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.

By Steve Robinson | September 3, 2016 - 10:18 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

FootballBLOOMINGTON – Under new head coach Joe Walters, Bloomington High School won their first contest of the season at Peoria Manual. But returning home to Fred Carlton Field for the second game of the season, the Purple Raiders faced Normal Community High only to be outmatched by the Ironmen. The score proved that as NCHS, led by five touchdowns scored by junior running back Varshaun Dixon, beat the Purple Raiders, 54-21 before roughly 1,000 fans.

Senior running back J. D. Villafuerte got scoring underway for NCHS (2-0), receiving a 23-yard pass from senior quarterback Grant Price at 8:42 in the first quarter, putting the Ironmen up, 7-0, following senior kicker Cooper Zogg’s extra point. The score completed a 10 play, 70 yard drive.

Price connected with senior wide receiver Brady Lay for a 37 yard score, capping a 3 play, 61 yard drive for NCHS’ next points at 3:58 in the quarter. Zogg’s extra point put NCHS up, 14-0.

BHS (1-1) struck quickly on the ensuing kickoff as senior running back Cary Lockhart took the ball 94 yards into the end zone delighting the home fans and stunning those sitting in the visitor’s sidelines. Junior kicker Jose Pacheco’s extra point cut NCHS’ lead, 14-7, as the game entered the second quarter.

Dixon’s second touchdown, a 22 yard dash into the end zone came at 9:28 in the second quarter and completed an 8 play, 80 yard drive, followed by Zogg missing the extra point opportunity, putting NCHS up, 20-7.

NCHS increased that lead with 7:16 in the quarter as Price connected with senior wide receiver Steven Towns on a 27 yard pass, increasing NCHS’ lead, 26-7, following a muffed 2-point conversion attempt.

BHS FootballAfter BHS was forced to punt at the end of their ensuing possession, NCHS got the ball at the Purple Raiders’ 14 yard line as a result of senior running back Dakota Cremeens’ return run which began at midfield. Two plays later, Dixon scored from five yards out, but a Bloomington defenders blocked Zogg’s next extra point attempt. That gave NCHS a 32-7 lead with 5:38 until halftime.

An interception by NCHS led to the Ironmen’s next points – a 5 yard Dixon run followed by a successful two-point conversion play, giving the Ironmen a 40-6 lead with 4:06 left in the quarter.

BHS scored their second touchdown of the half when Sandage connected with senior tight end Ian Sweeney from 51 yards out for a score, followed by Pacheco’s extra point, reducing the Ironmen’s lead, 40-14.

Dixon scored from 35 yards out with 57 seconds left in the half, followed by Zogg’s next extra point to put NCHS up, 47-14 going into halftime.

NCHS FootballDixon’s 14 yard run into the end zone with 12 seconds left in the quarter completed a 10 play 74 yard drive, which increased NCHS’ lead, 54-14, following Zogg’s extra point.

Sandage connected with senior wide receiver Avonni Brown for a 25 yard touchdown pass, followed by Pacheo’s extra point to achieve the final score.

For NCHS, having patience was key for his team to achieve victory, explained Ironmen head coach Wes Temples. “Our kids are having fun. They’re playing at a high level and was patient and watched for the right time to do what they needed to do to,” he explained.

BHS first season coach Joe Walters, who had previously coached at Peoria Notre Dame, explained afterward, “that game challenged us not to give up at halftime and we didn’t. After the half, I thought we came out strong. Our coaching staff needs to fix errors on our end so we can instruct better.” He admitted some of the errors the Purple Raiders committed were “coaching induced.”

By Steve Robinson | October 24, 2015 - 10:30 pm

FootballBLOOMINGTON – Weather and seven lead changes added drama to the final regular season game between visiting Normal Community West High School when they took on Bloomington High School at Fred Carlton Field on Oct. 23. That was on top of the game being the career finale for BHS head coach Rigo Smelzer.

Add to that mix four touchdowns by Normal West senior running back Dajour Forrest plus two more rushing scores from senior quarterback Mitch Fairfield for the Wildcats en route to a 52-34 Big 12 Conference victory for head coach Darren Hess’ crew to close out the regular season with a 6-3 mark. As a result, the Wildcats were seeded 10th in Illinois High School Association Class 6A will visit 7th seed Peoria Notre Dame this weekend.

That will be a rematch of a game in Peoria on Oct. 2, where PND edged out the Wildcats, 56-52.

As a result of this victory against BHS, Normal West and PND will share the Big 12 Conference title for the season.

Normal West (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) scored first on their opening drive when Forrest ran for a three yard score, capping a 9 play, 70 yard drive, at 8:41 in the first quarter, followed by senior kicker Tim O’Brien’s extra point, putting the Wildcats up, 7-0. BHS (2-7, 2-4 Big 12) replied on the ensuing kickoff, thanks to 74 yard kickoff return touchdown by junior running back Cary Lockhart, followed by an extra point from senior kicker Drew Humprey, knotting the game quickly at 7-7.

A 28 yard scoring pass from senior quarterback Tyler Stewart to senior wide receiver Brent Finley put BHS in front, 14-7, following another Humprey extra point at the 5:36 mark in the opening quarter. West’s next drive began at their own 42 but was halted by BHS defenders after the Wildcats had marched to the Purple Raiders’ 8 yard line, prompting West to call in O’Brien for a successful 25 yard field goal. That cut BHS’ lead, 14-10 at the 3:06 mark.

Normal West FootballBoth teams entered into the second quarter with that score before Fairfield would connect with Forrest on a 36 yard touchdown pass at the 9:11 mark, putting West up, 17-14, following O’Brien’s extra point. BHS responded on their very next possession using a little deception with a 51 yard scoring pass from senior running back Telly Arrington, who threw to senior receiver Michael Buob at 9:20 in the quarter. Humprey’s next extra point, would push BHS back in front, 21-17, at halftime, and BHS would get the ball at the start of the third quarter.

Keeping the ball, however, was another matter for the Purple Raiders, who had to punt after five downs following the kickoff, only getting 18 yards, to midfield. But the punt attempt was botched by a bad snap, sending the ball rolling deep into Bloomington territory, allowing West to begin their first series of downs in the second half from the Purple Raiders’ 21 yard line. Three plays later, Fairfield connected with senior wide receiver Jack Coakley from 24 yards out for the Wildcats’ next score, followed by O’Brien’s next extra point, sending the visitors back in the lead, 24-21.

Each team would have the ball for a series of downs each with no result before senior running back Jaylen Hayes would score from one yard out, capping a 9 play, 57 yard drive for BHS, pushing the Purple Raiders in front, 28-24, at 4:14 in the third quarter following another Humprey extra point. Following the ensuing kickoff, West would begin from midfield and six plays later, Forrest would score from 13 yards out with 1:09 left in the quarter, followed by O’Brien’s next extra point, pushing the Wildcats back in front, 31-28.

BHS responded in their ensuing drive, scoring in four plays, topped by a 52 yard touchdown run from junior running back Domeneik Criddell, followed by Humprey’s extra point. That pushed BHS back in front, 34-31, closing out the third quarter.

But when the fourth quarter started, no one knew Criddell would have scored for the last time this season. West went on a 21-0 run in the fourth quarter, starting with a 1-yard touchdown run by Fairfield with 11:14 left in the contest, followed by O’Brien’s next extra point. That capped a 7 play, 71 yard drive, putting West back in front, 38-34.

BHS FootballBHS would get the ball back on the ensuing kickoff and would start at their own 35, but a fumbled handoff would give the Wildcats back the ball back at BHS’ 29 with 10:29 left in the game. Three plays later, Fairfield would rush in for his second touchdown of the night, from five yards out, increasing the Wildcats’ lead, 45-34, following O’Brien’s extra point.

Forrest would star in a second 13 yard touchdown run play, capping a 6 play, 50 yard drive by West, followed by another O’Brien extra point, extending West’s advantage, 52-34. Forest would also score from 61 yards out at the 5:01 mark in the quarter, followed by O’Brien’s last extra point of the night, resulting in the final score.

West senior wide receiver Dante Ruffin was injured during the contest’s second half and did not return. Hess had praise for Forrest, who stepped in to fill that gap. “Dajour was definitely ready for the challenge in that second half,” Hess said, adding he had spent the week leading up to the game informing his players about BHS’ football tradition, to give them some perspective on the contest.

“We were in for a war for about three quarters until we decided it,” Hess said. “I felt like we played like we practiced this week. I’m really proud of our kids and how they responded.”

“We felt that, with a push in the line, we could have an opportunity to move the ball,” Smelzer said. “I’m disappointed in not being able to get Normal West backed off.”

Forrest had 27 carries for 285 yards, leading all rushers, while Fairfield had 11 carries for 106 yards for West. Fairfield was 10-for-20 passing for 154 yards. Senior tight end Mace Julian caught 4 passes for 29 yards, while Ruffin caught two passes for 48 yards.

Stewart only threw two passes totaling 15 yards, and the team’s leading rusher was Buob with 51 yards.

By Steve Robinson | September 26, 2015 - 11:00 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

Steve RobinsonAfter 34 seasons, Rigo Schmelzer is going to finish out his career as head football coach at Bloomington High School when this current season ends. The sad thing is, that ending will, due to BHS’ 0-5 record as of last Friday, isn’t indicative of all the good Schmelzer has done while at BHS.

Prior to the Raiders’ game at Normal Community High School on Sept. 25, Schmelzer was greeted at mid-field of Ironmen Field by NCHS head coach Wes Temples, NCHS Athletic Director Andy Turner, and NCHS Principal David Bollman. They each shook Schmelzer’s hand and then presented him with a gift certificate to a local steakhouse. The crowd of between 1,500-1,600 spectators applauded in appreciation, one can assume, for Schmelzer, to wish him a happy retirement.

Besides asking him the usual postgame questions, I checked with Schmelzer to see what he was thinking as he made his last trips around the Big 12 Conference. “Football’s a great game and it’s a way for communities to come together and to form good sportsmanship habits and rivalries while making good memories,” Schmelzer began. “In 34 years, there are some games and players that stand out in my mind.”

Addressing BHS’ gridiron situation this season, Schmelzer said, “I’m disappointed, obviously, for our current seniors and for how things have played out in the last couple years.” Schmelzer’s disappointment concerning those last couple years was not something he felt alone in, I’m sure, as every player, parent, and fan of the Raiders felt it, too. But those same folks should also feel a sense of pride in having had someone of Schmelzer’s caliber to lead the team.

On another subject, it didn’t rain last Friday when NCHS hosted BHS. While that’s not exactly bulletin material, it was a relief to members of NCHS’ Marching Band, who got to play at halftime of a game for the first time this season.

With just five home games on the Ironmen’s schedule, two of which were postponed by lightning and heavy rain, I’m sure the kids were happy to finally be able to strut their stuff in front of the home crowd this season.

The Ironmen’s next game is Oct. 9 against Peoria Richwoods, while no newcomer to the Big 12 in other sports, is getting acquainted with how the league’s teams play football. Peoria Richwoods, along with the River City’s schools, belonged to another smaller conference last season.

FootballNORMAL – Junior wide receiver Steven Towns scored two touchdowns for Normal Community High School en route to the Ironmen’s 49-14 romp over Bloomington High School in a Big 12 Conference showdown at Ironmen Field on Sept. 25.

Bloomington (0-5, 0-1 Big 12 Conference) punted the ball away turning it over on downs to NCHS who took advantage of the situation quickly, marching 70 yards on 11 plays, concluding with senior running back Alec Bozarth’s 2 yard run into the end zone, followed by the extra point by senior kicker Dalton Bruso, giving the Ironmen a quick 7-0 lead at 6:22 in the first quarter.

A crowd of about 1,000 fans were present for the contest which had NCHS getting the ball back after BHS’ ensuing drive ended in a punt, and increasing the Ironmen’s lead, 14-0 at 4:21 in the quarter, thanks to junior running back Dakota Cremeens dashing 60 yards for a touchdown, followed by Bruso’s extra point.

NCHS FootballAn interception of a BHS pass by NCHS senior defensive back Jared Pratt helped the Ironmen toward their next score – an 18 yard pass from junior quarterback Grant Price to junior wide receiver Steven Towns, putting NCHS up, 21-0, followed by Bruso’s extra point, to go into the second quarter.

NCHS, Ranked No. 5 in Illinois High School Association Class 7A (5-0, 3-0 Big 12) increased their lead, 28-0, to open the second quarter on a 7 yard rushing score by Towns which capped an 8 play 84 yard march, followed by Bruso’s next extra point. NCHS would get the ball back when BHS’ next series ended in a punt,, and Price would use the keeper play to score from 7 yards out to increase that lead to 35-0, after another Bruso extra point.

BHS would get on the scoreboard with 1:08 until halftime when Raiders senior quarterback Tyler Stewart would connect with junior running back Cary Stewart from 30 yards out to cut the Ironmen’s lead, 35-7 following senior kicker Drew Humprey’s extra point.

NCHS would get one more score as Price would connect with Rahuba from 25 yards out as time expired on the clock for the half to increase the Ironmen’s lead, 42-7 after Bruso’s extra point.

Sophomore running back Varshaun Dixon scored from 20 yards out at 7:32 in the third quarter, and Bruso’s extra point gave NCHS a 49-7 lead. As a result, game officials at that point, employed the use of the Illinois High School Association Mercy Rule, using a continuously running clock, stopping it only for team timeouts or injury timeouts.

BHS FootballThe final score was reached when BHS junior quarterback Ben Nibur dashed into the end zone for the Raiders’ last score of the night from five yards out, followed by Humprey’s extra point.

“Our kids played well,” NCHS head coach Wes Temples said after the contest. But he admitted errors on the field need to be cleaned up, such as late hits leading to penalties.

“We honestly felt we had an opportunity to find some schemes within their defense,”,Schmelzer said of his team’s offensive plan of attack. It was a strategy that failed to pay off. “I’m disappointed from the offensive side of the ball because that’s what I’m supposed to be responsible for.”

Beating BHS gave NCHS its 20th consecutive Big 12 victory win, NCHS visits second ranked Peoria on Oct. 2.