By Steve Robinson | September 14, 2019 - 10:58 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Everybody attending a big high school homecoming game wants to see a big victory. It’s many respects, just anticipated and expected by fans of the home team. And Although Normal Community West High School went scoreless in the first quarter of their Big 12 Conference game against Danville Friday, Wildcats defenders held their guests scoreless the rest of the way while they marched to a 29-7 victory.

The Wildcats received the kickoff to start the game but punted to the Vikings after punting having gotten as far as the Vikings’ 40 before Danville defenders pressured them. Danville (1-2 Big 12 and overall) started their opening drive just inside Wildcats territory at West’s 49 yard line. The Vikings chewed up the clock as much as they did yardage, scoring when sophomore quarterback Eric Turner, Jr. dashed into the end zone for the score followed by junior kicker Edgar Segura’s successful extra point. That gave Danville a 7-0 lead with 3:16 left in the opening quarter, a lead they carried into the second quarter.

Each team would have two possessions in the second quarter before Normal West (2-1 Big 12 and overall) would find enough traction allowing them to get past Danville defenders. Senior quarterback Carson Camp would connect on an 11 yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Cole Hernandez at the 2:27 mark of the second quarter for the Wildcats’ first score of the game. Freshman kicker Owen Senn’s extra point tied the contest at 7-7.

Danville started their ensuing possession at their own 35 but the Vikings punted on their fourth play of the drive having lost five yards. Segura’s punt put the Wildcats at their own 35 to start their next possession. But a 48 yard completed pass from Camp to junior wide receiver Cole Hernandez put the Wildcats on the Danville 17. Two plays later, junior running back LaTre Billups rushed past defenders for a 5 yard score followed by a successful 2-Point conversion pass between Camp and Hernandez, increasing the Wildcats’ lead, 15-7, going into halftime.

Danville would have two unsuccessful drives and West one before West would add to its lead at 4:40 in the third quarter. Camp would connect with Billups a second time on an 18 yard touchdown play, Billups dashing down the far sideline into the end zone for the score. That resulted in West increasing the lead, 23-7, thanks to a 2-Point conversion play which followed as Hernandez connected with sophomore wide receiver Max Ziebarth.

Both sides would get a possession each before Danville would get the ball again, starting at their own 16, the result of a Vikings interception. West had a drive which started at their own 28 and was progressing until Ward picked off a Camp pass, giving the Vikings the ball at their own 16. But that drive was stopped when Normal West junior defensive back Davonte Crawford picked off Turner’s pass and got the Wildcats starting a new drive from their own 30. From there, the Wildcats chewed up both yardage and time on the way to their next score. That came when Camp connected with Hernandez for a second time on the night, this time from 12 yards out, putting Normal West up, 29-7, with 2:37 left in the contest, followed by a failed extra point try by Senn resulting in the final score.

“It took us a while to get us going and eventually, we got going at the end of the half, and that’s what I wanted to see,” said second-year Wildcats head coach Nate Fincham. He labeled his team’s response the rest of the way to the slow start as being positive.

“At the beginning of the game, we came out a little flat and Danville came out ready to play and we had to kind of catch our breath and wake up and play,” Fincham said, theorizing as to why his team was scoreless in the first quarter.”

Danville head coach Marcus Forrest said his team played the way he said his likes to play. “We played physical, we played aggressive, we played at the tempo we wanted to play. We were moving the ball and controlling it.”

But he added miscues started to help the Vikings’ desire to keep that style of play continuing led to his team unraveling in the later quarters. “Normal West has a quarterback who is a tough kid and we knew that. But we also knew defensively when we could get to him, good things happened for us. When our defense was passive, bad things happened for us.”

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 | June 2, 2019 - 10:15 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Normal Community West High School and Edwardsville looked to be evenly matched and still trying to size one another up, each side managing to score two runs in the opening inning to tie the contest to determine the Class 4A Sectional Champion at the contest played at Jack Horenberger Field on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus Saturday.

But a five-run second inning and three more in the fourth inning by the Tigers was what it took to close out Normal West’s season as the Tigers beat the Wildcats, 12-8. The loss helped close out Normal West’s season at 30-7.

A single by senior pitcher Austin Collinson started the top of the first inning, followed by a put-out on junior center fielder Will Kafer. Junior catcher Cole Hernandez was walked, and a double by senior right fielder Brandon Roth emptied the bases, putting West up, 2-0.

Collinson seemed unsettled against the first two batters for Edwardsville (34-5), walking leadoff hitter and sophomore center fielder Hayden Moore and second batter Blake Burris before forcing a put-out on third batter Drake Westcott. But with two on, a double by senior left fielder Joe Copeland scored Moore and Burris, tying the game at 2-2 before setting down the next two batters, senior shortstop Josh Ohl and senior third baseman Max Ringering to end the inning.

Normal West batters C. J. Lewis, Sean Shook, and Alec McGinnis went down in order to open the second inning, Edwardsville added to their lead in the bottom of that inning, starting with a double by junior first baseman Logan Cromer, who doubled scoring senior catcher Dalton Wallace who opened the Tigers’ half of the inning with a double. Cromer’s run batted in gave Edwardsville a 3-2 lead. A walk of Moore followed, and a single by Burris loaded the bases for junior first baseman Drake Westcott who blasted a grand slam home run over the right center field wall for a grand slam, pushing the Tigers in front, 7-2.

Collinson led off the top of the third with a double, was followed by center fielder Will Kafer striking out, and scored on a double by junior catcher Cole Hernandez, making the score, 7-3. Hernandez advanced to third from courtesy of an Edwardsville fielding error and crossed the plate during an out made on first baseman Evan Hutson, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 7-4.

Edwardsville went scoreless in the bottom of the third inning and Normal West fans saw their team open the fourth on a walk to Lewis followed by single by Shook. With two on, McGinnis hit a sacrifice fly to advance the runners to second and third, and a single by Collison allowed the pair to score, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 7-6.

Moore opened the bottom of the fourth inning with a single for Edwardsville and was followed by a put-out at first on Burris. With one gone, Westcott and Copeland each singled loading the bases. Shortstop Josh Ohl emptied the bases with a single, putting the Tigers up, 10-6.

Roth opened Normal West top half of the fifth inning by being hit by a pitch and advancing to first. After junior first baseman Evan Hutson struck out, senior designated hitter Brennan Diedrich walked and Lewis struck out for the team’s second out. Roth and Diedrich scored on a two-run double from Shook, cutting Edwardsville’s advantage to 10-8.

Edwardsville (34-5) failed to score in the bottom of the fifth as did Normal West in the top of the sixth. But after Burris singled in the bottom of the sixth, Westcott smacked his second home run of the day over the right field fence to push Edwardsville up, 12-8.

Diedrich led off Normal West bottom of the seventh inning hitting to second base for a put-out at first. With one gone, senior catcher Whitton Rice singled. But the Wildcats’ next batter, Shook hit the ball to Edwardsville shortstop Ohl who turned a double play to end the game and the Wildcats’ season.

Senior pitcher Grant Schaefer took the win for Edwardsville while Collinson took the loss.

Edwardsville head coach Tim Funkhouser was complimentary of Westcott’s two-homer performance on the day. “He’s got that real special ability to square up balls,” he explained. On facing Normal West, he added, “We knew there was a reason why they have won 30 games this year, and that came out very evident on film, so we knew their lineup was going to be really tough to pitch to. We also knew they had team speed throughout the lineup. Normal West played great quality defense in the two games we’ve seen. They’re a fundamentally sound team, so we knew they wouldn’t give us much at all.”

“Both teams kept punching,” explained Normal West head coach Chris Hawkins. “It was a heavyweight bout for a while.” He credited Collinson’s staying power throughout the game, exhibited by hit three hits in the contest. “He’s a warrior,” Hawkins said of his 5 foot-11, 170 pound senior.

Hawkins summed up the season by saying, “These guys did what they were asked. “We lost four games in March, one in April, and one in May. You know, we lost three games in March, one game in April, and one in May. We have been in the Sweet 16 game three straight years. We just have to keep grinding and get better. We’re right there. We’re knocking on the door.” His team this year had 10 juniors, Hawkins said, adding he hopes they find their way to the door to the playoffs again next year. The previous Sweet 16 losses were twice to Edwardsville and once to O’Fallon.

By Steve Robinson | May 26, 2019 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, Pekin HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – It can easily be said Normal Community West High School baseball fans are used to getting to playoffs en route to trying to make it to State. But when 4th seed Pekin put five runs on the board to go in front of the 2nd seed Wildcats at Saturday’s Sectional title contest, while the fans may have been nervous about it, Wildcats head coach Chris Hawkins wasn’t.

“We really weren’t frightened by this because we’ve won 29 games and been down before,” Hawkins said afterward. And the Wildcats had to come back from behind again in order to beat Pekin Community High School, 8-5, to take the Illinois High School Association Class 4A Regional Title at Wildcat Field May 25.

But while Normal West rallied to win, they won’t see Unit 5 rival Normal Community High School for the Sectional title. Top seed NCHS lost to 3rd seed Moline in the other Regional contest Saturday, 5-3. That put Normal West facing Moline in a Sectional Semifinal at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Jack Horenberger Field on May 29.

After leadoff batters went down in order for Pekin (15-9), Normal West pitcher Will Collinson led off the bottom of the first with a base hit, followed by an error that put center fielder Will Kafer on second and allowed Collinson to score, giving Normal West a 1-0 lead. Designated hitter Brandon Roth was hit by starting pitcher Brandon Antonio to put Wildcat men on first and first and second. Roth rounded the bases for a 2-0 lead due to Pekin errors as Wildcats Cody Hardt and C. J. Lewis hit into the outfield for outs.

Pekin scored three in the top half of the 4th inning on a single by leadoff man Cole Russell and walks of shortstop Max Jones and Nathan Righi and single by left fielder Chase Roepenack, putting the Dragons in front, 3-2. A solo blast over the center field wall by Wildcats first baseman Evan Hutson to start the bottom half of that same inning tied the game at 3-3. West shortstop Alec McGinnis singled, advanced to second on a hit by catcher Brennan Dietrich and stole third before scoring to put the Wildcats up, 4-3.

Pekin added two more runs in the top of the 5th inning courtesy of a Righi single which scored Isaac Chapman and a double by first baseman Evan Pogioli which scored Russell, putting Pekin up, 5-4, as Normal West enter the bottom of the fifth. Kafer and Roth led off the Wildcats’ half of the fifth being walked before a single by Hardt scored Kafer, tying the game at 5-all, and a Hutson hit scored Roth, giving the Wildcats a 6-5 lead. With one out, singles by Hutson and McGinnis allowed Roth and Hardt to cross the plate for the final runs of the game.

The contest was riddled with errors committed by both sides, but the Dragons’ 5 mistakes outpaced the two committed by the Wildcats. Collinson was the winning pitcher while

Being down “really didn’t frighten us because we’ve been down before,” Normal West’s Hawkins said afterward. He added that having not lost a game since March, he didn’t have to worry about players’ morale on the bench when they were down to the Dragons. “I simply told them, ‘we’ve lost the first half of the game, so, let’s go win the second half.’”

“What we saw from Normal West today was the same team we have always seen when we play them,” Pekin head coach Larry Davis said, elaborating he didn’t see anything different in how the Wildcats played against his team this time. “His pitcher stayed with it and fought through some adversity.

“It was an ugly game with five errors and only four hits,” Davis added. “If you had told me we had four hits and five errors, I’d say we got our head kicked in, but we didn’t.”

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.