Steve RobinsonFor Normal Community West High School head softball coach April Schermann, it might have been more nerve-wracking than a Regional or Sectional playoff – sitting at dinner with seven other high school softball coaches from across the country waiting for the announcement by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association at their 52nd annual convention to learn which coach had been selected as Coach of the Year.

But if she was nervous, Schermann, who just completed her 13th season and has amassed a 350-108 mark in that time as the Wildcats head coach came across with her usual cool-under-pressure demeanor. The finalists for Softball Coach of the Year sat at dinner during the event held at Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in East Peoria on June 21, a function which was part of the organization’s week-long convention.

The announcement to find out who won in that specific category came complete with a wait. After all, it was one of 19 categories in which the top coach would be named, such as coaches of the year of football, basketball, and baseball, among others. Each category had eight finalists, and whether the person honored was there or not, those in attendance were given a brief recap of the person’s career highlights. Softball Coach of the Year was 12th in the lineup.

Schermann’s competition for the honor – four of them were not present – all had good numbers in terms of wins to their credit, as well. Schermann has a 350-108 mark to put up against the folks who she was vying for the honor with. And at events like that, whether you are there or not, you want to hope for good things for the local coach.

But it was Jim White from an Iowa high school who came away with the honor.

“As I was sitting and listening to all the bios of all the coaches who were finalists, I was in awe of them and their many accomplishments,” Schermann said. “I’m honored to be among such great people. I was very touched to hear how those coaches have impacted the lives of young men and women, and just glad to be a part of this profession that helps young people achieve their highest potential,” she added.

Schermann already does that as a math and science teacher at Normal West and will continue to do that, trying to shape young minds. She received, either alone or with colleagues, five grants from the Beyond The Books Educational Foundation this spring for projects, among which, deal with 3-D printing. She received the group’s Beyond The Box grant of $10,000 for work involving that. In total, with colleagues, Schermann wrote proposals for and received grants totaling $13,059.

Thanks to that kind of effort, I’m sure the kids in those classes will benefit from and be impacted by what they do and learn there.

Dave Dougherty, NHSACA Executive Director, explained after the awards banquet that judging for finalists begins with a group of experts in the competing coaches field who assign a score to each finalist. That leads to three NHSACA vice presidents who score the finalists again. Those two scores are then added together. That grand total determines who becomes the award recipient for that sport. NHSACA divides the country into eight regions, with a finalist from each region attending the dinner, if their schedule allows.

Dougherty said NHSACA uses specific qualifiers to narrow the field such as national service, State service, how the coach has benefited their community, and take into consideration any honors the coach has received.

In terms of finding a winner, Dougherty said NHSACA will break a tie scoring down to 1/10 of a point. “We’ve had a recipient who outscored their second place competitor by less than 5/10 of a point,” he pointed out.

When the kids who make new discoveries and learn something about both the subjects they are being taught by her, and possibly learn something about their abilities in the process, it will be because Schermann led the way, showing it to them. Isn’t that the point to teaching, which is in itself, the greatest reward?

By Steve Robinson | October 29, 2016 - 10:28 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballSPRINGFIELD – Normal Community West High School’s quest toward an Illinois High School Association Class 6A championship ended in what was a tough uphill battle against Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin on the road Oct. 28, as the Cyclones defeated the Wildcats, 57-20, the win helping advance the home team to the second round of the State Playoffs.

Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin football helmetThe Cyclones (10-0) seeded 6th in the south bracket of Class 6A, racked up a 22-0 advantage by the end of the first quarter before Wildcats senior quarterback Peyton Dillingham connected with sophomore wide receiver Armani Forrest on a 59 yard touchdown at 11:29 in the second quarter, followed by junior kicker Matt Lage’s extra point, cutting the Cyclones’ lead, 22-7.

Normal West FootballFollowing a 51 yard touchdown run by SHG junior running back Tremayne Lane putting Cyclones up, 29-7, West (7-3) ended their ensuing possession with Dillingham connecting with junior wide receiver Greg Thomas on a 12 yard touchdown strike, followed by Lage’s extra point, reducing SHG’s lead, 29-14, with 4:23 until halftime.

IHSABut SHG scored one more time before the half, giving them a 36-14 lead entering the third quarter and scored again three more times in the second half – twice in the third quarter and once in the fourth quarter – before West would score one last time on the season in the fourth quarter thanks to Dillingham connecting with junior wide receiver Genesis Forrest on a 1 yard touchdown pass, followed by a failed two-point conversion try.

By Steve Robinson | October 1, 2016 - 11:26 pm

FootballNORMAL – Driving rain passed through the area as Normal Community West High School tried to get back on track against Big 12 Conference rival Bloomington High at Wildcat Field Sept. 30, but both sides seemed undeterred in their efforts to improve on their season’s record in the process. Despite the soggy conditions, Normal West prevailed, winning their homecoming contest, 41-36, as roughly 800 fans divided equally in terms of their loyalties, watched.

Junior running back Genesis Forrest scored the game’s only first quarter touchdown for Normal West (2-4, 2-3 Big 12) at the 6:39 mark, taking in a 16 yard pass from senior quarterback Peyton Dillingham, putting the Wildcats on the scoreboard first, 7-0, following junior kicker Matt Lage’s extra point.

After West defenders prevented a Purple Raiders drive from getting beyond their own 6 yard line, Forrest extended his team’s lead taking a BHS punt 69 yards into the end zone at the 9:34 mark in the second quarter to give West a 14-0 following Lage’s next extra point. On the next series for BHS, the Purple Raiders scored as senior running back Domineik Criddell ran into the end zone from 8 yards out, followed by a successful point after by junior quarterback and kicker Colton Sandage, slicing West’s lead in half, 14-7, at the quarter’s 8:59 mark.

Normal West FootballNormal West’s next series of downs ended in a sack by BHS defenders of Dillingham at West’s 28 yard line. Three plays later, Sandage connected with senior wide receiver Avery Lyons from 8 yards out for another touchdown, tying the game at 14-14 following Sandage’s next extra point.

A 23 yard touchdown pass from Sandage to Criddell pushed the Purple Raiders into the lead for the first time in the contest at 3:36 in the quarter, 20-14, but Sandage missed the extra point. It was a very brief lead though as, on the ensuing kickoff, Wildcats sophomore running back Armani Forrest took the ensuing kickoff 88 yards, dashing through defenders’ blocks and tackles, reaching the end zone, followed by Lage’s extra point to give West a 21-20 lead going into halftime.

BHS FootballWest won the pregame coin flip and deferred to receive the ball to start the second half, but a fumble gave BHS the ball, allowing them to score two plays into the third quarter thanks to a 15 yard touchdown run by Criddell, followed by Sandage’s extra point putting the Purple Raiders up, 27-21 at the quarter’s 10:59 mark.

Each team had one series of downs that resulted in a punt before the next score came courtesy of Genesis Forrest who took West into the end zone on an 80 yard dash, followed by another Lage point after, allowing the Wildcats a one-point lead, 28-27, with 3:02 left in the third quarter.

West closed out the third quarter scoring at the 2:24 mark as junior wide receiver Greg Thomas’ 24 yard touchdown pass from Dillingham pushed West in front, 34-27, but Lage missed the extra point.

BHS knotted the game at 34-all with a 12 yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Sam Warren with 6:41 left in the contest, followed by another Sandage extra point. But West next scoring opportunity came at the end of the next series of downs finishing with a 1 yd. touchdown run from junior running back Malik Tucker at the 5:37 mark, giving West a 41-34 lead. BHS tried one more time to advance the ball but had to punt, forcing West to work deep in their own territory. With time and space to work going against the Wildcats, BHS’ defensive unit members were able to force Dillingham out of the back of their own end zone scoring a safety resulting in the final score.

FootballNORMAL – If a person hadn’t attended the start of the annual “Chili Bowl” showdown between Normal-based Unit 5 School District’s two high schools at Ironmen Field on Friday, Sept. 16, after hearing the score at the end of the first half, that person could have thought the two sides were playing and scoring in that half as though a storm was coming. Normal Community High School’s Ironmen and Normal Community West High School’s Wildcats scored a combined 49 points before halftime.

The weather did hastened getting the Big 12 Conference rivalry game in, and NCHS managed to hold off Normal West despite the game being delayed roughly an hour, beating the Wildcats, 49-21, earning another “Chili Bowl” victory.

NCHS FootballIn fact, storms had been predicted to hit the Twin Cities as the game was winding down or possibly after it finished. The moderate to heavy rain did arrive shortly around halftime and intensified as the second half progressed. At 3:03 in the fourth quarter, a lightning strike near Ironmen Field forced game officials to employ an Illinois High School Association policy concerning contests, waiting a half-hour until the last lightning strike to declare the game could resume, and give players a 15-minute warm-up period beforehand. It was a delay that lasted roughly an hour.

Junior running back Genesis Forrest put Normal West (1-3 overall and 1-2 Big 12) got on the scoreboard first with a 65 yard touchdown dash just 11 seconds into the contest, followed by a successful extra point by junior kicker Matt Lage, putting West up, 7-0.

Junior running back Varshaun Dixon turned a fumble recovery into a touchdown from 20 yards out for NCHS’ first score of the night at 10:42 in the quarter, helping tie the game, 7-7, following senior kicker Cooper Zogg’s extra point. Dixon added an 11-yard scoring dash to give the Ironmen a 14-7 lead following Zogg’s extra point, at 4:10 in the opening quarter.

Forrest helped West return fire with a 61 yard touchdown dash at the quarter’s 3:19 mark, followed by another Lage extra point, tying the game at 14-all at 3:19 in the opening quarter. A 10 yard touchdown score by Dixon put the Ironmen, ranked 9th in Class 7A prior to the start of the contest, up 21-14 as the second quarter opened.

West opened the second quarter unable to move the ball in nine plays, forcing them to turn the ball over on downs, giving NCHS the ball at the Ironmen 35 yard line. NCHS senior running back Dakota Cremeens made the most of the situation, rumbling 65 yards for the Ironmen’s next score, followed by Zogg’s next extra point, doubling NCHS’ lead, 28-14 at the 10:15 mark in the second quarter.

Normal West FootballCremeens increased the score for NCHS to 35-14 with a 52 yard run for another score with 1:33 until halftime, followed by another Zogg extra point. Shortly before the half started, light rain began falling which prompted school officials to pre-empt the performance by the Ironmen Marching Band, but the teams retook the field as the rain intensified.

NCHS got the ball to start the third quarter and were able to return the kickoff to midfield. Seven plays later, Ironmen senior quarterback Grant Price ran the ball into the end zone for a 19 yard touchdown, followed by Zogg’s next extra point, increasing the Ironmen lead to 42-14 with 10:10 left in the quarter.

West senior tight end Nick Filosa scored the Wildcats’ last points on the night catching a 20 yard pass from senior quarterback Peyton Dillingham for a score, followed by Lage’s extra point, cutting NCHS lead in half, 42-21 with 11:55 left in the contest.

Cremeens got in a third touchdown run from 32 yards out to give West its final score of the night, followed by Zogg’s extra point, increasing the score to 49-21.

As West was trying to mount a response to that score and the rain continued to intensify, a flash of lightning forced game officials to employ IHSA lightning protocols, stopping the game with 3:03 left in the contest, for about an hour before an all-clear was granted. Once the game resumed, however, NCHS defenders stymied the Wildcats preventing them from being able to score further.

By Steve Robinson | August 29, 2016 - 8:09 am
Posted in Category: Normal West HS

FootballNORMAL – Season opening football contests aren’t always like this: A total of 19 touchdowns, a 30-minute lightning delay, and a near-record for rushing from an opponent were all part of the ingredients of Normal Community West High School’s opening game at Wildcat Field on Aug. 28. But it was Peoria High who came away victorious from the Big 12 Conference battle with a 70-63 victory before roughly 1,000 fans.

Junior running back Geno Hess got scoring started at 2:13 in the first quarter, with the first touchdown from 2 yards out to put Peoria High (1-0) on the scoreboard first, but the point after by senior kicker Bryan Quinterro was no good, giving the Lions a 6-0 start.

Normal West (0-1) answered on their next series of downs thanks to a 10 yard pass from senior quarterback Peyton Dillingham to junior running back Genesis Forrest with 15.3 seconds left in the quarter to put the Wildcats up, 7-6, following a successful extra point by junior kicker Matt Lage.

A 29 yard touchdown run by Hess at 10:52 opened second quarter scoring, putting Peoria up, 13-7, following Quinterro’s point after. Following that touchdown, the game’s scoring fireworks were halted for 40 minutes as a result of officials halting the game as a result of spotting lightning in the area.

Illinois High School Association has a protocol in place requiring that when lightning is spotted in the area of a game, a waiting period of 30 minutes from the time of the last flash of lightning or sound of thunder must occur before play can be resumed. Once that period ends, players receive a brief period to warm up again before the contest is restarted. This game was delayed roughly 40 minutes before resuming.

Following the unscheduled intermission, Normal West was forced to punt on the next series of downs before Hess and the Lions went to work again, finishing an 11 play, 80 yard drive with Hess running in from 4 yards out to put Peoria up, 20-7, with 5:38 remaining, following Quinterro’s extra point.

West’s next possession ended in a punt and Peoria High and Hess capitalized again, scoring from five yards out to give Peoria a 28-7 lead following a successful two-point conversion, with 2:41 left until halftime.

West pulled within 14, 28-14, on a 40 yard pass from Dillingham to junior wide receiver Malik Tucker, followed by Lage’s next extra point, with 2:26 remaining in the half. When the second half began, Genesis Forest opened the third quarter for West by braking open past defenders to score from 52 yards out, pulling the Wildcats within a touchdown, 28-21 following Lage’s next point after.

On the very next possession, Peoria junior quarterback Coran Taylor connected with senior wide receiver Aaron Jowers on a 46 yard pass play for the Lions’ next score, capping a 6 play, 90 yard drive. But although Wildcat defenders managed to block the extra point, Peoria led, 34-21.

Normal West FootballA 35 yard touchdown pass from Dillingham to junior wide receiver Genesis Forrest at 9:21 in the third quarter would pull the Wildcats within six, 34-28, following Lage’s next extra point. Peoria responded on their next possession as Hess raced 80 yards in a one-play drive for Peoria’s next touchdown, but the Lions’ 2-point attempt that followed failed, giving Peoria a 40-28 lead with 9:10 in the third quarter.

A Dillingham 40 yard touchdown pass to Tucker at 8:53 in the quarter would put the Wildcats the closest they would come all evening – 40-35 by the end of the third quarter – following Lage’s next extra point. It also was the fifth touchdown scored by the two sides in a three minute and seven minute span, thrilling the crowd.

A drive Peoria High began with two minutes left in the third quarter ended after marching 80 yards in 10 plays with Hess scoring from a yard out with 11:26 left in the contest. That was followed by a two point conversion pass from Taylor to senior wide receiver Jalen Blake, giving Peoria a 48-35 lead.

After West’s next possession resulted in a turnover on downs, Hess turned on the speed again for Peoria for a 10 yard touchdown run with 6:48 remaining, but another try at a two-point conversion failed. Despite that, Peoria upped its lead, 54-35.

Dillingham connected with Genesis Forrest on a 48 yard pass play, followed by Lage’s next extra point allowing West to reduce Peoria’s lead, 54-42. Hess went to work for Peoria right after that on the Lions’ next possession, scoring on a 45 yard run, followed by a successful 2-point conversion play, increasing Peoria’s advantage, 62-42, with 5:53 left.

West pulled within 13 when Dillingham connected with senior tight end Nick Filosa on a 33 yard pass play, followed by Lage’s next extra point, reducing Peoria’s lead, 62-49. West reduced that lead further when Dillingham connected with sophomore wide receiver Armani Forest on a 35 yard score, followed by another Lage extra point. That sliced Peoria’s lead by six, 62-56.

peoria lions football helmetPeoria’s last score of the night came with 2:36 left in the quarter as Hess scored his last touchdown of the night on a 52 yard run, followed by a successful 2-point conversion, giving Peoria a 70-56 lead. On the night, Hess became the second highest rusher in Illinois High School Association history carrying the ball 64 times amassing 574 yards on the night.

Dillingham scored the Wildcats’ last touchdown on the night, a 1 yard run, followed by Lage’s last extra point on the night for the eventual final score.

Hess finished the night with 64 carries for 574 yards, pushing toward an IHSA record. His coach, Peoria High head coach Tim Thornton, admitted to reporters his team’s game plan didn’t include Hess carrying that big a workload for the night. “We had Geno and Jalen Blake both in there and when Jalen went down with a minor ankle injury, Geno stepped up and our fullbacks stepped and did a great job.

The other man named Hess at this contest, Normal West head coach Darren Hess, said he and his coaches didn’t quite know what this year’s team would bring onto the field in their first effort. “Hopefully, we proved to ourselves, number one, and to everybody else in the league that we can play with them.”

“From a defensive perspective, we’ve got to get better at tackling,” Hess said was one criticism he had about his team’s effort on the night. I thought our seniors did a great job, and I know we gave the fans an enjoyable show. We came up a little short tonight.”