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.

By Steve Robinson | November 3, 2019 - 10:40 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Ninth seed Normal Community High School kept 24th seed Burbank Reavis High School scoreless for three quarters while simultaneously putting points on the scoreboard to advance to the second round by beating the Rams, 36-14 in the opening round of Illinois High School Association Class 7A playoffs. Senior wide receivers Camron Jackson and Dylan Tracy each scored two touchdowns helping to provide the Ironmen with enough distance from the Rams during the contest.

As a result of the victory, head coach Jason Drengwitz’s team will travel to the Chicago suburbs to face eighth seed Chicago Phillips who carry an 8-1 record into the contest.

Jackson scored first for NCHS (8-2) on a five yard run capping a 6 play 52 yard drive which began after a Reavis punt which gave the Ironmen the ball at their own 47. Freshman kicker Ryan Millmore followed up with an extra point to put NCHS up, 7-0.

Burbank-based Reavis’ ensuing possession ended in a punt, giving NCHS the ball at the Rams’ 43 as a starting point. Two plays later, senior quarterback Aidan Oliver connected with Tracy for a 40 yard touchdown strike with 39 seconds left in the quarter, followed by Millmore’s extra point to give the Ironmen a 14-0 advantage going into the second quarter.

Reavis (7-3) started their ensuing possession at their own 20 but wound up turning the ball over on downs after an attempted fake punt turned pass went awry giving NCHS the ball at the Rams’ 37. Five plays later, Jackson scored from a yard out, followed by Millmore’s extra point increasing NCHS’ lead, 21-0, with 7:29 left until halftime.

NCHS received the second half kickoff and continued their march down field scoring on the third play from scrimmage with Tracy scoring his second touchdown of the game as he connected from 85 yards receiving Oliver’s pass for a touchdown, giving NCHS a 27-0 lead after Millmore missed the extra point.

Reavis senior defensive back Tyler Matthews picked off an Oliver pass to help stop an Ironmen possession at the Rams’ 23 but the opponent’s possession was fraught with penalties which pushed their line of scrimmage back to inside their own 5 yard line. When Rams junior quarterback Brendan Keane attempted to punt the ball, it struck a teammate first before hitting the ground and the Rams retrieved it only to be met by NCHS defenders in the end zone for a safety. That extended the Ironmen advantage to 29-0 with 5:41 in the quarter.

Oliver scored NCHS’ final points on the night, putting the Ironmen up 36-0, from 23 yards out, dashing past defenders and having to dive past the goal line to avoid them further for the score with 2:33 left in the third quarter followed by Millmore’s extra point.

Reavis’ points all came in the fourth quarter, the first was a 56 yard pass from senior quarterback Matt O’Malley to senior wide receiver Tizoc Covarrubais followed by O’Malley scrambling between defenders to get a successful 2-point conversion, cutting NCHS’ lead, 36-8. The second score came with 59 seconds left in the game as senior running back Nick Baez dashed in from 2 yards out followed by another O’Malley conversion play resulting in the final score.

“No team has been able to run the ball effectively on us,” explained NCHS head coach Drengwitz. He credited the complete coaching staff for “just putting our kids in the best position to execute the game plan and then our kids in the best position to execute it. We made Reavis one dimensional which made them have to throw the ball, and controlled the line of scrimmage.” He added this game was the “closest we’ve come to putting all phases of the game – offense, defense, and special teams – together all year.”

“We felt we could run the ball a little better than we did tonight – a lot better,” admitted Reavis head coach Tim Zasada. “Today, we couldn’t run the ball at all and that’s a credit to Normal’s front seven players. Their linebackers and defensive linemen are really good, really physical.”

By Steve Robinson | October 19, 2019 - 10:51 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – From the outset, it looked like a statistical mismatch to put Normal Community High School and Champaign Centennial High School against each other. While the Ironmen had only sustained one loss on the season, the Chargers were still in search of their first victory. Before a crowd of roughly 850 fans at Ironmen Stadium, NCHS added to their victories while adding to their opponent’s woes with a 41-13 victory.

As a result of the victory, the Ironmen (7-1 overall and 7-0 Big 12), ranked 10th in Illinois High School Association Class 7A, earned a share of the league championship. Crosstown rival Normal Community West High School and Peoria High are both 7-0 in league standings. The Ironmen’s final regular season game will be at Peoria High Friday, starting with a 4:30p.m. kickoff.

After the Chargers received the initial kickoff and punting on fourth down, senior quarterback Aidan Oliver’s 14 yard touchdown dash at 8:31 in the first quarter, followed by a two-point conversion pass from sophomore quarterback Chase Mackey to Oliver playing receiver gave the Ironmen a fast 8-0 lead. The score capped a 6 play 51 yard drive for the Ironmen.

Champaign Centennial’s next drive only lasted one play resulting in a fumble recovered by NCHS at the Chargers’ 21. Four plays later, junior running back Benjamin Larson scored on a two yard run at 6:57 in the quarter, followed by a successful extra point by freshman kicker Ryan Millmore, giving the Ironmen a 15-0 lead.

The Chargers next drive would begin at their own 32 after the kickoff and get as far as midfield before NCHS sophomore defensive back Keewan Grismore’s interception, giving the Ironmen the ball at their own 43. Four plays later, Oliver would connect with senior wide receiver Dylan Tracy on a 30 yard touchdown strike, followed by Millmore missing the extra point. That score would increase NCHS’ lead to 21-0 going into the second quarter.

Champaign Centennial (0-8 overall, 0-7 Big 12) would punt to end the ensuing possession, giving the Ironmen the ball on the Chargers’ 49 with 57 seconds left in the opening quarter. Four plays later, Oliver would dash for a 42 yard touchdown at the 11:43 mark in the second quarter, followed by a botched 2-point try. The score would advance the Ironmen’s lead, 27-0.

From there, each team would have a possession end in an interception, followed by the Chargers having a possession ending in a fumble recovered by NCHS senior defensive lineman Cade Hermann, giving the Ironmen the ball at the Chargers’ 14. Two plays later, Oliver would score again from 13 yards out followed by Millmore’s extra point, giving NCHS a 34-0 lead with 6:45 left until halftime.

The Chargers’ ensuing possession only lasted three downs and was followed by a punt which gave NCHS the ball back on their own 49. Two plays later, Oliver connected with senior wide receiver Dylan Tracy on a 32 yard touchdown pass play. Millmore’s extra point gave NCHS a 41-0 lead going into halftime.

Once the second half began, game officials employed IHSA’s “Mercy Rule,” – as a result of the 40-point difference in the game score, using 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.

The Chargers scored to open the third quarter on a 3 play 60 yard drive ending in sophomore running back Montez DuBose’s 25 yard rushing score, followed by senior kicker Isaiah Douglass’ extra point, cutting NCHS’ 41-7 at the 5:28 mark and going into the fourth quarter. The guests’ final score would come at the 1:20 mark in the fourth quarter as sophomore quarterback Brady Boatright would connect with sophomore wide receiver Jack Young on a 15 yard touchdown pass, but the Chargers would miss the extra point.

“Centennial may be struggling, but we definitely weren’t taking them lightly,” said NCHS head coach Jason Drengwitz. That said, the second season head coach added, “No matter who we’re playing, we’re still playing for a Big 12 Conference championship. We want to play to our level, not to the level of our opponents. Centennial has a lot of young guys. I was just proud of how our guys went about our approach and went about our business taking care of all three phases of the game.

NCHS travels to conference leader Peoria High Friday to close out the regular season. The Lions, at 7-1, present the Ironmen with “so many challenges on the offensive side of the ball,” Drengwitz said. “Defensively, they do some unique things which also provides a challenge, I think.”

“We told our guys Normal Community was a good football team,” explained first season Champaign Centennial Kyle Jackson. He admits his team is “pretty young and pretty inexperienced, so we’re focusing on growing, and building the culture, and getting better. We knew Oliver was good and he was going to make his reads and make the right reads of our defense and we tried to throw some different defensive things at him.”