BLOOMINGTON – When the brackets for the Small School Girls’ Division at the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament were first posted, fans of University High School’s girls’ basketball team, seeded fifth, probably felt their team would do well, but possibly would run into problems against higher seeded teams. As the four-day tournament progressed, head coach Laura Sellers’ team faced three of four teams with single-digit seeds and emerged as the Small School Bracket Champion for this year by coming from behind to beat third seed and previously unbeaten Brimfield, 49-39, at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus Dec. 30.

But as the contest began, Brimfield (16-1), behind a trio of unanswered deuces from junior guard Haley Wallace, jumped out to a fast 6-0 lead following the opening tip. A Pioneers bucket by senior guard Logan Murray reduced that lead to 6-2. A pair of free throws by Brimfield junior forward Ella Lune pushed the Lady Indians up, 8-2. But U-High scored a deuce and a trey back-to-back soon after, with senior forward Chelsie Price scoring first followed by Murray adding to the total to pull U-High within one, 8-7 at the 4:11 mark in the opening quarter.

Brimfield went on a 6-0 unanswered run of their own, topped off by a basket from sophomore forward Sophie Bedell, giving the Lady Indians a 12-9 lead. A deuce and free throw by Lune pushed Brimfield out in front, 15-9 with 1:40 left in the opening quarter, but the Pioneers cut that lead, 15-11, on two free throws by junior guard Chloe Ward with 1:26 left in the quarter. Brimfield owned a 17-11 advantage to open the second quarter thanks to a bucket by Wallace.

U-High (10-6 after this game) opened the second quarter on a 6-0 spurt with a deuce each from sophomore guard Naomi Elliott and junior guard Alexis Noonan before Murray sank a trey to give the Pioneers their first lead of the contest, 18-17, with 5:49 remaining. Lune hit a pair of unanswered deuces to put Brimfield up by three, 21-18. Murray responded with a deuce to pull U-High within one, 21-20, with two minutes remaining. Wallace countered to put Brimfield up, 23-20. But then, Lune fouled Murray as she was in the process of shooting from behind the three-point line. As a result, Murray hit a trio of free throws and Price closed out the quarter with a deuce to put U-High up by two at the half, 25-23.

Noonan opened the second half with a deuce for the Pioneers to expand U-High’s lead, 27-23. Brimfield’s Wallace and U-High junior forward Kassidy Patton exchanged buckets, followed by a pair of baskets, one from Lune and one from senior forward Ella Cagwin, knotting the game at 29-29. U-High senior guard Emma Harding’s trey midway through the quarter gave the Pioneers a 32-29 advantage and prompted Pioneers’ Sellers to call a time out. Coming out of that timeout, Price hit another basket, increasing U-High’s lead, 34-29 with 3:26 left in the quarter. Brimfield head coach Maribeth Dura called timeout at that point to assess her team’s situation. Coming out of the timeout, Wallace hit a layup for Brimfield and was followed by back-to-back buckets for U-High from Price and Noonan, giving the Pioneers a 38-31 lead going into the fourth quarter.

U-High’s Murray and Brimfield sophomore forward Sophie Bedell exchanged deuces to open the fourth quarter, with the Pioneers in front, 40-33 with 6:13 left in the contest. A foul by Lune sent Price to the free throw line where she sank 1-of-2, increasing the Pioneers’ advantage, 41-33 at the 3:56 mark. Wallace followed for Brimfield hitting a deuce, cutting the Pioneers’ lead to six, 41-35, with 1:45 remaining. From there, Lady Indians fouls sent Ward to the free throw line twice, and Lune, Murray and senior guard Emma Harding once each. Combined, those shooters went 6-for-7 to give U-High a 47-35 lead.

Harding fouled Cagwin as she tried to shoot from beyond the three-point line, putting her at the line for three shots which she made with 15.7 seconds left, reducing U-High’s lead, 47-38. But Cagwin would then foul Ward with 9 seconds left. Ward would sink both shots giving U-High a 49-38 lead. Fouled by Pioneers sophomore guard Naomi Elliott, Cagwin would go 1-for-2 at the line for Brimfield’s final points, resulting in the final score.

Murray led U-High’s scoring with 15 points including two treys. She was followed in double-digits by Price’s 11. Wallace and Lune led Brimfield’s scoring effort, pocketing 16 points and 15 points, respectfully.

“We had the chance to be the aggressor defensively and those experiences paid off,” Sellers said afterward about part of U-High’s strategy. “When you play four games in four days, sometimes the last game isn’t the best game. I think both teams were getting after it and making it hard for the other to score and it became a defensive battle in the third quarter.”

“We really focus on our defense, and our biggest thing is if we can down, then we don’t have to worry about scoring as much,” explained Price.

“U-High is very physical, and we don’t normally see that,” admitted Dura following the game. “We knew they’d be physical. We thought we had a pretty good physical game going against Rochester the other day, but U-High just came out and played their hard-nosed defense. U-High is really good about being patient against opponents, so I think their possessions are very long, and I think we weren’t as patient.”

Pioneers Advance To Championship With Semi-final Win Over Rock Falls, 42-27: The win over the Spartans placed U-High in a semi-final in the bracket against top seed Rock Falls on Dec. 28. But the Lady Rockets discovered early they were in for a fight against U-High and it turned out to be a fight they couldn’t win. U-High led early and throughout the contest, with leads of 8-2 at the end of the first quarter and 19-7 at the half. The third quarter was the only one Rock Falls achieved scoring double-digits in, but U-High still outpaced them during that stanza, 13-12. Going into the fourth quarter, the Pioneers owned a 32-19 advantage. That win set them up to take on the Lady Indians for the Small School Girls’ bracket title on Dec. 30. Murray and Price led Pioneers’ scoring, with 17 and 15, respectfully. Junior guard Abi Peyton was the lone Lady Rockets player in double-figures with 13 points.

Second Round Victory Over St. Joseph-Ogden, 41-35: The final score of the Pioneers’ second round contest might not indicate it, but Sellers’ team’s defense prevented any 4th seeded St. Joseph-Ogden players from scoring in double-figures. What’s more, U-High trailed the Spartans after one quarter, 17-8, and 26-16 at the half. A 13-2 third quarter onslaught by the Pioneers gave U-High a 29-28 lead going into the fourth quarter where the Pioneers continued to overtake their opponents resulting in the victory. U-High’s Price led all scorers with 12 points followed in double-figures by Elliott who scored 10 points which included one trey and seven free throws in 12 tries at the line. Junior forward Payton Vallee served as St. Joseph-Ogden’s high scorer pocketing 9 points.

Pioneers Outpace Rockford Lutheran For First Round Win, 45-30: The Pioneers got their tournament off to a positive start by winning their opening round game against 12th seed Rockford Lutheran, 45-30. The Pioneers led throughout, 9-6 at the end of the first quarter, 23-12 at halftime, and 36-26 by the end of the third quarter. Patton led the Pioneers in scoring with 14 points followed by Price who scored 11 to boost their team into the second round against 4th seed St. Joseph-Ogden.

NORMAL – University High School’s boys’ basketball team, seeded 7th when the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Classic tournament started the day after Christmas finished in 7th place on the third day of the tourney with a 66-32 victory over Machesney Park Harlem on Dec. 28 in a game played at Normal Community West High School.

U-High extended their record to 8-5 following the win, which included owning leads of 14-4 after one quarter and 26-8 at the half. The Pioneers, behind lead scorer junior forward Angelo Bernal’s 15 points on the night, extended that lead to 49-21 by the end of the third quarter. U-High sank 11 three-pointers during the contest. Bernal was joined in double-figures by senior guard Drew Wollenschlager’s 13 points and 11 from sophomore guard D. J. Starr. This game was the second of two Dec. 28 starting with the contest against Peoria High.

Pioneers Force Overtime Against Peoria High: U-High found themselves facing Machesney Park Harlem after losing in overtime to Peoria High at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus, falling to the Lions, 65-58. After trailing at the end of the first quarter, 15-14, and leading at halftime, 24-21, The Pioneers found themselves in charge for most of the third quarter until a basket by Lions sophomore guard Lerone Allen tied the game at 33-all at the 4:01 mark. From there, a trio of unanswered threes – two from Allen and one from senior guard Christopher Williams – closed out the third quarter putting the Lions in front, 42-33.

U-High started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run which started with a trey from senior guard Logan Christensen, reducing Peoria’s lead to 46-40. A free throw by senior forward Joe Brown and a trey by Christensen helped U-High come within two, 46-44, and prompted Peoria High head coach Dan Ruffin to call timeout with 3:35 left.

A trey by sophomore guard Nate Moore with three minutes left and a free throw from junior center Dionysius Hogan pushed the Lions in front, 50-46, prompting U-High to call time with 1:37 left. Coming out of the timeout, Wollenschlager hit a trey to help the Pioneers pull within one, 50-49, with 1:07 remaining in regulation. Coming out of the timeout, Hogan’s jumper with 59 seconds left, put the Lions up, 52-49. Christensen scored a game-tying three with 39.2 seconds left, forcing the game into a 52-all overtime.

The Pioneers found themselves in chase mode throughout the extra stanza, only coming as close as two points behind twice, 56-54 on a breakaway basket by senior guard Alex Wood and 58-56, thanks to a deuce by Christensen. After Christensen’s bucket, U-High called a timeout, but coming back into play, the overtime belonged to Peoria, which saw Hogan hit a deuce and a free throw followed by Lions sophomore guard Staishaun Kelley making 3-of-4 free throws after being fouled twice, putting the Lions’ victory within reach.

Pioneers Fail To Overcome Rock Island’s 4th Quarter Scoring Run: The Pioneers managed to maintain a basket-for-basket ratio for most of three quarters against second seed Rock Island in U-High’s second game of the tourney Dec. 27 – that is until the fourth quarter.

Prior to the fourth quarter, Pioneers trailed the Rocks 13-11 after one quarter, led at the half, 27-22, and found themselves behind at the end of the third quarter, 35-32. Treys by Wollenschlager and Christensen, and senior guard Brandon Merritt helped the Pioneers keep pace with their opponents. But after Pioneers junior forward Angelo Bernal opened the last quarter with a deuce to pull within one of Rock Island, 35-34 with 7:48 left in the contest, two back-to-back unanswered baskets for the Rocks by senior forward Solomon Gustafson lit the fuse on a 16-0 scoring surge which didn’t end until Wollenschlager’s next basket with 51.8 seconds remaining, cutting Rock Island’s lead, 51-36.

Senior guard Alijah Walker-Lee scored the Rocks’ final points which were quickly countered at the final buzzer for U-High with a trey by senior guard Caden Overton. But that loss sent the Pioneers attempting to claim 5th place in the tournament with the Peoria Lions as their next opponent. Against Rock Island, senior guard Alex Wood was U-High’s lone player in double figures with 11 points. Rock Island’s scoring leaders were junior guard Colton Sigel and senior forward Taurean Holtam who scored 13 points each, and 11 from Gustafson.

Pioneers Need Overtime To Win Opening Game Against Chicago Kenwood: The Pioneers trailed Chicago Kenwood during their opening round contest Dec. 26 but managed to corral the Broncos midway through the third quarter, or so they thought. After trailing 12-9 after one quarter and 27-24 at the half. U-High would catch and surpass the Broncos going into the fourth quarter leading, 42-37. But in that final quarter, U-High would find themselves behind again by as much as six, 51-45, on a trey from Kenwood junior guard Martin Kenall. From there, a pair of deuces from Pioneers sophomore forward Kenall Stork helped tie the game, the last of the two shots coming with 50 seconds in regulation.

The Pioneers started the overtime by going on a 6-0 run highlighted by two deuces from Wood and a deuce between those from junior guard Brandon Merritt, pushing U-High in front, 57-51. From there, both sides’ defenses tightened but Kenwood fouls would send Stork to the free throw line twice and Merritt once for a combined 4-for-6 putting the game out of reach for the Broncos and sending the Pioneers on to the second round against second seed Rock Island.

“We had a five point lead going into the fourth quarter but we came out a little sloppy in that quarter and Kenwood took the lead and ran it up by 6 and our guys just stayed together, executed, fought for defensive stops, and possession by possession, we fought for wins on offense and defense and ended up getting right back in the game,” U-High head coach Andrew McDowell explained afterward.

By Steve Robinson | November 17, 2019 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – It wasn’t the finish University High School’s Volleyball team sought, but the Pioneers did exit Illinois High School Association State Volleyball Tournament at Redbird Arena Saturday with something to add to their trophy case. After a two-set loss to LaGrange Park-based Nazareth Academy, 25-21 and 25-22 at Redbird Arena, the Pioneers placed 4th and added a seventh Volleyball trophy for the school.

Game one had scoring going back and forth between the two sides for a 5-all tie before U-High (33-7) moved in front 8-5 with senior outside hitter Alyanna Crabtree serving, a ball-handling error by Angels junior outside hitter Isabel Decker and kills from U-High senior setter Isobel Schaefbauer and freshman outside hitter Lily Barry. The Pioneers managed to stay in front of the Angels, 12-8, as a result of kills by Schaefbauer and Barry, before turning the serve over to the Angels on a Schaefbauer service error.

U-High was up, 14-12 when Angels middle hitter Elizabeth Sandt’s serving ace and a kill by sophomore outside hitter Kathryn Hurta tied the game. The Angels took a 15-14 lead courtesy of a Sandt kill, and the game would knot at 15-all on a kill from U-High sophomore middle hitter Chloe Clayton. But a Burk service error from the Pioneers would give Nazareth Academy a 16-15 lead upon which to build on toward their first victory. The Pioneers would come within three, 23-20, thanks to a Schaefbauer service ace and a Hurta attack error, but a service ace from junior outside hitter Allison Surowiec and an attack error from U-High’s Barry would seal the first win for the Angels.

With Decker serving, game two started with Nazareth Academy(28-8) owning a quick 4-0 lead before U-High scored their first point thanks to an attack error by Hurta. Two straight attack errors by Crabtree pushed that lead to 6-1 before Pioneers Head Coach Mike Bohuis called for a timeout. But even after that, the game was a chase, with the Angels maintaining their lead while the Pioneers were in pursuit.

A service ace by Crabtree brought the Pioneers as close as two, 18-16, and a pair of Schaefbauer kills, got U-High within one, 19-18, before a kill by Decker started the Angels off toward a final scoring streak to take the match and claim third place.

At her team’s postgame news conference, Nazareth Academy head coach Melissa Masterson gave a nod to U-High’s one of tallest players for her performance against her players saying Pioneers junior middle hitter Maycie Wellborn, at 6 foot-3, made sure the Angels team would know who was trying to make their attempt to win third place difficult. The other six foot plus players on green and gold are 6 foot-2 Crabtree, 6 foot-1 junior middle hitter Jaelyn Sorenson, and 6 foot junior setter Kendall Burk.

In the two-game match, U-High registered 25 kills to Nazarene Academy’s 23, with Schaefbauer’s 12 leading the way. She also had 33 take aways and 8 assists to lead the Pioneers. Sandt and sophomore middle blocker Gillian Grimes led the Angels’ defense with 15 and 12 digs, respectfully. Crabtree scored two serving aces for the Pioneers. Decker and Hurta led the Angels in kills with 11 and 10, respectfully. Defensively, Crabtree and senior middle blocker Logan Murray led U-High in digs with 13 and 11 respectfully.

“I just wanted to have fun with my teammates seeing as it was our last game,” said Angels junior outside hitter Isabel Decker.

Bohuis had a brief meeting with his team following the loss and told reporters, “We just got done talking about how our season isn’t defined by going 0-2 at State, but that it’s defined by ownership, and we’re hoping the team owns the entirety of the season more so than trying to own these last two matches.

“It’s a challenge making it to State,” Bohuis said. “It’s not just easy. So, the fact they were good enough to make it here says something special. It’s a journey and we’re just proud of how they went about that journey. It’s something to bring home a 4th place State trophy.”

Bohuis said with his seniors leading the way, he was proud of how his players conduct themselves, not just in game and practice situations, but in their classwork and in respecting fellow students, as well.

Bohuis credited Decker and Hurta with “doing a good job and the job they did defensively. “I thought that was the hardest we’ve had to work offensively trying to score against them.”

Pioneers Lose Close Matches To Joliet Catholic In Semis: The Pioneers found themselves in the 3rd place game after finding themselves having to pursue Joliet Catholic throughout the semifinal against the Angels, who won the contest in two games, 25-23 and 25-20. In game one, the teams exchanged points, tying the score at 11-all. But from there with Burk serving, U-High pushed ahead 14-11 thanks to a kill by Crabtree and an attack error each by Joliet Catholic senior middle hitter Bella Ray and outside hitter Riley Hungate.

That scoring surge prompted Joliet Catholic head coach Christine Schiebe to call time. Following that timeout, a kill by Ray and a pair of Pioneers attack errors tied the game at 14-all. From there, kills from Schaefbauer and Clayton and a service ace by Crabtree pushed the Pioneers in front, 17-14. The Angels responded in kind with a pair of kills from junior outside hitter Julian Gray, a service ace from senior setter Erin O’Grady, pushing Joliet Catholic in front, 18-17.

A kill by Gray got the Angels serving serving again and the Angels were able to add points as a result of another Gray kill and a trio of attack errors committed by Barry, Schaefbauer, and Clayton. That gave Joliet Catholic a 22-17 lead. A kill each by junior middle hitter Emily Surin for Joliet Catholic and Schaefbauer for U-High kept the Angels lead up, 23-18, before a trio of attack errors from Gray aided the Pioneers’ efforts, allowing U-High to come within two, 23-21. Another Gray attack error allowed U-High to come within one, 23-22, before a kill each from Barry and Gray led to the final score.

Game two was a tight contest at first, with Joliet Catholic holding off the Pioneers, 9-7 before going on four point run thanks to a pair of attack errors by Schaefbauer and a kill for Joliet by senior middle hitter Bella Ray and service ace by Surin, putting the Angels up, 13-7. The Angels also held off the Pioneers with another scoring run featuring as kill by Ray and attack errors by Joliet to stay in front of the Pioneers, 16-10. A kill by Welborn assisted by Schaefbauer, helped U-High close within five, 16-11.

Kills by Burk and Crabtree aided in U-High coming within four, 17-13, and attack errors by the Angels helped U-High come within three, 18-15, before Pioneers attack errors and a service ace by Gray helped Joliet Catholic aim toward a 22-16 lead.

Kills by Surin and Hungate were surrounded by Pioneers errors in the final moments of the contest led to the final score.

During the two set match, U-High registered a total of 23 kills, 23 errors, and 80 take aways. Joliet Catholic registered a total of 21 kills, 13 errors, and 80 take aways.

The loss put the Pioneers in the third place game with a record of 33-7 while Joliet Catholic advanced to a 26-14 mark.

As a result, of the win, the Angels will take on Joliet Catholic, the team they lost to at State last year. “Obviously, our goal was to get to the State Championship, and now our goal is to play our best and do our best to win that match,” stated Angels Head Coach Christine Schiebe, adding her team lost last year in two games to the team they would take on for the title, Sterling High School. “I think we’re ready and prepared as we can be for that match.

Schiebe admitted she didn’t “intentionally over-scout” the Pioneers prior to the match. “I just gave the girls very few basics of what would happen on the court. I didn’t want to overload my girls with ‘this is what they are doing here’ and ‘this is what they are doing there.’ I just wanted to go out and play our game.”

“I’m proud of how my girls played throughout the entirety of that match,” U-High’s Bohuis said. He added the team talks numerous times about maintaining composure throughout a match, whether things are or aren’t going well. He said he thought his girls did well in that respect during this contest. “The contest came down to a couple of service runs they went on, a couple rotations. The game was a credit to Joliet Catholic. I thought they played great defense. They made things tricky for us offensively.”

Of his players, Bohuis added, “Experience is a big factor here. But our girls came out and they were playing hard and in the right way from the very beginning, so, I am proud of them for that.”

Despite the outcome, Schaefbauer echoed her coach’s comments about how well the girls did not letting Joliet’s leads get to them. “We still have another match Saturday and ending your season on a win is a lot better than ending it on a loss. I think that’s something we’ve reminded our teammates about, and hopefully we can remember that going in that game.”

Burk summed up what the team as a whole had in mind as they got ready to face the Roadrunners. “Obviously, it was very hard losing this match. But tomorrow, we want to go out and win it for our coaches who have put so much into our season. We want to win it for our seniors and win it for each other.”

By Steve Robinson | October 12, 2019 - 10:28 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – University High’s season of struggle continued Oct. 11 amid the school’s homecoming celebration at Hancock Stadium, as Central State Eight Conference leader Chatham Glenwood came to town. The visiting Titans outmuscled the Pioneers en route to a 48-0 victory.

Chatham Glenwood (7-0) won the pregame coin flip and deferred receiving the ball until the second half giving U-High (2-5) first crack at getting down field. Despite a flag against each team during the drive, the Pioneers got as far as the Titans’ 31 before senior quarterback Camden Barclay’s pass was picked off by senior defensive back Jacob Crabtree, allowing the Titans their first possession of the night.

Three plays later, senior quarterback Luke Lehnen took advantage of an opening in the Pioneers’ defense and rushed 61 yards for an opening touchdown at the 6:48 mark in the opening quarter. Senior kicker Alek Votava’s extra point began the scoring with the Titans leading, 7-0.

U-High’s ensuing possession would end in a punt, giving the Titans the ball at U-High’s 48 after a short return. But a facemask call against the Pioneers on the first play of the Titans’ drive would allow Chatham Glenwood to begin again from U-High’s 14 yard line. One play later, senior running back Norkel Leflore would dodge Pioneers defenders to enter the end zone for his team’s next touchdown, followed by Votava’s extra point, giving Chatham Glenwood a 14-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Chatham Glenwood would score three more times, putting 20 more points on the board for a 34-0 lead when it looked like U-High had found a solution to only having short drives against the Titans defense. Starting at their own 29 yard line, Barclay connected on passes to senior wide receiver Zane Sorensen, junior tight end Angelo Bernal, and junior wide receiver Savion Jackson to get to the Titans’ 34 yard line. Jackson caught his pass but briefly fumbled, recovering it to salvage the drive. On 4th down, officials called pass interference against the Titans, moving U-High to the Titans’ 19 with a new set of downs.

A pass to and two running plays by senior running back Rashad Wilson got the Pioneers to the Titans’ 8 yard line. That was followed by two short yardage runs by Barclay on second and third down, one that gained two yards and one that lost one yard, getting the Pioneers to the Titans’ 7 yard line in preparation for a fourth down play. But on fourth down, officials called holding against the Pioneers and Chatham Glenwood opted to decline the penalty ending the drive, turning the ball over to the Titans.

Three plays later, Leflore found an opening in the Pioneers’ defense and dashed 93 yards for the Titans next score followed by Votava’s extra point, giving Chatham Glenwood a 41-0 lead at the half.

At that point, game officials employed IHSA’s “Mercy Rule,” – as a result of the 40-point difference in the game score, game officials used 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.

By Steve Robinson | September 21, 2019 - 10:25 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – Two Central State Eight teams which find themselves near the bottom of the standings squared off at Hancock Stadium Friday night when University High hosted Jacksonville. Although the Pioneers managed to keep the contest close in the first half, the Crimsons scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to help pull away from the Pioneers, 31-19 before a crowd of roughly 800 fans.

Junior running back Chris Pulley’s 2 yard run for a touchdown gave Jacksonville (2-2 Central State Eight) the only score either side would get in the first quarter, capping an 8 play, 80 yard drive, followed by senior kicker Collin Brunstein’s extra point, putting the Crimsons up, 7-0, with 2:32 left in the quarter.

A 10-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Camdyn Barclay to junior wide receiver Savion Jackson would help U-High (0-4) pull within one, 7-6, with 8:12 remaining in the second quarter, but senior kicker Wyatt Berg’s extra point kick would sail away from the goal post, allowing Jacksonville to keep that slight lead. Jackson’s touchdown would cap off a 10 play, 65 yard march for the Pioneers toward that score.

But the score would not stay that close very long because junior running back Michael Walker would take the ensuing kickoff for the Crimsons at their own 35 and dash through Pioneers defenders for his team’s next score at the 7:58 mark in the quarter, followed by Brunstein’s extra point, putting Jacksonville up, 14-6.

U-High would pull within two, 14-12, when Barclay would connect with Jackson a second time on the night, this time from 14 yards out for a touchdown followed by an unsuccessful extra point try with 2:11 left toward halftime. A poor punt by Jacksonville gave U-High a short 40-yard field to work with toward that touchdown.

The Crimsons won the pre-game coin toss and opted to defer receiving the ball until the second half. During the half, they chewed up either time on the clock or yardage to keep the Pioneers at bay. Their first possession of the second half lasted 12 plays going 74 yards and ended with junior quarterback Ryan Maul’s 15 yard touchdown run followed by Brunstein’s extra point, pushing the Crimsons in front, 21-12 at the 7:58 mark in the third quarter.

U-High could have pulled within six had their ensuing possession worked out better than it did. After the ensuing kickoff, they began working with the ball from their own 45. Passes to Jackson and senior and senior wide receiver Spencer Parker helped get the Pioneers in range for a 35 yard field goal. But Berg would miss the field goal try. From their own 20, the Crimsons would march 80 yards on 10 plays, with Brunstein kicking a 33 yard field goal to double up the score on the Pioneers, 24-12, with 41 seconds left in the quarter.

The Pioneers would start their next series of downs from their own 20, but two plays later, Jacksonville senior defensive back Chase Vega would intercept a long Barclay pass giving the Crimsons possession at their own 44 yard line. Sixteen plays later, junior running back Gavin Roegge would score from a yard out followed by another Brunstein extra point, increasing Jacksonville’s advantage, 31-12 with 4:12 left in the contest.

A 6-yard touchdown run in the closing minute of the game was the last score U-High could muster, followed by Berg’s extra point.

“We’re a football team that runs between the tackles,” Crimsons head coach Mark Grounds explained, adding U-High defense didn’t allow for that in the first quarter forcing his team to make adjustments. Once that was done, he said, his team didn’t deviate from the alterations they made. “We saw U-High had adjusted their coverage and that was something we expected and practiced against. I saw they moved their linebackers up and there wasn’t much hesitation from them tonight.”

“I thought we played hard but the better team won,” explained U-High head coach John Johnson. “They were more physical than we were up front. Up front is where they beat us, in the trenches.” He said Jacksonville’s initial second half drive simultaneously used up the clock “while wearing us out.” He added his team doesn’t have a team that’s physically big enough to “sustain a football game right now.”

“We have to tackle better and we have to block better,” Johnson added. “And if we do that, maybe we can sneak out a win here because we pulled out trick plays tonight and some of them worked and some of them didn’t.”

Prior to the contest, students, parents, and teachers from Thomas Metcalf Elementary School, numbering around 175 people, gathered in Horton Field House for a pregame meal. Then prior to the game, Metcalf cheer team members joined U-High cheerleaders on the Hancock Stadium turf to help fans cheer on the home team. Like U-High, Metcalf School is a lab school overseen by Illinois State University.

The game was an emotional matter for the Crimsons because of a death in the team’s family. Grounds gave the game ball to Lona Jackson, mother of Crimsons defensive end Jaylon Jackson. Their son and brother, Alex, passed away earlier in the week.