 1:14 left in the quarter.

But NCHS closed out the quarter by scoring one more time on a 20-yard pass from Mackey to senior tight end Tyler Dwinal followed by another Millmore extra point to put NCHS up, 28-8, as the opening quarter came to an end.

An interception of a Peoria Manual pass by Ironmen senior defensive back Camden Maas put NCHS at its own 32-yard line. Seven plays later, Mackey would connect again with Dwinal, this time on a 28-yard touchdown pass at 7:04 until halftime followed by Millmore’s extra point, pushing the Ironmen lead to 35-8. A turnover by Manual gave NCHS a start at Manual’s 47 from where, four plays later, the Ironmen would end the drive in a 17-yard touchdown by junior running back Christopher Taylor with 3:31 until halftime, followed by Millmore’s extra point, resulting in NCHS’ 42-8 halftime lead.

NCHS got the ball to start the third quarter and scored quickly with Mackey scoring from a yard out to complete a short yardage drive followed by Millmore’s extra point increasing NCHS’ lead, 49-8 at 10:49 in the quarter. Once the scoring difference between the two teams reached 40 points, game officials employed an Illinois High School Association rule allowing for a continuously running clock, stopping it only for timeouts taken by a team or because of an injury.

Peoria Manual scored from four yards out thanks to sophomore quarterback London Toliver whose touchdown was followed by a failed 2-point try. But that touchdown cut NCHS’ lead to 49-15 as the game entered the fourth quarter.

Toliver would score a second time in the final quarter for the Rams from 8 yards out followed by another failed 2-point try. That cut NCHS’ lead to 49-22.

Ironmen sophomore Tommy Davis scored a short yardage touchdown to complete the scoring for NCHS with 2:22 left in the contest followed by a successful 2-point conversion by junior running back Steven Darnell capping the evening’s scoring.

“I felt like our kids made a lot of big plays,” NCHS Head Coach Jason Dregwitz said about the win. “I felt like they played with a lot of effort and energy. I felt

“We played an awfully good team,” was the admission Peoria Manual Head Coach Dan Fauser made after the game ended. “They just make plays and we’re a IHSA Class 3A school playing a 7A school. Our kids played hard, but we just have so many kids playing two ways.” He credited Toliver and White for their accomplishments on the night. They were excited about playing in front of Coach Tharp and the former alumni that were here. It was a special night and I thought our kids did a nice job.

“Give Manual credit because they kept playing and kept playing hard,” Dregwitz added. “A couple times after Peoria scored, we were able to score too.”

Fauser said, “We just have our work cut out for us because it’s just hard to beat kids this big.” Drengwitz was complementary of the effort Peoria Manual did throughout the contest, explaining, “Their kids did a great job staying the course and not hanging their heads and continued to play hard.”

By Steve Robinson | August 28, 2021 - 10:15 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, News, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – After Friday night’s season opening loss to Normal Community High Fred Carlton Field, one can only imagine Bloomington High School players and coaches still couldn’t get the sight of NCHS senior quarterback Chase Mackey from their dreams considering the performance he gave in the Ironmen’s season opening 35-0 Big 12 Conference shutout victory over the Purple Raiders.

Mackey, the 6 foot-3, 200 pound quarterback, completed passes totaling 195 yards which included three touchdown passes and running for a fourth directing his team to its first victory of the season, its first road victory.

After receiving the opening kickoff, the Purple Raiders were deep in their own territory and forced to punt but the return put NCHS (1-0 Big 12 and overall) on BHS’ 5-yard line. Even with a penalty against them, four plays later, the Ironmen scored courtesy of Mackey rushing five yards into the end zone at the 5:59 mark in the first quarter, followed by junior kicker Ryan Millmore successful extra point, putting NCHS up, 7-0, closing out the quarter.

Short yardage and penalty flags doomed Bloomington (0-1 Big 12 and overall) in the second quarter allowing NCHS to begin what turned into its next score from BHS’ 14-yard line. One play later, senior running back Michael Coleman rushed past defenders for NCHS’ next score, followed by Millmore’s extra point, putting NCHS up, 14-0 with 2:11 left in the quarter.

NCHS would score again in the quarter’s closing seconds as Mackey would connect with senior wide receiver Kyle Thierry on a one play 45-yard scoring pass followed by another Millmore extra point, giving NCHS a 21-0 halftime lead.

NCHS received the ball to open the second half and immediately added to their lead courtesy of an 18-yard touchdown pass from Mackey to senior wide receiver Terance Washington capping a 4 play 65-yard drive topped off with Millmore’s extra point, increasing NCHS’ lead to 28-0 as the game entered the fourth quarter.

Mackey and Washington would connect one more time on the night with 6:10 left in the contest on a 55-yard touchdown pass followed by Millmore’s last extra point of the night. Washington’s opening night stats included four receptions tallying 116 yards.

The victory avenged a 12-6 loss NCHS suffered against BHS in the spring, which Ironmen head coach Jason Drengwitz noted after the game, adding he didn’t really look upon this victory as revenge for that loss, but added, “it was probably sweeter for our players, but I don’t think I looked at it as a revenge game. I have a lot of respect for Bloomington, their players, and their coaching staff. More than anything, it’s not really revenge. You just want to beat your crosstown rival for the bragging rights. BHS was a team who handled us physically last year. I know our kids feel good about this win. They were excited to get out here and play against this team.”

Drengwitz added that from here, he and his players need to look at what went well for the Ironmen and build on those things. “I know our kids feel good about this win. I know they were excited.”

BHS head coach Scott Godfrey characterized the week leading up to the game as being “just a tough week.” “We had a lot of adversity thrown at us this week,” Godfrey said in describing how his week leading up to the game played out. He explained the heat added to injured players, and having to play without some key players made the week leading up to the game frustrating for the coaching staff and players.

“Give credit to Normal Community, they hit us in the mouth from the very start,” Godfrey said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and they won the turnover battle. So, first and foremost, they did what it takes to win a football game.”

Ironmen Field To Be Renamed “Dick Tharp Field” Before Friday’s Home Game: Prior to Friday’s first NCHS home game, the field they play on, currently known as Ironmen Field, will be renamed in honor of a former head coach, Dick Tharp, thus becoming known as Dick Tharp Field. Tharp, now 90, coached NCHS for 22 seasons, from 1966-1988, helping guide the Ironmen to a 158-50-5 mark. Big 12 Conference foe Peoria Manual will be the opponents for the 7p.m. contest. The Rams will be seeking a first win having lost a week 1 non-conference game at Peotone, 24-20.

By Steve Robinson | April 4, 2021 - 10:25 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Normal Community High School’s football team has had its way with Big 12 Conference rival Bloomington High School for the last seven years, winning at home and here at Fred Carlton Field. Friday night, however, in a low scoring affair, the Purple Raiders’ scored on both offense and defense while confining the Ironmen to being scoreless for half the contest as BHS defeated NCHS, 12-6, Friday night. The win gave the Purple Raiders their first victory on the abbreviated season.

BHS (1-2) scored first to complete their first series of downs following the opening kickoff with senior running back Ean Haggarty bursting through the Ironmen defense for a 49 yard touchdown drive at 9:50 in the first quarter. That play capped a 6 play 86 yard drive followed by a successful extra point by junior kicker Cameron Anderson, putting the hosts up, 7-0.

Later in the quarter, with NCHS deep in their own territory, Ironmen sophomore kicker Ryan Millmore lost and recovered the ball in the end zone before he could punt and BHS freshman defensive lineman Miguel Espindola tackled Millmore for a safety, increasing the Purple Raiders’ lead, 9-0, going into the second quarter.

From there, defenses for both sides stayed busy through the second and third quarters preventing any scoring. A 26 yard field goal by Anderson ended that drought with 7:04 left in the contest extended BHS’ advantage capping a 65 yard drive, extending the Purple Raiders’ lead to 12-3.

BHS’ defense kept NCHS close to midfield following the ensuing kickoff but the Ironmen managed to get to the BHS 31 as time started winding down. Millmore entered the contest a last time with 5:55 remaining kicking a 41 yard field goal which cut BHS’ lead in half. But NCHS could not gain possession again before the final horn.

Ironmen sophomore backup quarterback Chase Wiese completed 15-of-31 passes for 163 yards in what was his debut under center. Wellman completed 8-of-13 passes garnering 81 yards in the victory.

NCHS was short-handed going into this contest as junior starting quarterback Chase Mackey was continuing to recover from an injury he suffered during NCHS’ opening game against Normal Community West March 20. In addition, contact tracing related to COVID-19 kept NCHS’ all five offensive line players sidelined. In all, a total of seven Ironmen players did not play due to COVID-19 related issues.

BHS head coach Scott Godfrey said he was aware of the medical issues NCHS faced coming into this game and had praise for how his team got back on the winning track against the Ironmen. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said about snapping his team’s losing streak against the Ironmen. “It’s a big win for us.”

“We put the pressure on our guys all week if we wanted into the playoffs,” Godfrey added. “We knew we were going to have to earn it against NCHS and our guys came out and executed.”

“It hurts to get beat, but I’m extremely proud of our guys and how they battled,” NCHS head coach Jason Drengwitz said. “We had the short hand tonight, but the credit goes to Bloomington. They played well offensively. They played well on special teams and they played really well on defense.

“Maybe we’ll get a chance to play them again,” the second season Ironmen head coach said. “I’m disappointed for the loss and I’m disappointed for our seniors. However, I’m really proud of the effort our kids played. They fought hard and they never gave up. They stuck together to the very end.”

Drengwitz was quick to credit Wiese for his effort on the night, saying, “For his first start, he did a really nice job. He battled a lot of adversity and did a lot of difficult things.”

NORMAL – One thing football coaches have to make sure players understand is they must be prepared for anything during a game. It’s a lesson that fits for life, too. Normal Community High School senior wide receiver Jackson Wiggins showed rival Normal Community West High School he has taken note of that lesson, and made use of it Friday night. It was opening night of a COVID-19 delayed season for both teams. Wiggins scored two touchdowns against the Wildcats, giving the Ironmen a 14-0 annual “Chili Bowl” victory in a game played at Hancock Stadium on Illinois State University’s campus. The win gave the Ironmen a 1-0 start on the season.

A fumble by Normal West quickly ended the Wildcats’ second possession at their own 21 yard line. Two plays later, NCHS senior quarterback Chase Mackey connected with Wiggins for the first Ironmen touchdown with 7:09 left in the first quarter followed by sophomore kicker Ryan Millmore’s extra point. That gave NCHS a fast 7-0 lead.

Normal West (0-1) fumbled the ball deep in their own territory but fumbled where West junior defensive back Camden Maas recovered it and was downed at the Wildcats’ 9 yard line at 3:54 in the opening quarter. Three plays later, Mackey scored for the second time on the night catching an 8-yard pass from Mackey, followed by another Millmore extra point, resulting in the final score.

Where the Ironmen used Mackey all evening under center, Normal West rotated a trio of quarterbacks – seniors Leslie Fisher and Levi Hess, and junior Kolton Lindsay, to anchor the Wildcats’ offense throughout the contest.

Until Friday’s game, Wiggins said, he had only scored one touchdown in any game he had been in up to then. He was quick to distribute credit to both Chase and Wildcats Offensive Coordinator Chris Messina. Messina is also the team’s quarterback coach.

Normal Community High head coach Jason Drengwitz said he saw “a real good defensive effort by a young defense with some great senior leadership in the back end.” He added special teams “played a huge part” in the contest. “We know we have some room to improve, but when we need to make some plays, we made plays,” Drengwitz said. “We didn’t turn the ball over. We took care of it. When we needed to punt, we punted and let the defense take care of it.” It was a three-phase game, Drengwitz added, referring to the trio of parts of the team that work together – offense, defense, and special teams.

Since Normal West (0-1) rotated three quarterbacks, Drengwitz said that made it “somewhat hard to prepare for.” But he said his staff had an idea who the Wildcats would put behind center.

“It was a tough game,” said Normal West head coach Nate Fincham. “Give credit to Normal. They came out and played physical. They didn’t make mistakes. We looked like we hadn’t played a game in 18 months. We came out and had some mistakes and you can’t do that against a team like Normal.”

Fincham said his team would address ball security when they practiced this week in preparation for hosting non-conference opponent Quincy Notre Dame in a Friday 7p.m. contest

Ironmen Field Deemed Too Muddy: Late Friday afternoon, just hours before NCHS’ scheduled game with Unit 5 School District rival Normal Community High School, NCHS Athletic Director Nic Kearfoot called an audible and was able to move the game from NCHS’ Ironmen Field to Hancock Stadium on Illinois State University’s campus.

By Steve Robinson | December 29, 2019 - 10:47 pm

BLOOMINGTON – How some teams should be seeded in tournaments can be tricky to figure out because tournament organizers are working with team schedules and basing their seeding on results of completed games. Seeding a team into a specific slot is not a guarantee that team will successfully maneuver through the tournament to show the predictions made before the start of the tournament were correct.

Normal Community High School’s boys’ basketball team, selected top seed at the 40th annual State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament, known also as The Classic, unfortunately for Ironmen faithful, proved that seeding doesn’t always equal how that team is destined to finish. Top seeded NCHS finished 5th in the Large School Boys Bracket after beating 6th seed Peoria High, 51-44, Saturday at a contest played at Normal Community West High School.

Senior guard Jimmy Gillispie scored 16 points on the night followed in double-figures for NCHS by sophomore forward Zachary Cleveland’s 13. Sophomore guards Lerone Allen and Nate Moore were high scorers for the Lions, each pocketing 11 points in the contest. The victory improved NCHS’ record to 10-2 on the season.

Ironmen Beats Machesney Park In Third Game, 66-55: NCHS jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead from the opening tip with a deuce by senior guard Jimmy Gillispie and a deuce by sophomore guard Trey Redd. Huskies senior forward Jared Jacobsen countered with a trey of his own to cut the Ironmen’s lead to 5-3 en route to a 11-9 lead going into the second quarter. It would prove to be a sign of how the Ironmen would function, with aid from a pair of technical fouls called against Machesney Park in their 66-55 victory.

Foul trouble for the Huskies in the second quarter, including a technical foul called against the Huskies helped NCHS add a 6-for-10 tally and put NCHS up, 28-17, with 3:09 left until halftime. NCHS owned a 32-25 halftime lead.

A trey by senior guard Mitchell Sauder started third quarter scoring for NCHS, but Machesney Park countered with two treys from junior guard Trenton Tucker. In addition, Tucker, Jacobsen, and sophomore forward Lathan Lewis combining to go 6-for-6 at the free throw line toward the end of the quarter helped the Huskies narrow NCHS’ lead going into the fourth quarter, 49-40.

A trey from senior forward Griffin McCluskey along with Gillespie, Redd, Sauder, and Cleveland each visiting the free throw line for a combined 6-for-8 in the final stanza helped put the game out of reach for the Huskies. Those same three players were the only Ironmen in double figures, with Redd and McCluskey scoring 13 points each and Gillespie pocketing 12. Tucker was high scorer for the Huskies with 12 points followed by Jacobsen and junior forward Dominic McCarren’s 10.

As a result of the win, however, the Ironmen played their last game of the tournament at Normal Community West High School where they took on Big 12 Conference foe Peoria High.

Loss To Metamora, 37-36, Sends NCHS To Loser’s Bracket: NCHS found themselves either chasing or in a tie against 8th seed Metamora when the two teams met Dec. 27 at Shirk Center. NCHS found itself behind early, 9-4 by the end of the first quarter, courtesy of a pair of treys by Metamora freshman guard Ethan Kizer and one by sophomore guard Zach Schroeder. Sophomore guard Trey Redd provided NCHS’ only scoring in the first quarter. The Ironmen trailed throughout the second quarter, but a trey from McCluskey and a buzzer-beating basket by Cleveland helped NCHS cut the Redbirds’ lead at the half down to three, 17-14.

NCHS caught up to Metamora by the end of the third quarter, 30-all, thanks to a pair of deuces from Redd and a couple of Cleveland deuces. Three-pointers by senior guard Gabe Mason and senior guard Landon Ivins contributed to the tie score. After back-to-back deuces by Gillispie to start the fourth quarter, NCHS jumped out to a 34-30 lead with 5:27 remaining.

Two free throws by Kizer and a layup by Schroeder for the Redbirds went unanswered by NCHS, tying the game at 34 with just over two minutes left. A pair of free throws by Gillespie with 1:58 left gave NCHS a 36-34 lead. But that was short-lived due to a trey by Ivins with 1:41 remaining, putting Metamora up 37-36 prompting NCHS head coach Dave Witzig to call timeout.

Following the timeout, each side called a timeout inside the game’s remaining minute, Metamora’s timeout coming with 1.7 seconds remaining. Coming out of that timeout, and NCHS having possession, senior guard Mitchell Sauder threw the ball inbounds to Redd who took a few steps, shooting the ball toward the basket, only to see it fall short as the final buzzer sounded with Metamora winning, 37-36. Gillespie was the lone Ironmen in double-figures with 14 points. Redd and Cleveland each contributed 8 points for NCHS. Mason and Landon were high scorers for Metamora, pocketing 12 and 10 points, respectfully.

Ironmen head coach Dave Witzig admitted after this contest he felt his team was “fortunate to only be down by three at halftime because Metamora really outplayed us in the first half. Our press got us back in the game a little bit, but Metamora, from the opening tip, was ready to play and we kind of felt like we were not ready to play. We were a little slow out of the gate and so we were battling the whole time.

“Their guys made a nice comeback and Ivins hit a big three to give Metamora the lead and their shooters were knocking out shots when they were open,” Witzig added. He labeled the contest “a good lesson for us because our guys have to be ready to play a 32-minute game.”

Ironmen Outpace North Chicago In First Round, 54-45: The Ironmen’s opening round win against North Chicago, 54-45 at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center put NCHS on the right path with a 54-42 victory. NCHS led the contest throughout lead 12-9 after one quarter, 24-16 at the half, and 42-28 after three quarters. Witzig said afterward the combination of his team coming fresh off celebrating Christmas combined with playing against North Chicago’s run-and-gun playing style presented a challenge for his team in the opening round. Redd led the Ironmen scoring with 19 points, followed by 13 from Cleveland and 10 from McCluskey. Junior guard Steven Rodriguez was the Warhawks’ lone scorer in double-figures with 19 points.