By Steve Robinson | October 14, 2017 - 10:29 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Normal Community West High School found itself in a tight defensive battle for the first half of their Big 12 Conference game against Peoria Richwoods at Wildcat Stadium on Friday, Oct. 13. The game included a scoreless second quarter for both sides.

But West head coach Darren Hess’ troops pulled forward in the second half – featuring three 3rd quarter touchdowns – for a 35-21 win in front of 450 fans. West’s win, coupled with Danville losing at Normal Community High School, 42-14, gave the Wildcats sole possession of second place in Big 12 Conference standings. Illinois High School Association will announce playoff pairings on Oct. 21.

Peoria Richwoods (4-4 overall, 4-3 Big 12) received the opening kickoff and scored three plays later on a 61 yard pass from senior quarterback Keenan Streitmatter to senior wide receiver Sharod Danage just 64 seconds into the contest, putting the Knights up, 7-0, after senior kicker Alex Nieves’ extra point.

Normal West (6-1, 5-1 Big 12) responded during the ensuing drive with a 3 yard scoring run from junior running back Adriel Fussell at 8:06 in the first quarter, followed by junior kicker Eddie Miller’s extra point, tying the score at 7-7.

Richwoods responded by concluding their ensuing possession with a 34 yard touchdown pass from Streitmatter again to Danage followed by Nieves’ extra point, with 6:30 left in the quarter. That put Richwoods up, 14-7, going into the half, thanks to a defensive second quarter performance from both sides.

Normal West FootballNormal West won the pregame coin flip and deferred receiving the ball until the opening of the second half. They stuck quickly when they got the ball, scoring three plays later as wide receiver C. J. Davis dashed 36 yards for the Wildcats’ tying touchdown at 10:52 in the quarter, followed by Miller’s extra point, knotting the score at 14-all.

Richwoods’ next possession ended in a turnover on downs giving West the ball at the Wildcats’ 39. Four plays later, Davis dodged defenders for a 36 yard touchdown, followed by Miller’s next extra point pushing West in front, 21-14 at the third quarter’s 7:30 mark.

The Knights’ ensuing possession ended in a punt which left West to start at their own 11 yard line. Eight plays later, junior quarterback C. J. Lewis connected with sophomore tight end Cole Hernandez on a 15 yard touchdown pass, followed by Miller’s next extra point. That increased West’s lead, 28-14, with 5:42 left until the start of the fourth quarter.

Peoria Richwoods football helmetRichwoods’ second possession of the fourth quarter started following a West punt, at the Knights’ 9 yard line but ended in an interception touchdown for West defensive back Armani Forrest, which pushed West up, 35-14, following Miller’s extra point, with 5:42 left in the contest.

Richwoods responded quickly as senior return man A. J. Johnson took the ensuing kickoff back 88 yards for a touchdown followed by Nieves’ last extra point on the night.

“This game was about energy, it was about matching Richwoods’ intensity, and I didn’t think we did that very well in the first half,” Hess said. He credited Richwoods’ Streitmatter-to-Danage combo “with giving the Knights momentum and it was just a matter of containing them.”

“We didn’t finish our drives off,” lamented Richwoods head coach Roland Brown. “When you don’t finish drives against a team like West that has speed and talent like they do, you’ll get worn down a little bit.”

By Steve Robinson | September 23, 2017 - 10:52 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Everybody attending a big high school homecoming game wants to see a big victory. It’s just anticipated and expected. And Normal West didn’t disappoint their fans and spectators from Big 12 Conference rival Danville in that regard, blasting the Vikings, 76-35, handing the visitors their first loss of the season.

Normal West (4-1, 3-1 Big 12) scored 42 points in the first half, highlighted by a 68 yard scoring run from junior wide receiver Armani Forrest at 1:26 in the first quarter to put the Wildcats up, 21-7, following junior kicker Eddie Miller’s extra point, and a 90 yard touchdown pass in the second quarter from sophomore quarterback Carson Camp to senior wide receiver C. J. Davis at 5:34 in the second quarter, followed by Miller’s extra point, giving the Wildcats a 35-14 lead.

Each team would score one time before halftime, Danville’s being a reverse in which senior quarterback Ernest Langley would be on the receiving end of a reverse, scoring on a pass from wide receiver Lance Langley, followed by a successful extra point by senior Caleb Griffin cutting West’s halftime lead, 35-21. The loss put Danville’s record at 4-1 overall, including 3-1 in Big 12 Conference play. Danville scored once more to cut West’s lead at half, 42-28.

Normal West FootballThere were fireworks that went off every time West scored, part of a supply which was to be used for a post-game display, but the fans got a head start on seeing those in the second half thanks to West’s offensive maneuvers. Danville received the ball for the second half kickoff and managed to march down to West’s 9 yard line in nine plays from their own 39. But on the 10th play, Plummer was intercepted by West senior defensive back Tre Matthews at West’s 1 yard line. Gaining some blocking and dodging tacklers along the way, Matthews scrambled into Danville’s end zone for a 99 yard interception touchdown. Miller’s extra point helped increase West’s lead, 49-28 at 8:24 in the third quarter.

Of Matthews’ defensive scoring dash, Normal West head coach Darren Hess said, “It was a spark…I didn’t think we did a good job defensively on third downs. That made a big difference for us.”

Danville senior running back Jerry Reed helped close out the Vikings’ next possession with a 5 yard run, capping a 52 yard drive on six plays for his team’s next score, followed by Griffin’s extra point, closing West’s lead, 49-35, with 4:52 left in the third quarter.

A touchdown run by West senior wide receiver Isaiah Shifflet capped a 9-play 80 yard march for West’s next score, pushing the Wildcats up, 56-35, with 1:44 left in the third quarter. following a turnover on downs by Danville, West got the ball back at Danville’s 35 yard line and fought Vikings defenders to score their next touchdown, a 2 yard run by senior running back Holden Lueck at 10:36 in the fourth quarter, followed by Miller’s extra point, putting West up, 63-35.

Danville VikingsA Danville fumble on their second play in the next possession was recovered by West senior defensive lineman Garrett Sheehan, giving the Wildcats the ball at Danville’s 32. Seven plays later, a 32 yard scoring pass from Camp to Tucker put West up, 69-35, with 6:55 left in the contest, but Danville defenders were able to block Miller’s extra point attempt. West’s last points on the night came courtesy of senior wide receiver Camani Jordan on a 9 yard scoring run in the waning moments of the contest, followed by Miller’s extra point resulting in the final score.

Hess said in the Wildcats’ 50-16 loss against Normal Community High School last week, penalties “killed” the Wildcats. But this week, the veteran coach said, “we were a better team than what we showed last week, and we showed that against a great team tonight. If you take care of the football and you’re physical up front, good things will happen. I thought, offensively, we did a lot of great things tonight.”

Danville’s first season head coach, former Vikings assistant Marcus Forrest, said turnovers and timing were what he feels doomed his team’s effort against the Wildcats. “If you don’t throw the ball on time or if you’re not where you’re supposed to be on the field as a receiver, bad things happen,” Forrest said. He called the game against Normal West “our first real learning experience and a tough test. We came up short on a good team.”

By Steve Robinson | September 18, 2017 - 7:06 am
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – The heat of the day carried over as the sun set once this game got started, but no one player dominated the annual “Chili Bowl” game between Unit 5 rivals Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School on Sept. 15 at Wildcat Field. In fact only one player – NCHS senior wide receiver Jalen Coleman – scored more than once in the contest. But NCHS pulled away early in the first half on the way to a 50-16 win before roughly 2,500 fans.

Senior running back Varshaun Dixon’s 25 yard pass reception for a touchdown from junior quarterback Daylen Boddie at 10:27 in the first quarter set the tone for the game’s pace for the Ironmen. The extra point by junior kicker Josue Nsukami put NCHS up, 7-0, giving the team a 3-0 record both overall and in Big 12 Conference play this season.

The opening possession from the starting kickoff ended in a punt for Normal West, and after what was Normal West’s second possession on the night from this point ended in a turnover on downs, Wildcat defenders made advancing the ball difficult on the Ironmen forcing Nsukami to kick a 31 yard field goal to increase their lead to 10-0 when the game went into the second quarter.

NCHS FootballA 35 yard touchdown dash by Boddie at 10:14 in the second quarter followed by a missed extra point try upped NCHS’ lead, 16-0. A nine yard touchdown pass from Boddie to Coleman followed by a botched extra point try increased NCHS’ lead, 22-0 at the 5:10 mark until halftime.

On their next possession, Normal West (3-1 overall, 2-1 Big 12) got on the scoreboard courtesy of senior running back Genesis Forrest as he dashed from 31 yards out into the end zone for his team’s first score, followed by junior kicker Eddie Miller’s extra point, cutting NCHS’ lead, 22-7 with 3:12 left in the half.

A Normal West fumble picked up by NCHS senior defensive end Alec Devecchi resulted in a 44 yard touchdown run followed by Nsukami’s next extra point, putting the Ironmen up, 29-7. The half closed on an 80 yard kickoff return by West’s junior return man Armani Forrest, followed by an extra point by Miller. That narrowed NCHS’ lead, 29-14.

Each team had an unsuccessful possession coming out of the halftime before NCHS scored thanks to an 18 yard touchdown pass from Boddie to Coleman for their second teaming on the night at 5:40 in the third quarter. Nsukami’s extra point would give the Ironmen a 36-14 lead.

Normal West FootballA Normal West fumble disrupted the Wildcats drive but helped turned into points when the defense hemmed NCHS close to their own end zone and Wildcats defenders tackled Dixon for a safety with 2:25 left in the third quarter. That cut NCHS’ lead, 36-16. But during the ensuing kickoff by the Ironmen, West turned the ball back over to the Ironmen, putting the ball at NCHS’ 45 yard line. Five plays later, Boddie connected with Dishon Hall II for a 13 yard touchdown, followed by Nsukami’s extra point, putting the Ironmen up, 43-16, with 15.6 seconds until the start of the fourth quarter.

A 50-yard scoring dash by senior wide receiver Nich Schaber at the 9:16 mark in the final stanza would end the scoring on the night, topped off by Nsukami’s extra point.

“I thought our kids played physical and our offense gave us a lot of opportunities,” said NCHS head coach Wes Temples following the contest. “Y’know, to put up 50 points on that team, that’s a darn good team….that’s a good defense, and a good football team,” referring to Normal West.

“Hat’s off to Normal Community,” said Normal West head coach Darren Hess. “We need to get back to work next week and fix some things. We had some adversity we hadn’t had in terms of being down scoring. I thought our kids competed really well throughout the game. But our kids. This game doesn’t define us as a program and we’re going to get back to work “

Both teams continue their Big 12 schedules next Friday as NCHS hosts Peoria Richwoods Richwoods while Normal West celebrates Homecoming by hosting Danville . Both games start at 7p.m.

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.