NORMAL – As what turned out to be the final seconds of Normal Community West High School ticked away, fans might not have been able to see it in his face, but senior quarterback Carson Camp’s posture – in a catcher’s pose, his head bowed – seem to say it all for his team. As those seconds and the Wildcats’ season slipped away, junior wide receiver Zach Jurich walked over and patted his field general on the shoulder.

New Lenox, Ill.-based Providence Catholic High School scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to outpace and eliminate Normal West, defeating the Wildcats, 19-14, in the Illinois High School Association Class 6A first round contest, held at Wildcat Field.

A crowd of roughly 700 fans braved mostly cloudy and windy conditions to cheer the Wildcats on hoping their team would be able to use the home victory to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

After a scoreless first quarter, Wildcat defenders did manage to pin Providence Catholic deep in their own territory forcing them to punt and provide the Wildcats their own 43 to begin a drive. Normal West, led by Camp, took time to drive down field concluding the drive when Camp connected with senior wide receiver Cole Hernandez on a 7 yard touchdown pass at the 10:13 mark in the quarter. Senior kicker Adam Conrad followed up with a successful extra point to put the Wildcats up, 7-0.

Providence Catholic (7-3) countered later in the quarter when junior quarterback Kevin Conway connected with senior wide receiver Lucas Porto for what would be the first of three scoring plays between the two on the day, this first one good for a 32 yard touchdown with 1:07 left until halftime, followed by junior kicker Lucca Kessler’s extra point. That tied the game going into the half at 7-7.

During the third quarter, the Wildcats would have three possessions ending in punts, the Celtics two before scoring revved up in the fourth quarter. Conway would find Porto on his way to the end zone when they connected for a second score, from 35 yards out, at 11:53 in the fourth quarter, putting the Celtics up, 13-7 following Kessler’s missed extra point.

With around 11 minutes to go in the contest and the Wildcats at their own 35 on fourth down, they punted. But Providence Catholic junior defensive back Dakota Straight mishandled his reception of it, seeing the ball hit the ground. In the scramble to get it, Wildcats senior defensive back Gavin Tellor came up with the ball at the Celtics’ 37 yard line. Loud cheers could be heard from Wildcats fans as a result.

One play later, Camp connected with junior wide receiver LeTre Billups who dodged defenders for a touchdown. Millmore’s extra point led to loud cheers from fans as his successful kick put Normal West in front, 14-13, with 10:41 remaining.

The ensuing kickoff for Normal West (7-3) and the Celtics’ return put the visitors on their own 24 for their next drive. They advanced to Normal West’s 40, but were flagged for holding which pushed the Celtics back to midfield. From there, the Celtics were able to get to West’s 11 when Conway took matters into his own hands. As Normal West defenders grasped at and hit him, he ran toward the goal line getting across for a touchdown with 7:27 remaining. The Celtics opted to try for 2 points, sending Porto to accomplish the task, but West defenders prevented it, leading to the final score.

In the huddle in the end zone afterward, head coach Nate Fincham could be heard telling the boys “you did the season the right way.”

“Ultimately, they’re a good football team,” Fincham said afterward about the Celtics. “They’re physical up front and they made some adjustments. But I couldn’t say enough about how proud I am of our guys for everything they did. They battled. They gave this team everything they wanted and I’m proud of everything they did.”

Despite not advancing, Fincham said there is still plenty for his team to be proud of, including claiming a share of this season’s Big 12 Conference title. These players “were part of my first group of players last year to the quarterfinals and in no way shape or form do I think they are a 1-and-done type team.

“They brought a conference championship to us this year and I couldn’t be more proud of the group,” the second-season head coach added. “When it’s all said and done, you’ve got some record setters in this class.“ Those players he singled out were Camp, Hernandez, and offensive lineman Skyler Hufeld.

“Normal West is a very good team and they were very well coached,” said Providence Catholic head coach Mark Coglianese. “We’re such a run-heavy team and we don’t throw all that much that maybe, we caught them by surprise.

“We were fortunate to score late in the first half,” Coglianese added, admitting he didn’t want to see his team behind at halftime. “We were scrambling at times. Normal West throws a lot of formations at you. They give you a lot to prepare for.”

By Steve Robinson | October 27, 2019 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Urbana head coach Ordell Walker fully admitted after his team’s contest he knows he has a young team that lacks veteran leadership and needs room to grow and improve. The Tigers’ youth and need to grow were on full display at Wildcat Field when they visited Normal West Oct. 25. The Wildcats took full advantage of the Tigers’ predicament, defeating the visitors, 63-0, before roughly 850 fans. The victory helped the Wildcats close out the regular season with a 7-2 regular season mark, including 7-1 count against Big 12 Conference opponents.

Urbana (1-8 overall, 1-7 Big 12) received the ball first but was forced to punt on fourth down giving Normal West the ball for the first time at the Tigers’ 48 yard line. One play later, senior quarterback Carson Camp raced through the Tigers’ defense for the Wildcats first touchdown followed by a successful 2-point conversion play which featured senior running back Cole Hernandez passing to passing to junior tight end Corey Walker to put the Wildcats up, 8-0 at the 10:24 mark.

Normal West got the ball back when Urbana’s next possession ended in a punt. The Wildcats were able to score again on a 3 yard dash by senior running back Aimry Schieler, capping 3 play 48 yard drive followed by senior kicker Adam Conrad’s extra point, increasing the home team’s lead, 15-0.

After Normal West’s ensuing kickoff, Urbana began their drive at their own 20 but West senior tight end Zach Marcotte picked off the pass from Tigers senior quarterback Elijah Rodgers and dashed into the end zone for a 32 yd. interception touchdown followed by Conrad’s extra point, increasing the Wildcats’ lead, 22-0, with 6:44 left in the quarter.

Urbana was deep in their own territory when they gave Normal West another scoring opportunity toward the end of the quarter. Punting with their ball at their own 5 proved costly as the Wildcats began a drive at Urbana’s 19. Camp would pass to sophomore Max Ziebarth who scored the last touchdown of the quarter followed by Conrad’s next point after. That would give Normal West a 29-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Urbana’s next possession began at their own 40 until an Urbana fumble led to a scramble for the ball and was picked up by junior defensive back Scott Tippy who ran the ball into the end zone for a 5 yard touchdown at the 11:41 mark in the second quarter. Conrad’s extra point increased West’s lead to 36-0. Urbana’s ensuing possession also ended in a fumble turned touchdown for West as junior linebacker DeAris McQuirter converted Urbana’s mistake into a 22 yard return for a touchdown followed by Conrad’s extra point. That increased West’s lead to 43-0 with 11:10 until halftime.

The Wildcats ensuing kickoff would give the Tigers the ball at their own 39, but three plays later, another fumble, this time by Wildcats senior defensive lineman Anarius Walton, would help give West good field position, starting at Urbana’s 38. Seven plays later, Camp would connect on a 5 yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Corey Walker for a touchdown followed by another Conrad extra point. That gave Normal West a 50-0 lead going into halftime.

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

Normal West received the ball to start the second half and began at their own 37. Six plays later, junior running back LaTre Billups marched into the end zone from 14 yards out for another score, followed by Conrad missing the extra point, leading to West holding a 56-0 lead.

A turnover on downs ended Urbana’s next possession, giving West the ball at the Tigers’ 15. Three plays later, senior running back Chauncey Jones dashed into the end zone for what would be the final points of the contest followed by Conrad’s extra point.

“Our kids did everything we asked of them tonight,” stated Wildcats head coach Nate Fincham. “They played hard. They played within our scheme. They did everything we expected them to do and they were respectful about it.”

He added that his players demonstrated a mindset the coaching staff has been encouraging of “start strong and play fast.” He admitted his players have been in this kind of game at times where they didn’t observe that request.

Urbana’s Walker began his postgame comments by congratulating Fincham and his players on their season. “Normal came out and did what they were supposed to do. We made a lot of mistakes which they capitalized on, and it was a great victory for them. Statistically, we continue to move the ball even though the scoreboard doesn’t show that.”

He said his team is “decimated with injuries, but who we have out there play extremely hard. We were severely outmatched today.” He said a number of players on the field for this game were junior varsity still learning the team’s strategies.

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.