NORMAL – Normal Community West High School had but seconds to try to send their fans home happy Friday night at Wildcat Field. Trailing Bloomington 14-7 in the last couple of minutes of the Big 12 Conference contest, the Wildcats had the football but had not crossed midfield as they sought a big play in hopes of beating the Purple Raiders.

Then, with 19.9 seconds remaining in the contest, senior quarterback Kolton Lindsay connected with junior wide receiver Matthew Marsaglia for a 57 yard touchdown followed by a successful point after try by junior kicker Owen Senn which gave the Wildcats a wild 14-10 win over the Purple Raiders.

To the fans, it was another successful play. For Marsaglia, it came across like a moment of déjà vu because he had done something similar under similar circumstances. The 5 foot-8, 150 pounder told reporters he experienced a near-exact situation playing his freshmen year. Of the play he knew he needed to catch against the Purple Raiders, he said, “I just knew I had to catch this. I knew if I didn’t catch this, it’s going to be so embarrassing.”

But having caught it and scored, there was no embarrassment as Marsaglia put his team in front for the win helping Normal West keep a perfect 3-0 Big 12 Conference record. Normal West is 3-1 overall on the season.

Normal West scored early in the contest on their first series in the first quarter, as Lindsay connected with senior wide receiver Jamarcus Webb on a 9 yard touchdown pass at 8:35 in the first quarter followed by Senn’s extra point, putting Normal West up, 7-0. Both defenses managed to keep their opponents from scoring for the remainder of the half, and each side went scoreless in the third quarter.

Freshman kicker Taylor Anderson helped Bloomington High (2-2 Big 12 and overall) narrow West’s lead, 7-3, with a 24 yard field goal with 7:59 left in the fourth quarter, capping their longest drive of the night consisting of 16 plays going 95 yards for the score.

Normal West wound up punting to conclude the ensuing set of downs, and with the ball back in their possession, BHS went to work from their own 49. Twelve plays later, junior quarterback Marcus Griffin used a keeper play to score with 52 seconds left in the contest, followed by Senn’s extra point to allow BHS to take a 10-7 lead. From there, fans saw Normal West quickly work against the clock while holding back Purple Raiders defenders en route to the victory.

“This was another big game for us to keep learning and get ourselves ready for the postseason,” Normal West head coach Nate Fincham explained. “Bloomington was more physical than us. That’s what it comes down to. They dictated the tempo to us and that’s where our mistakes happened.” He said his team needed to maintain a physical presence and learn to not let up on opponents.

He added his players need to “learn to finish drives, finish blocks, and finish tackles, and we didn’t have that problem the first two weeks. We’ve done a pretty good job of making the plays necessary previously but we did not do the job today.”

“We did what they thought they would do,” BHS head coach Scott Godfrey said in assessing the Wildcats team his team saw. “The play at the end of the game was the difference.”

By Steve Robinson | August 28, 2021 - 10:15 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, News, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – After Friday night’s season opening loss to Normal Community High Fred Carlton Field, one can only imagine Bloomington High School players and coaches still couldn’t get the sight of NCHS senior quarterback Chase Mackey from their dreams considering the performance he gave in the Ironmen’s season opening 35-0 Big 12 Conference shutout victory over the Purple Raiders.

Mackey, the 6 foot-3, 200 pound quarterback, completed passes totaling 195 yards which included three touchdown passes and running for a fourth directing his team to its first victory of the season, its first road victory.

After receiving the opening kickoff, the Purple Raiders were deep in their own territory and forced to punt but the return put NCHS (1-0 Big 12 and overall) on BHS’ 5-yard line. Even with a penalty against them, four plays later, the Ironmen scored courtesy of Mackey rushing five yards into the end zone at the 5:59 mark in the first quarter, followed by junior kicker Ryan Millmore successful extra point, putting NCHS up, 7-0, closing out the quarter.

Short yardage and penalty flags doomed Bloomington (0-1 Big 12 and overall) in the second quarter allowing NCHS to begin what turned into its next score from BHS’ 14-yard line. One play later, senior running back Michael Coleman rushed past defenders for NCHS’ next score, followed by Millmore’s extra point, putting NCHS up, 14-0 with 2:11 left in the quarter.

NCHS would score again in the quarter’s closing seconds as Mackey would connect with senior wide receiver Kyle Thierry on a one play 45-yard scoring pass followed by another Millmore extra point, giving NCHS a 21-0 halftime lead.

NCHS received the ball to open the second half and immediately added to their lead courtesy of an 18-yard touchdown pass from Mackey to senior wide receiver Terance Washington capping a 4 play 65-yard drive topped off with Millmore’s extra point, increasing NCHS’ lead to 28-0 as the game entered the fourth quarter.

Mackey and Washington would connect one more time on the night with 6:10 left in the contest on a 55-yard touchdown pass followed by Millmore’s last extra point of the night. Washington’s opening night stats included four receptions tallying 116 yards.

The victory avenged a 12-6 loss NCHS suffered against BHS in the spring, which Ironmen head coach Jason Drengwitz noted after the game, adding he didn’t really look upon this victory as revenge for that loss, but added, “it was probably sweeter for our players, but I don’t think I looked at it as a revenge game. I have a lot of respect for Bloomington, their players, and their coaching staff. More than anything, it’s not really revenge. You just want to beat your crosstown rival for the bragging rights. BHS was a team who handled us physically last year. I know our kids feel good about this win. They were excited to get out here and play against this team.”

Drengwitz added that from here, he and his players need to look at what went well for the Ironmen and build on those things. “I know our kids feel good about this win. I know they were excited.”

BHS head coach Scott Godfrey characterized the week leading up to the game as being “just a tough week.” “We had a lot of adversity thrown at us this week,” Godfrey said in describing how his week leading up to the game played out. He explained the heat added to injured players, and having to play without some key players made the week leading up to the game frustrating for the coaching staff and players.

“Give credit to Normal Community, they hit us in the mouth from the very start,” Godfrey said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and they won the turnover battle. So, first and foremost, they did what it takes to win a football game.”

Ironmen Field To Be Renamed “Dick Tharp Field” Before Friday’s Home Game: Prior to Friday’s first NCHS home game, the field they play on, currently known as Ironmen Field, will be renamed in honor of a former head coach, Dick Tharp, thus becoming known as Dick Tharp Field. Tharp, now 90, coached NCHS for 22 seasons, from 1966-1988, helping guide the Ironmen to a 158-50-5 mark. Big 12 Conference foe Peoria Manual will be the opponents for the 7p.m. contest. The Rams will be seeking a first win having lost a week 1 non-conference game at Peotone, 24-20.

By Steve Robinson | April 4, 2021 - 10:25 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Normal Community High School’s football team has had its way with Big 12 Conference rival Bloomington High School for the last seven years, winning at home and here at Fred Carlton Field. Friday night, however, in a low scoring affair, the Purple Raiders’ scored on both offense and defense while confining the Ironmen to being scoreless for half the contest as BHS defeated NCHS, 12-6, Friday night. The win gave the Purple Raiders their first victory on the abbreviated season.

BHS (1-2) scored first to complete their first series of downs following the opening kickoff with senior running back Ean Haggarty bursting through the Ironmen defense for a 49 yard touchdown drive at 9:50 in the first quarter. That play capped a 6 play 86 yard drive followed by a successful extra point by junior kicker Cameron Anderson, putting the hosts up, 7-0.

Later in the quarter, with NCHS deep in their own territory, Ironmen sophomore kicker Ryan Millmore lost and recovered the ball in the end zone before he could punt and BHS freshman defensive lineman Miguel Espindola tackled Millmore for a safety, increasing the Purple Raiders’ lead, 9-0, going into the second quarter.

From there, defenses for both sides stayed busy through the second and third quarters preventing any scoring. A 26 yard field goal by Anderson ended that drought with 7:04 left in the contest extended BHS’ advantage capping a 65 yard drive, extending the Purple Raiders’ lead to 12-3.

BHS’ defense kept NCHS close to midfield following the ensuing kickoff but the Ironmen managed to get to the BHS 31 as time started winding down. Millmore entered the contest a last time with 5:55 remaining kicking a 41 yard field goal which cut BHS’ lead in half. But NCHS could not gain possession again before the final horn.

Ironmen sophomore backup quarterback Chase Wiese completed 15-of-31 passes for 163 yards in what was his debut under center. Wellman completed 8-of-13 passes garnering 81 yards in the victory.

NCHS was short-handed going into this contest as junior starting quarterback Chase Mackey was continuing to recover from an injury he suffered during NCHS’ opening game against Normal Community West March 20. In addition, contact tracing related to COVID-19 kept NCHS’ all five offensive line players sidelined. In all, a total of seven Ironmen players did not play due to COVID-19 related issues.

BHS head coach Scott Godfrey said he was aware of the medical issues NCHS faced coming into this game and had praise for how his team got back on the winning track against the Ironmen. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said about snapping his team’s losing streak against the Ironmen. “It’s a big win for us.”

“We put the pressure on our guys all week if we wanted into the playoffs,” Godfrey added. “We knew we were going to have to earn it against NCHS and our guys came out and executed.”

“It hurts to get beat, but I’m extremely proud of our guys and how they battled,” NCHS head coach Jason Drengwitz said. “We had the short hand tonight, but the credit goes to Bloomington. They played well offensively. They played well on special teams and they played really well on defense.

“Maybe we’ll get a chance to play them again,” the second season Ironmen head coach said. “I’m disappointed for the loss and I’m disappointed for our seniors. However, I’m really proud of the effort our kids played. They fought hard and they never gave up. They stuck together to the very end.”

Drengwitz was quick to credit Wiese for his effort on the night, saying, “For his first start, he did a really nice job. He battled a lot of adversity and did a lot of difficult things.”

By Steve Robinson | October 5, 2019 - 10:57 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Community High School managed to outpace Bloomington High School in the second half Friday night to defeat the Purple Raiders in their Big 12 Conference contest, 43-26, at Ironmen Field. For NCHS head coach Jason Drengwitz, it has been a season of trying to put a complete game – offense, defense, and special teams – together. This night, Drengwitz said afterward, his team accomplished that.

A scoreless first quarter and a fast-paced first quarter contributed to NCHS’ getting and keeping ahead of their guests as roughly 850 fans watched.

BHS had first possession but would up punting on fourth down to NCHS (5-1 overall, 5-0 Big 12), who began their first drive from their own 44. On the first play of the drive, senior quarterback Aidan Oliver rushed for 33 yards getting the Ironmen into Purple Raiders’ territory, to BHS’ 13. Two plays later, Oliver dashed into the end zone from BHS’ 2 yard line for a touchdown, followed by a successful 2-point conversion run from sophomore quarterback Chase Mackey. That gave NCHS a quick 8-0 lead at 8:43 in the first quarter for what would be the only score going into the second half.

A 33 yard pass from junior quarterback Ben Wellman to senior wide receiver Ivan Smith ended in Smith dashing down the far sideline for the first points of the game for BHS (3-3 overall, 3-2 Big 12) followed by Wellman and Smith connecting on a 2-point conversion play. That tied the score at 8-all with 5:09 left in the quarter.

BHS’ ensuing kickoff, although briefly fumbled by NCHS, wound up recovered by the Ironmen, who started their next drive from their own 45. Eight plays later, Oliver would rush for his second touchdown of the night from 15 yards out followed by the senior quarterback keeping the ball and completing the 2-point conversion play solo. That had NCHS up, 16-8, going into halftime.

The Ironmen were able to advance the score further having received the second half kickoff, using a 10-play drive to get into the end zone as Oliver scored on a five yard run with eight minutes left in the third quarter. His score was followed by Millmore’s point after advancing NCHS’ lead, 23-8.

BHS’ next possession ended in a punt and the Ironmen were able to get the return to their own 42 to start their next drive. Six plays later, senior tight end Reid Watkins caught an Oliver pass from 15 yards out to put NCHS up, 30-8 with 3:07 left in the quarter, following Millmore’s extra point.

BHS’ next possession ended in a punt and began NCHS’ next possession at the Ironmen 47 after NCHS was flagged for holding. Five plays later, Oliver dashed into the end zone from five yards out, but Millmore missed the extra point. Despite that, NCHS held a 36-8 lead with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.

BHS started their next drive from their own 24 after the ensuing kickoff but Wellman’s 76 yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Eric Johnson stunned the Ironmen briefly, followed by a failed 2-point conversion try, reducing NCHS’ lead, 36-14 with nine seconds remaining in the third quarter.

NCHS’ return team fumbled BHS’ ensuing kickoff, briefly giving the Purple Raiders the ball at midfield with one second left in the quarter, but then committed a turnover of their own as NCHS sophomore defensive back Keewan Grismore intercepted Wellman’s intended pass giving the Ironmen the ball at BHS’ 20 to open the fourth quarter. Senior wide receiver Camron Jackson scored on a running play from that distance, followed by Millmore’s extra point, advancing the Ironmen’s lead, 43-14.

From there, BHS would sacrifice possession on a turnover on downs and NCHS would punt the ball away before another score. That score would come with 4:08 remaining when Wellman would connect with senior wide receiver Diontay Griffin from six yards out for a touchdown, capping a 6 play 57 yard drive. BHS’ try at a 2 point conversion after scoring was unsuccessful, but the added points cut NCHS’ lead to 43-20.

NCHS being deep in their own end zone in the closing moments of the game would help BHS achieve their last score on the night as sophomore linebacker Sam Pena would block the Ironmen’s punt and fall on it in the end zone. That would result in the final score after the Purple Raiders failed to convert a 2-point conversion.

“It seems like every game, it’s been one phase or two phases that have played well while others were lacking,” Drengwitz said. “I feel like if we can ever put all three phases of the game together, we’d be really good. But that’s why you go to practice and why you go and watch film.

Jackson rushed for 110 yards as he stepped in for an injured Jake Hileman. Hileman suffered a torn meniscus in a knee in the Ironmen’s road game at Lapeer, Mich. two weeks ago and had surgery on that knee the afternoon before this game. “We hope Hileman is healthy and we want to do right by him,” Drengwitz said. If all goes well with Hileman’s recovery, he could be back by week 9 or in time for playoffs, his coach explained.

“Our guys – they didn’t quit and they kept battling,” said BHS head coach Scott Godfrey. “We had some things fall our way – penalties and blocked punts fall our way – we put a scare into them, but I felt Normal was always in control.”

Godfrey credited NCHS with “being so strong on the offensive line both offensively and defensively. That is where we are losing some of these bigger games. We’re having a hard time winning the line of scrimmage.”

Godfrey finished by adding, “When you play these guys, you know you’re going to have your work cut out for you.”

By Steve Robinson | October 23, 2018 - 10:11 pm

NORMAL – University High’s top seeded Volleyball team swept Central Catholic in two games of the Class 3A Regional the Saints hosted Tuesday, earning a shot at the event’s championship. The Pioneers advanced to Thursday’s championship match by beating 7th seed BCC with scores of 26-24 and 25-18. The Pioneers will take on Manteno Thursday night. Manteno swept Fairbury Prairie Central by scores of 30-28 and 25-14.

U-High Takes Game One, 26-24: In game one, the top seed Pioneers and 7th seed Saints matched each other point for point until U-High pulled away thanks to a pair of kills – one by Alyanna Crabtree and one by Jess McDowell – to pull in front, 18-14, prompting BCC head coach Teresa Ulrich to call a timeout. Following the timeout, a Pioneers driving the ball into the net followed by a kill by senior middle hitter Morgan Koch cut the Pioneers’ lead to two, 19-17.

Saints sophomore outside hitter Abby Cox delivered two serves which proved problematic for U-High, the first was shot into the net while the second fell short of it, allowing BCC to tie the game at 20-20, prompting Pioneers head coach Michael Bolhuis to call timeout. The game would tie two more times, at 22-all and 24-all before U-High would overcome serves by Saints senior outside hitter Mallory Bergbower to take the first contest.

Pioneers Overcome Saints’ Streaks In Game Two, 25-18: University High struggled through the first part of the second game, leading briefly, 2-1 before BCC tied the game at 2-all, and with Cox serving, went on a four-point unanswered streak, taking a 6-2 lead until a Pioneers kill cut that lead, 6-3. U-High crept into an 8-all tie before a kill by junior setter Isobel Schaefbauer helped give them a one-point lead, 9-8, which they stretched into a 10-8 lead forcing BCC head coach Teresa Ulrich to take a timeout.

From there, the score would be tied once more at 10-all, but with junior outside hitter Alayna Crabtree and junior defensive specialist Skyler Jenkins serving, the Pioneers were able to advance to an 18-11 advantage. A kill each from Saints junior defensive specialist Ellie Nelson and U-High’s Tongate pushed U-High into a 22-15 lead. Crabtree, with her team up, 24-18, delivered U-High’s last serve which BCC returned but failed to keep in bounds leading to the final score, giving the Pioneers a sweep and a shot at the Regional crown provided they won against Manteno.

The victory advances U-High’s record going into the Regional Championship at 27-7. BCC’s season ends with a 21-15 record. Crabtree registered 6 kills while McDowell had 5 for U-High. McDowell also served three aces. Their teammate, senior setter Macy Tongate had 12 assists and three blocks. Junior defensive specialist Logan Murray had 4 digs.

While BCC had no aces, Cox scored 10 service points. Bergbower had 9 kills, followed by 7 from senior middle hitter Morgan Koch. Junior setter Kate Moorman-Wolfe lent 22 assists and had one block. Bergbower also had a block. Senior middle blocker Lauren O’Donnell had 9 digs followed by junior defensive specialist Sydney Adams’ 8.

“We knew BCC would try sending the ball to senior middle hitter Morgan Koch when they could and we didn’t do a very good job of slowing her down at all,” U-High’s Bolhuis said. “It was neck-and-neck, and kind of a high tension match all the way through,” Bolhuis said, giving credit to the seniors on his team with using their experience to get their team through the match and overcoming moments when they trailed.

BCC’s Ulrich said she reminded her team “U-High’s going to walk in here without any doubt they will walk out of here with a victory and I told our girls we have to do the same thing. In order to stay in this game, we’re going to have to be aggressive and fast at the net and if that means our middle hitters need to block, then that’s it.”

Ulrich said her team executed that plan well in game one, but she admitted, “Unfortunately, in game two, our nerves got the better of us because as soon as U-High started to come back, we started to retreat.”