By Steve Robinson | September 30, 2017 - 10:04 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

FootballNORMAL – Senior quarterback Doug Holmes connected with senior wide receiver Mark Widdel for two touchdowns to thrill University High football fans in an effort to get their homecoming celebration off to a positive start, defeating Central State Eight Conference opponent Jacksonville, 38-20, in front of roughly 1,000 fans at Hancock Stadium.

The Pioneers faced a Crimsons team which needed to resort to using a fourth-string sophomore quarterback, Wesley Ervin, and leaned heavily on senior running back Marquel White for big yardage gains throughout the night.

U-High upped its record to 2-4 both in the conference and overall with the victory, with scoring that began with a 20 yard field goal by junior kicker Nathan Clay at 7:47 of the first quarter, topping a 7 play 33 yard drive. Getting that score started thanks to Jacksonville turning over the ball on downs to complete their first possession.

Jacksonville’s next possession ended on an incomplete pass on fourth down, putting the Pioneers at their own 33 yard line to start their next drive. Holmes connected with Widdel for the first time on the night on a 56 yard scoring strike with 5:05 left in the quarter, followed by Clay’s extra point, advancing the Pioneers’ lead, 10-0.

U-High Pioneers footballJacksonville’s next possession had the Crimsons marching 80 yards in 17 plays for their first score of the night at 9:27 of the second quarter, with White gaining most of the yardage, his longest jaunt was 12 yards, and he scored from three yards out to cut U-High’s lead, 10-7, following sophomore kicker Collin Brunstein’s extra point.

Holmes connected with senior wide receiver Ty Ziebarth for a 7 yard touchdown pass at 4:20 until halftime, followed by Clay’s next extra point, to give the Pioneers a 17-7 advantage.

As a result of the coin toss before the game, the Pioneers opted to defer receiving the ball until the second half but wound up fumbling to end the third play of their opening drive, turning the ball over to the Crimsons at the U-High 39 yard line. From there, White and Ervin combined keeping the ball on the ground to score, with White entering the end zone from a yard out with 8:37 left in the third quarter. That cut the Pioneers’ lead, 17-13 when a Crimsons two-point play failed.

Holmes and U-High took to the air during their next possession toward their next score. Holmes completed 3-of-4 passes for 35 yards as the Pioneers scored at 5:23 in the third quarter with Holmes running into the end zone from nine yards out followed by Clay’s extra point, increasing U-High’s lead, 24-13.

Jacksonville’s next possession ended when Pioneers sophomore defensive back Zane Sorensen recovered a fumble and U-High began their next drive at the Crimsons’ 35 yard line. One play later, Holmes and Widdel connected for a touchdown followed by Clay’s extra point, pushing the Pioneers up, 31-13.

jacksonville crimsons football helmetJacksonville got the ensuing kickoff and could only manage, after a flag thrown against them and four downs, to get to their own 30 forcing them to punt. Starting at their own 36, U-High managed to get down field thanks to plays like a 30 yard pass from Holmes to senior wide receiver Spencer Laub highlighting the drive U-High used to score again. The drive ended with Holmes running into the end zone from 7 yards out with 40 seconds left in the third quarter. Clay’s extra point put U-High up, 38-13.

From there the Crimsons used another prolonged drive which began at their own 32 to score again on the night, going 68 yards in 15 plays, concluding with White leaping over Pioneers defenders from two yards out for the touchdown, the evening’s last score, followed by Brunstein’s extra point.

“I thought our offensive line came to play today and that helped our passing game,” explained U-High head coach John Johnson. “Mark Widdel and Doug Holmes went out and played a great game. Doug beat them with his speed, too.” Johnson further credited his defense for their efforts against the Crimsons’ offense.

“My team battled to the very end,” said Jacksonville head coach Mark Grounds. “We’re fighting through some injuries, and I thought my young players made some progress. We’ll keep battling.” He also had praise for Ervin, who is the Crimsons’ fourth-string quarterback. First-string quarterback Avery Dugan is dealing with a throwing arm injury but is not healthy enough to return to that position. Doctors did, however, clear Dugan to play defensive back, which he did against the Pioneers.

BasketballUniversity High’s girls’ basketball team’s winning streak entered double digits Tuesday at The State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament. The Pioneers, despite a fourth quarter push from Chicago St. Ignatius, held off the Wolfpack for a first round Head coach Laura Sellers’ team is seeded seeded 6th in the tournament’s Large School Girls bracket. Chicago St. Ignatius was seeded 11th.

The Pioneers’ victory will had them squaring off against 3rd seed Springfield High School Wednesday at 8:30p.m. at Normal Community High School. Springfield High disposed of Bloomington High in their first round game, 73-59 Tuesday morning at BCC.

U-High’s Raven Hughes and Jasmyne Lawrence each hit baskets to jump out to a fast 4-0 lead to open the first quarter for the Pioneers before the Wolfpack’s Aleah Spurell hit a deuce at 6:42 in the opening quarter to cut the lead, 4-2. Lawrence and Hughes hit unanswered deuces back-to-back increasing the Pioneers’ score, 8-2 at 5:03 in the quarter before early fouls by U-High put Spurell and Nicolette McDonald on the free throw line to help St. Ignatius come within two, 8-6, at the 3:01 mark.

State Farm Holiday ClassicKimmy Sendelbach and Hughes hit back-to-back unanswered deuces helping double the Pioneers’ lead, 12-6, with 1:31 remaining in the quarter. That was followed by a deuce by St. Ignatius’ Hayley Cange who cut the Pioneers ‘lead to 12-8. U-High was able to open the second quarter with a 14-8 lead.

After Cange opened the second quarter with a deuce to cut U-High’s lead to 14-10, Hughes hit two back-to-back deuces, followed by a jumper from Addy Loeffler to put the Pioneers on a 6-0 run which doubled their score, 20-10 with 3:11 until halftime, prompting St. Ignatius head coach Cara Doyle to call a timeout.

Following the timeout, U-High’s Jessica Baker hit a three, pushing the Pioneers up, 23-10, with 2:28 left in the quarter. Fouls late in the quarter helped U-High add to their lead, sending Hughes to the free throw line twice, where she sank 3-of-4 shots, giving the Pioneers a 26-10 advantage.

After Lawrence hit two free throws to open the third quarter, giving U-High a 28-10 lead, and the teams exchanged layups to give U-High a 30-12 lead, Chicago St. Ignatius (4-7) went on a 6-0 run thanks to a pair of unanswered layups by McDonald and two free throws by Molly Gannon to cut the Pioneers’ lead, 30-18, with 4:17 in the period.

Lawrence scored a three-point play after being fouled five seconds later to give U-High a 33-18 lead, but St. Ignatius responded a trey from Gannon to bring the Wolfpack within 12, 33-21. Jessica Huber hit a deuce for U-High and McDonald responded, moving the Pioneers’ lead, 35-23. Hughes was fouled shortly afterward, and sank two free throws to give the Pioneers a 37-23 lead at 2:46 in the quarter. But a second trey from Gannon pulled the Wolfpack within 11, 37-26. A deuce from Loeffler with 52.5 seconds pushed U-High up, 39-26 and prompted St. Ignatius to call for timeout. Following the timeout, Hughes contributed one more basket, giving U-High a 41-26 lead with which to open the fourth quarter.

U-High PioneersHughes opened the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws after being fouled by the Wolfpack’s Cange. She was followed by a basket by Lawrence and added one more after that herself to give U-High a 47-26 lead with 4:43 left in the game. But St. Ignatius responded with an 8-0 run highlighted by two threes – to pull within 11, 47-36, prompting them to take a timeout with 1:54 remaining. A layup by Spurell nine seconds later prompted the Wolfpack to huddle for a second timeout. Following that, Grace Barclay hit a deuce to increase the Pioneers’ lead, 49-38, with 1:28 remaining. A deuce by Logan Daly with 54.8 seconds left and two free throws by Gannon 21 seconds later were as close as the Wolfpack would come thanks to the Pioneers defense in the closing moments of the contest.

Hughes’ 21 points, followed by 13 from Lawrence helped power U-High to the tenth consecutive victory. Gannon was Chicago St. Ignatius’ lone scorer in double-figures with 12. Spurell and McDonald came close, nearly touching double figures with 9 points, and 8 points, respectfully.

“The score showed that we had them for three and a half quarters and we made sure we got some players in to get some game experience in the fourth quarter,” U-High head coach Laura Sellers said. From this point on in the tournament, Sellers added, “The competition gets better every game. We need to take care of the basketball and play as a team to get it done.”

“Basketball is a game of moments, and we just need to put our good moments together,” said Chicago St. Ignatius head coach Cara Doyle. “U-High is a very nice team. They run their system very well. Their kids are well-coached and their kids are good rebounders. Their offensive rebounds and put-backs were hard for us.”

By Steve Robinson | October 30, 2016 - 10:34 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

SoccerEAST PEORIA – Fifteen years ago, University High School’s Soccer team, with Jeremy Stanton as a player, made it only as far as the “Elite 8” in their quest for a state title. On Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Eastside Centre here, the Pioneers succeeded in becoming IHSA Class 1A champions, beating Westchester St. Joseph, 3-1, to earn the school’s very first State title in the sport.

It was the second title earned in a fall sport that the school has won in one month, as the boys’ golf team won IHSA Class 2A title in mid-October.

U-High PioneersAt the 12:35 mark in the first half, sophomore J. D. Kelly kicked U-High’s first goal in the net, with an assist credited to sophomore forward Nathan Clay, giving the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.

The Pioneers increased their lead, 2-0 just over three minutes later with Clay scoring, with an assist from junior defenseman Matthew Mier. Clay provided the Pioneers’ third goal as the first half was winding down, with just over a minute left, with Kelly providing an assist.

The Pioneers opened the second half with that lead and maintained a tight defense penetrated only by a goal shot by St. Joseph senior forward Oscar Rodriguez with 7:50 left in the contest.

Each team had 12 shots on goal. U-High finished the season with a final record of 17-6-5 and Westchester St. Joseph went home with second place ending their season with a record of 13-9-8.

IHSA“Clay and I have been leading the team in goals and assists, so it’s been a really good season and I’m glad we ended up winning,” Kelly said afterward.

“It helps that we’re able to feed off of each other in games,” Clay said about how he and Kelly operate during competition.

“We got stuff done,” Mier said about his team’s total effort.

“This win was well-deserved,” Stanton said. “They put in a lot of work and I’m just really happy for them. Our coaches knew that if they won this, they would be making University High School history, but we didn’t add that kind of pressure on the kids. We just wanted them to carry out our game plan.”

By Steve Robinson | October 16, 2016 - 10:21 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

golfNORMAL – University High School claimed first place at Illinois High School Association Class 2A State Golf Tournament, held at Weibring Golf Course on the Illinois State University campus Oct. 14 and 15. As a team, the Pioneers finished with a two-day total of 624, six strokes ahead of second place finisher Aurora Marmion’s 630. Vernon Hills captured third in the 12-team field with 634.

The win was U-High’s 10th victory in team history. This year, IHSA is celebrating 100 years of competitive golf.

Individually, U-High junior Dallas Koth finished in a three-way tie for second place with a two-day total of 148, six over par. In Friday’s opening round, he shot 37 each on both halves of his 18 holes, and then duplicated that score on Saturday. Tyler Anderson from Mundelein Carmel High School and Morton High’s Tommy Kuhl also finished second with Koth.

Luke Armbrust from Wheaton St. Francis High School finished in first place with a two-day total of 147.

Koth admitted to “scrambling a lot on a couple holes and sometimes, it went well and sometimes, it didn’t,” he said, adding, “When I had bad shots, I recovered pretty well.”

U-High PioneersFinishing first on their own home course at State “means the world,” Koth said. He added that’s because the team will get its picture placed on the wall of the school’s large gym permanently. He said his brother, who also played golf at U-High, was on teams that finished first all four years he played, but that was a few years ago.

As for Koth’s teammates and their two-day totals, junior Tony Palumbo finished with a 13 over par 155; senior Dylan Panizo finished with 17 over par 159, junior Alex Kullman finished with a 20 over par 162, junior Ben Bazan finished with a 24 over par 166, and sophomore Ethan Huynh finished with a 29 over par 171.

“Our guys did a nice job keeping themselves in play,” said U-High head coach Darrin York. “They shot to put themselves in a position to win today and they played a terrific back 9. I mean, when the chips were on the table and they had to have shots, they had the shots.”

“Of Koth’s accomplishment, York said, “He’s a gutsy kid with an uncanny ability to hit big shots in big moments.”

Other Teams’ Results: At Prairie Vista Golf Course, site of IHSA Class 1A Boys competition, El Paso Gridley finished 9th in a 12-team field with a score of 698. In Girls Class 1A at Red Tail Run Golf Club in Decatur, U-High finished 7th with a two-day total of 729, Bloomington Central Catholic finished 10th with a total of 746, EPG placed 11th with a total of 782. In Girls’ Class 2A at Hickory Point Golf Club in Forsyth, Normal Community High School finished 11th in a 12-team field with a total score of 66.

By Steve Robinson | October 14, 2016 - 10:20 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

Steve RobinsonAs a big screen TV in the Pro Shop at Weibring Golf Club scrolled updates on the Illinois High School Association Class 2A Boys State Tournament being held there, Yem Huynh, grandmother of University High School Golf Team member Ethan Huyanh, stood directly in front of it, watching names scroll by with updates.

She was holding a smartphone and trying to be ready for an opportunity to snap a picture, potentially, of her grandson’s name on that board as a moment to remember his efforts on the first day of the tournament.

But at that point in the tourney, Ethan’s name didn’t get singled out for recognition. But that doesn’t mean his days on the course in the future won’t come soon. Ethan competed in Illinois Elementary School Association State Golf Tournament as an Evans Junior High School Association eighth grader, and has been on the Pioneers Golf team, coached by Darrin York, since his freshman year last year.

He’s held a golf club in his hand since he was 4, his mom Kelly Huynh said. She added she and her husband, Loi, have been nurturing his love of golf with her husband offering his perspective on the game to the 15-year-old.

Ethan plays on the Pioneers’ basketball and baseball teams, but is more at home on the golf course, his mother said. And even though he is comfortable and loves being on the course, for this tournament, at least, Kelly Huynh said her son was nervous going into it. It wasn’t an individual issue, she said, but rather, her son wanted to see the Pioneers do well here as a group this year.

Mother and grandmother used a shuttle provided by the Illinois State University-operated golf course to see Ethan’s first few holes and reported back he made par on a couple of them at the beginning of Friday’s opening round. That was something the ladies took as an encouraging sign.

Ethan’s second day went well until the last five holes, as he was not feeling well as he finished out the day. He shot 44 each on the front and back nine Friday for a 17 over par 88, then added a slightly better 83 on Saturday for a two-day total of 171, 29 over par for the tourney. “I was playing really, really well before I started feeling sick today,” he said as he ended his day Saturday.

Ethan said he got his driver fixed between rounds which he said seemed to help him going into Saturday action. He said that helped him to achieve many straight shots. “I felt I did my part in Regionals and Sectionals, but State is awesome,” he said. “I’m going to try my best to get back here next year.”

Once his high school career is over, Ethan has his eye on going on to pro golfing career someday, but does seem to have the maturity to know his education takes priority, saying he would like to get his college degree and try out for golf in college.

“He’s a great kid who has been part of our varsity squad since he walked through the door his freshman year,” explained U-High head golf coach Darrin York. “Even when he was feeling ill in the last part of the second round, he gutted it out and did a good job.”

When U-High teams finish first at a State event, they get their group picture taken and that picture is blown up, framed and placed along the walls of the school’s big gym. York told me about that and knows about that firsthand as a member of a championship basketball team from nearly 20 years ago playing for his coach, Cal Hubbard. Now, as part of U-High’s golf team, Ethan Huynh knows that honor, too.

After Saturday’s second round finish, Kelly Huynh probably stopped feeling nervous as the Pioneers took first place, winning the tournament.

And the great thing for Ethan, his family, his teammates, and his coaches is he still has two years in which to try to get back to that “awesome” experience and then, hopefully, do much more after he graduates. Here’s to hoping we’ll all get to picture that in the future.