By Steve Robinson | November 11, 2018 - 8:26 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

OAK LAWN – The quest for a first football championship in school history for Normal Community West High School came to an end Saturday at Korhonen Field here but the Wildcats did make their hosts in the Illinois High School Association Class 6A contest, Oak Lawn Richards High School, work for the victory.

Using a stingy defense and employing the running talents of senior wide receiver Armani Forrest to get past defenders, the Wildcats proved formidable during their road contest. Forrest’s return after being sidelined for a month due to an ankle injury appeared to be an encouraging sign to roughly dozens of Wildcats’ fans as they watched him race past defenders at key moments in the contest.

But for as well as this season had gone for the Wildcats, they couldn’t overcome the Bulldogs’ defense in the final quarter to achieve another victory, dropping a 22-17 decision before roughly 3,000 fans, finishing the season at 11-1.

Ranked second in the state in the Class, Oak Lawn Richards (12-0) scored first in the first quarter on a 1 yard run from junior running back Leshon Williams for the only score in the period, putting Oak Lawn Richards (12-0) in front first, 6-0, followed by a missed extra point by junior kicker Sabastian Lasak. A 35-yard field goal by Lasak early in second quarter advanced that lead, 9-0.

Sixth ranked Normal West pulled within two, 9-7, on a 35 yard pass from senior quarterback Carson Camp to Forrest with 6:06 left until halftime followed by an extra point by senior kicker Parker Theobald. The two sides would show defensive might to their opponents throughout the third quarter keeping the score in tact going into the fourth quarter.

But Bulldogs senior quarterback Sebastian Castro’s 3 yard run into the end zone with 7:32 left in the contest silenced the Wildcats faithful, who, up to that moment, had been cheering throughout. Lasak’s extra point followed pushing Oak Lawn Richards forward, 16-7.

West’s next drive was highlighted by Camp passes to senior wide receiver Davion McQuirter of 16 and 5 yards, aiding in getting the Wildcats to the Bulldogs’ 13 yard line where Oak Lawn Richards defenders forced the Wildcats to kick a field goal, successfully done by Theobald from 30 yards out. That helped Normal West trim Richards’ lead to 16-10 with 1:43 left.

West opted for an onside kick, but Richards recovered it at West’s 48 yard line. Two plays later, a 45 yard run by University of Iowa recruit Castro with 1:24 left pushed the Bulldogs in front, 22-10, following a failed 2-point attempt.

Camp and Forrest connected a second time from 14 yards out with 22.9 seconds left, followed by Theobald’s extra point, cutting Richards’ lead to five, 22-17. West tried another onside kick, which Richards players recovered allowing them to let time expire.

First season Wildcats head coach Nate Fincham said afterward his team “showed determination” all year, continuing to do that to the end of this contest. “Our team was like this all year. When they were down, they just never gave up. They showed that tonight. They pushed the limits of Oak Lawn tonight.”

Following a final postgame huddle with all his players, Fincham met with the 25 seniors on his roster. Of those players, he said, “That senior group is obviously a special group for me and the way they supported me in my first year here this year means a lot.

“Our guys believed from the beginning 100 percent they were in this game and from the very first play, they knew they could compete with Oak Lawn,” Fincham said. “That’s a pretty good football team here, and I think we are too, and I think we showed that tonight.”

Fincham said he knew from looking at Oak Lawn Richards team tape “running the ball would be extremely difficult, but I knew they were weak in the defensive backfield and I knew we could take advantage of that and we did that.”

“We don’t take anybody lightly and we knew Normal West could play,” stated Oak Lawn Richards head coach Tony Sheehan. “Camp is very good and we knew he’d do a good job. Their coach is obviously in his first year and he has their program going in the right direction. Normal’s kids played hard and they played hard the whole game.

“Being in a quarterfinal means there are no bad teams left,” Sheehan said in complimenting Normal West’s program. “Because of that, we knew we had to play to the last whistle. Armani Forrest was a difference maker tonight and we knew he would be. That was the only thing we wondered about but we figured he would play.”

By Steve Robinson | November 3, 2018 - 10:34 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – To explain what happened to Normal Community West High School in their second round Illinois High School Association Class 6A game against Palos Heights-based Alan J. Shepard High School, a school named after the late astronaut, verbiage used by NASA would seem appropriate: Normal West’s mission to get to the championship avoided being scrubbed. Normal West came from behind to beat the Astros, 26-17.

With the win, the 6th ranked in the Class Wildcats advanced to the quarterfinals of Illinois High School Association Class 6A playoffs for the first time in school history. The victory will have the Wildcats taking to the road to take on 11-1 Oak Lawn-based Richards High School this weekend, winners of a second round contest by the score of 35-21 over Yorkville.

Junior wide receiver Cole Hernandez scored two touchdowns, the second of which put West in front after trailing for most of the first half, aiding in the effort.

After winning the coin toss and accepting to receive, Shepard (8-4) scored first on an 8 yard touchdown run by senior wide receiver Jamail Hunt at 8:23 in the first quarter followed by senior kicker Michal Strama’s extra point, putting the Astros on the scoreboard first, 7-0.

A 43 yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Carson Camp to senior wide receiver Magnus Moeller helped Normal West (11-1) tie the game at 7-all following senior kicker Parker Theobald’s extra point..

Although Shepard started their next drive at their own 30, West defenders managed to see to it the Astros only got as far as West’s 16, prompting the decision for Strama to kick a 34 yard field goal. That gave the Astros a 10-7 lead with 11:15 in the second quarter. West ended their ensuing drive with a punt allowing Shepard to begin their next drive at their own 38. Eight plays later, right hand senior quarterback Kevin Graham was forced to throw across his body to senior wide receiver Chris Harrison to avoid defenders for the Astros next score, followed by Strama’s extra point, increasing Shepard’s lead, 17-7 with 5:56 until halftime.

West cut that lead to 17-13, as Camp connected with Hernandez for the first time on the night from 15 yards out followed by Theobald’s extra point cutting Shepard’s lead, 17-13, at the 3:44 mark, a score they would keep until halftime.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, each team seeing opportunities spoiled by the opponents defensive maneuvering. But it was a 9 yard pass to Hernandez from Camp that put West in front for the first time in the contest, 20-17, after Theobald’s extra point with 2:09 remaining.

A defensive maneuver by West junior linebacker Zack Marcotte helped the Wildcats’ effort on the Astros’ next series, as he stripped the ball from Graham and scrambled to pick up the ball in the end zone with 53.9 seconds remaining on the clock. But Theobald’s extra point was no good resulting in the final score after West defenders forced Shepard to rush through their plays until the final gun.

Of what was his first defensive score, Marcotte said, “That was the most exhilarating. I suddenly realized, ‘I got the football. It’s a touchdown. Game’s over. We win.’”

“I’m just excited to make it to the quarterfinals,” West head coach Nate Fincham said, explaining not getting that far into the playoffs in years the school has existed “has been like a black cloud hanging over these kids’ heads. I’m proud of the way they stuck with it. They just kept working throughout the season and offseason.”

“I knew they were athletic and I knew they would give us some issues,” Fincham added. “They kind of surprised us a little bit. I don’t think we expected them to be that physical up front. But we responded well and that’s what’s important.” Beating Shepard was the goal for the week, Fincham added. Having Oak Lawn Richards to beat is another goal, he explained.

“The main thing I can say is hats off to Normal West,” said Shepard head coach John Roan. “They made fewer mistakes than us so they deserved to win the ball game. We liked our chances coming in and we thought we played a pretty good first half. In the second half, the mistakes started to mount and we didn’t overcome them.”

By Steve Robinson | October 27, 2018 - 10:59 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Anybody trying to catch hold of Davion McQuirter Friday night had a tough time. Just ask any of the defensive line or secondary of Peoria Notre Dame when they visited Wildcat Field for the opening round of Illinois High School Association Class 6A playoffs at Wildcat Field. McQuirter tallied up 253 yards on 22 carries, already earning 200 by halftime, as he and the Wildcats eliminated the Irish from the playoffs with a 34-21 victory in damp conditions.

As a result, the 4th seed Wildcats will take on 5th seed Palos Heights (8-2) this weekend, winners over 12th seed Springfield by a score of 51-36.

The 5 foot-9, 180 pound running back got his evening started at 7:47 in the first quarter, scoring from 80 yards out to successfully end the evening’s first possession for Normal West (9-1), followed by senior kicker Parker Theobald’s extra point, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

The ensuing possession for Peoria Notre Dame (6-4) ended in a punt which bounced then dropped to a stop at West’s 1 yard line. Two plays later, McQuirter scrambled past Irish defenders for his next score from 3 yards out at 3:29 in the quarter, and West owned a 13-0 lead despite a failed 2-Point conversion attempt, and carried that lead into the second quarter. An 85 yard pass from senior quarterback Carson Camp to sophomore wide receiver Corey Walker made McQuirter’s score possible.

PND cut West’s lead, 13-7 on a 7 yard rushing touchdown by senior running back Georgio Grivetti, capping the visiting team’s longest march of the night going 80 yards in 15 plays, followed by senior kicker Sidney Maroon’s extra point.

PND’s ensuing kickoff gave West the ball at their own 32, but it didn’t stay there long thanks to McQuirter who raced 68 yards down the near sideline for the Wildcats’ next score followed by Theobald’s extra point, putting West up, 20-7 at 9:20 in the second quarter holding that lead going into halftime.

West received the ball to start the third quarter and added to their lead, 27-7, on a 14 yard touchdown run by Camp, followed by another Theobald extra point.

PND responded with a touchdown to conclude the ensuing drive, pulling within 13, 27-14, featuring senior running back Blaine Stanton’s 5 yard score, topping a 9 play, 71 yard drive, followed by another Maroon extra point.

West held the ball going into the fourth quarter and scored on a McQuirter 2 yard dash with 10:08 left in the contest, followed by Theobald’s extra point, increasing the Wildcats’ lead, 34-14.

Senior running back Logan Cover’s 5 yard touchdown run followed by Maroon’s extra point, turned out to be the last points for the season for PND.

West first season head coach Nate Fincham said his team had to adjust to what they were seeing in PND’s play, “In the first half, we were scoring a little bit too fast and our defense was getting gassed. I changed things so that we would get a few yards at a time so that our defense wasn’t going back out after the offense had been on the field for two or three plays.”

“We went to the mentality of having first downs and that gave us some extended drives,” Fincham added. “That helped our defense.” The win was the second this season for the Wildcats over the Irish. The two sides opened the season Aug. 24 here, with West winning, 44-13.

“We had a slow start to it, but we came on toward the end,” was the assessment from PND head coach Pat Armstrong. “West had three or four broken plays where our guys weren’t in the right spot and West scored three touchdowns early. You can’t have that happen and win football games. “I’m proud of the boys and their effort. They had their backs against the wall, they were tired the last half of the season and they did a great job. I’m 100 percent happy with the boys’ effort and what they did.”

Normal Community West High School added three more distinguished honorees to its Wall Of Fame Sunday evening at a gala held at Lakeside Country Club. Current Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brock Stewart, Now retired agriculture teacher Dr. Kevin Enderlin, and retired science teacher MaryJo Douglas are 15th, 16th, and 17th persons to be added to a select group of Normal West graduates and educators whose career paths have contributed to their communities and beyond.

Brock Stewart, Class Of 2010: In 2010, Brock Stewart graduated from Normal West after earning all-conference recognition in baseball as a sophomore, junior, and senior. Stewart set the single season batting average record as a junior (.506) and was named one of the nation’s Top 10 middle infield prospects at the East Coast Professional Showcase. He led his Wildcat teams to Big 12 Conference Championships in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Stewart was eventually drafted out of Normal West as a shortstop by the New York Mets in 2010, but chose to continue his baseball career at Illinois State University instead. In June 2014, he was drafted in the 5th round as a pitcher by the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Stewart’s 3rd year of professional baseball, he experienced a dramatic rise from Class A, AA, AAA, and into his big league debut against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 29, 2016. In 2016, Stewart was also honored at Dodger Stadium as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Stewart participated in the 2017 World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers and remembers his hometown and high school by annually donating to the Wildcat baseball program. When he has returned home, he has spoken to Normal West classes about his training regimen and nutrition routines during the off-season and while the season was in progress.

Stewart’s parents, Jeff and Amy Stewart, stood in for their son at the gathering. Brock sent his parents a text which his father read to the gathering. “This is an honor to be recognized as an influential person to have gone through Normal West, as there have been many,” Brock wrote. “I’d like to thank my parents for what they’ve done for me in supporting me and my dream of playing professional baseball and making it to the big leagues. I can’t begin to fathom the amount of games they both have traveled to. Thanks to Coach Hawkins for teaching me the game and instilling the discipline necessary to succeed across all levels of baseball. I had some of the best times playing the game with my teammates at Normal West. Also, I’d like to thank all the teachers and faculty at Normal West. You made it a great place to come into every day.

“I wish I could be there in person to accept this honor but I will be back around Normal West for years to come and I will always be supportive,” he added. “As a teen at Normal West, I always had dreams of furthering my baseball career and I still have those same dreams, the same hunger to get better.”

Dr. Kevin “Doc” Enderlin: Dr. Kevin “Doc” Enderlin retired from Normal West in 2017. Part of the legacy in Agricultural Education he left Unit 5 came early in his career when he was named the Regional Outstanding Vocational Teacher. In 2008, he volunteered to travel to Normal Community High School during the school day to reestablish their agriculture program. He would teach five classes at Normal West, then travel to teach a section of agriculture at NCHS. Student enthusiasm for the subject had had Enderlin teaching two sections of the class at both schools.

Enderlin’s passion led to being an inspiration to students who studied the subject and became further involved in Agriculture education, as well as joining Future Farmers of America. Some of his students even entered careers in Agriculture. He established and maintained fundraisers, field trips opportunities, and curricular programs for students.

“Probably the two years I’ll hold dearest are the two years my daughter and I taught at the same time” while at Normal West, Enderlin told the gathering of roughly 80 people. “Over the years I was there, I saw the outstanding things the teachers did with the kids at Normal West,” adding he believed his two kids “couldn’t have gotten a better education anywhere in the country than they did at Normal West.”

MaryJo Douglas: MaryJo Douglass spent 20 years teaching at Normal West, one of the original staff members when the school opened. During her tenure, Douglas taught a number of subjects including Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Demonstrating lifelong learning, she learned Calculus prior to her retirement to better serve students in her Advanced Placement, or AP class on the subject.

Though now retired from teaching, Douglas continues to serve West by regularly returning to help her former colleagues repair and help make effective use of laboratory equipment. She also continues to work with struggling students and mentor current staff members.

“Many teachers from all departments have come and gone, and each has taught me a lesson,” Douglas told the gathering. “They have taught me the importance of honesty, loyalty, hard work, and integrity, staying strong through adversity, and having a sense of humor.”

There Have Been 14 Previous Honorees: There have been 14 people named to the Wall Of Fame in the previous four years Normal West has started recognized faculty, staff, and students from its past. They join previous honorees Dr. Jerry Crabtree, West’s first principal from 1995-2003: Tom Eder, who followed Crabtree as principal from 2003-2012; Taylor Kirby, a 2011 West graduate who starred in Track, becoming both a two-time Intercity Pole Vault champion; U. S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a 1996 West graduate; former Houston Texans offensive guard Cody White, a 2007 grad; Linda Bawulski, who served in the post of administrative assistant to the school principal from 1995 to 2010; Gary Woods served as the school’s first Athletic Director from 1995- 2001; Tyler Ross, Class of 2013, currently the school’s most decorated speech team member; Steve Mintus, Normal West faculty member from 1995-2005; Berny Chiaro, Teacher & FMP Coordinator; Nathan Stark, Class of 2008, currently an actor; Kathy Smalley, who served as a student counselor from when the school opened in 1995 through 2006; former broadcaster Kim Kaufman; and West Baseball enthusiast Jared O’Brien.

NORMAL – Normal Community West High School stunned undefeated Bloomington High School in the first quarter of their Big 12 Conference contest by scoring 10 unanswered points in the opening quarter while their defense managed to hold the Purple Raiders scoreless in the first and fourth quarters en route to a 17-14 victory before roughly 1,500 fans at Wildcat Field Friday night.

Part of the credit for BHS’ remaining scoreless in the last stanza needed to go to junior defensive back Gavin Tellor, who dove to make an interception at Normal West’s 9 yard line with 44 seconds left in the game, staving off a potential victory by the visiting squad.

The victory handed BHS, who had started the season off by surging to a 3-0 start, a first loss of the season. Normal West (3-1 Big 12 and overall) scored on their first possession of the contest, a 17 yard pass from junior quarterback Carson Camp to senior wide receiver Magnus Moeller, followed by an extra point by senior kicker Parker Theobald. That gave the Wildcats a fast 7-0 lead, at the 8:25 mark

BHS (3-1 overall, 2-1 Big 12) saw their first possession of the contest end in a turnover of the ball to the Wildcats on downs at West’s 12 yard line. From there, the home team marched 88 yards on 12 plays ending in a Theobald 25 yard field goal, increasing West’s advantage, 10-0, with 14.7 seconds left in the opening quarter.

BHS got on the scoreboard thanks to senior quarterback’s first faking left before going up the middle for a 1 yard running touchdown at 3:14 in the second quarter followed by freshman kicker Jack Weltha’s extra point. That allowed Normal West to hold a 10-7 edge going into halftime, and to receive the ball to start the second half.

BHS opened the third quarter by holding the ball for nearly six minutes as they marched down field toward a concluding 2-yard scoring run by senior running back Holden Snyder at the 6:31 mark. That was followed by Weltha’s extra point, putting the Purple Raiders in front, 14-10. It was a lead that would stay in place going into the fourth quarter.

BHS was a minute and three seconds into their drive when the fourth quarter began from their own 11 yard line but three consecutive flags against the Purple Raiders and an incompletion forced them to punt the ball back to Normal West, where they began their next drive from their own 11. Thirteen plays later, sophomore wide receiver DeAris McQuirter scored from 8 yards out, capping an 89 yard march for a touchdown, putting Normal West in front, 17-14, following Theobald’s extra point.

Referring to Tellor, Normal West head coach Nate Fincham explained to reporters after the contest the 5 foot-8, 150 pound junior had sustained what his coach called “a pretty serious knee injury during the off-season.”

“We didn’t know what we were going to get out of him, and so he’s been kind of a huge surprise for us,” Fincham said. “That’s just because we didn’t know how he was going to recover from the knee injury. “He’s done a great job of working his way into the rotation to begin with.” As a result of his hard work, Tellor, Fincham explained, “Now, he’s become a starter and someone we rely on.”

As to how the Purple Raiders handled his team, Fincham said he had to credit BHS with “made some adjustments and were double- and triple-teaming Armani at times, so other people made plays,” referring to senior wide receiver Armani Forrest.

“I have to give BHS all the credit in the world,” Fincham added. “They were able to hold us in check for most of the game and luckily for us, we were able to get the victory.”

“If you hold Normal West to 17 points, you’re supposed to win,” said first season BHS head coach Scott Godfrey. “We settled down after that first drive or two after we got used to seeing their no huddle and hurry up. I think our defense settled in and I couldn’t ask anything more from them.

“We didn’t want any big plays from Normal West,” Godfrey added. “We kept the ball in front of us and we just didn’t let Armani Forrest just run wild. That was a big thing we were trying to do.”