BaseballNORMAL – University High senior pitcher Zach Frey tossed his very first no-hitter as the host Pioneers blanked Corn Belt Conference rival Stanford Olympia, 8-0, at Duffy Bass Field on Tuesday.

Frey, who will be attending the University of Illinois at Springfield in the fall, struck out 10 and walked four in the process of sealing the victory for the Pioneers, who increased their season record to 18-2, and 8-2 in the Corn Belt Conference. Frey, who beginning this fall will be attending and playing baseball at University of Illinois at Springfield, registered 10 strikeouts and four walks against the Spartans’ offense.

Stanford Olympia (10-18, 4-9 Corn Belt Conference) struggled on the mound as head coach Ron Smith pulled starter Clayton Willis after just 16 pitches in favor of Andy Davis who managed to go 5 2/3 innings before handing off Mason Marquis. Marquis had been in the game at third base before getting the nod to the mound from his coach.

U-High PioneersU-High began getting their scoring started while Willis was still on the mound as Pioneers third baseman Jon Rink singled and Frey doubled, scoring Rink, giving the Pioneers a fast 1-0 lead. A single to deep left field from catcher Jake Armstrong scored Frey, increasing U-High’s lead, 2-0, and was the cue for Smith to pull Willis off the mound in favor of Davis.

Olympia head coach Ron Smith his starter for this game, Clayton Willis had pitched the previous week and had broken a finger on his left pitching hand. Smith admitted he probably put Willis back on the mound too quickly after the injury. During this contest, Willis only threw 16 pitches before he was removed in favor of the game’s eventual losing pitcher, Andy Davis. Davis pitched for 5 2/3 innings.

The Pioneers didn’t make Davis’ innings on the mound any easier. With two out in the bottom of the second inning, U-High first baseman John Gibson walked and was followed by a single from designated hitter Matt Mier. Gibson and Mier scored on a single from shortstop Billy Mote, increasing the Pioneers’ advantage, 4-0.

An inning later, Mote provided another run batted in singling to deep right field, again scoring Gibson who was walked by Davis. That increased the Pioneers’ advantage, 5-0.

OlympiaU-High scored three more runs in the sixth inning, as third baseman Jon Rink led off with no outs hitting a single. Next, Frey doubled, and was followed by right fielder Austin Galindo, who doubled, scoring Rink and Frey, increasing U-High’s lead, 7-0. That score became 8-0 when Galindo scored, having been walked at the plate, and advanced on an out made on Keegan Ummel.

Frey said the entire time the no-hitter was in progress, he was trying “to stay positive, sitting at the end of the bench trying to focus on the game, trying not to give up a hit, of course.”

Getting a lead helped his pitching, Frey said. “Once I get a lead, I tend to keep it that way. Getting those two runs at the start of the game gave me all the confidence in the world. I knew I had the best defense in the world to back me up.”

“It was a pretty balanced performance by our whole team,” U-High head coach Steve Paxson said. “And, of course, Zach was our best pitcher last year, and he’s been our best pitcher this year, and he acted like it today.”

“Frye’s good,” Stanford Olympia’s Smith added. “He’s probably one of the top pitchers in the conference. But we haven’t hit all year. We’re hitting about .240 as a team. What we need now is just not there.”

By Steve Robinson | October 3, 2015 - 10:45 pm
Posted in Category: Olympia HS, The Normalite, U-High

FootballNORMAL – University High School senior running back Jo Jo Hughes ran for three touchdowns and threw for another as the Pioneers beat Stanford Olympia, 29-14, keeping the Spartans winless against Corn Belt Conference opponents, before a crowd of 800 fans at Hancock Stadium on the Illinois State University campus on Sept. 2.

Hughes got U-High (5-1, 4-1 Corn Belt) on the scoreboard with a 2-yard dash into the end zone for a touchdown at 7:17 in the first quarter. That completed a 10 play 61 yard trek into the end zone for the Pioneers but junior kicker Ryan Poland missed the extra point, handing the Pioneers a 6-0 start.

U-High’s next scoring chance started at their own 39 yard line with Hughes carrying the ball for most of the possession, but Olympia defenders forced three incomplete passes, and sacked sophomore quarterback Doug Holmes once, forcing the Pioneers to consider, and Poland to kick a 46 field goal which split the uprights and put U-High up, 9-0, with 40 seconds left in the opening quarter.

With 6:33 left in the second quarter, Stanford Olympia (1-5, 0-5 Corn Belt) began a march from their own 46 which ended in a punt from U-High’s 38. The punted ball was downed at U-High’s 1-yard line. Two plays later, the Pioneers were flagged by officials for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety for the Spartans. Senior linebacker Levi Nieson was credited with the sack of Holmes, reducing U-High’s lead, 9-2, with 5:55 left in the quarter.

U-High FootballU-High’s next score came from Hughes evaded tacklers for a 40 yard touchdown run with 2:23 left until halftime. That score was followed up by Poland’s extra point, giving U-High a 16-2 lead

Olympia scored on its next possession, as junior running back Nate Robinson rushed past defenders for a touchdown with 47 seconds left in the half, cutting U-High’s lead to 16-8. But freshman kicker Mathew Cooksey missed the extra point, keeping the score in tact going into halftime.

Olympia received the ball to begin the second half, only to turn it over after Cooksey failed to make a 45 yard field goal. U-High got the ball back at their own 20 and marched 80 yards on 12 plays, ending in Holmes pitching the ball to Hughes who, in turn, saw sophomore wide receiver Emanuel Bada open in the end zone and threw to him from 22 yards out for the Pioneers’ next score. It was Hughes’ first-ever pass play.

“I thought I was going to have a run, but the receiver was wide open, so I just threw it,” Hughes said about his firs completion. “It worked out well.” Hughes’ first scoring pass play, followed by Poland’s next extra point, increased U-High’s lead, 23-8, with 4:29 left in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter opened with that score, but Hughes helped U-High add to it again on a 53 yard dash with 4:01 left in the game, topping a 10 play 80 yard drive for what would be the Pioneers’ last score of the night, followed by a botched 2-point try, increasing U-High’s margin to 29-8.

Stanford-Olympia SpartansOlympia would find double digits late in the contest, as senior quarterback Collin Miller would connect with Nieson for a 48 yard touchdown with 3:03 left in the contest, followed by a failed kick by Cooksey.

Holmes was 10-for-19 passing for 145 yards, and one interception. Hughes led all rushers with 30 carries for 205 yards. He can also count one pass completion for a touchdown. For Olympia, Miller was 16-for-28 for 191 yards. Nieson led Olympia’s receivers with five catches garnering 93 yards.

“Olympia split our offensive penetration when the game started and we were having trouble with that. That split of our offensive front line slowed us down a bit,” U-High head coach Mike Troll said. “We figured out how to handle that as the game went on.”

“We struggled with placing players in the right positions tonight,” explained Stanford Olympia head coach Mike Rathbun. “Not containing Hughes was poor tackling on our part. I’m not taking anything away from him when I say that. He ran hard. We didn’t tackle as good as what we should have.” Rathbun also added his team came out stronger in the first quarter during this game than they had previously this season.

FootballSTANFORD – At this time last year, Stanford Olympia High School head coach Mike Rathbun felt a confidence in how far his team would go during that season that he hadn’t felt previously since becoming Spartans coach before the 2011 season. And that confidence was well deserved as the Spartans made it to Illinois High School Association playoffs but were dismissed quickly in their Class 4A First Round game by Quincy Notre Dame.

As the 2015 season opens, Rathbun said he believes his team, which finished with an overall 6-4 mark including four Corn Belt Conference victories, will end this season getting beyond the first round.

Last year, Rathbun recalled, it was his team’s juniors who were fired up about the prospects of getting to the playoffs and brought the seniors in on the notion. Now, those juniors are now seniors “still committed,” Rathbun said, this time to getting another shot at a crown in their Class.

“I’ve got no complaints about where we’re going,” Rathbun said of the improvements he has seen during his tenure on the sidelines.

Part of the turnaround has been the result of Rathbun trying to change the mindset of what the Spartans can accomplish on the field after numerous lackluster seasons. It had been 12 years – 2002 – before last year’s campaign since the Spartans made the playoffs prior to last season.

Stanford-Olympia SpartansPosition-By-Position: Senior Collin Miller will again be under center as the season opens, where he has been sin mid-way through the Spartans’ 2013 away game at Normal University High. “(Last year,) Collin had a real good year operating the offense, (doing it) very efficiently, and he poses an equal threat as both a runner and a passer,” Rathbun explained. Should anything happen to Miller during the course of the season, senior wide receiver Justin Slager would serve as his backup.

Miller will be defended by an offensive front line led by seniors Bo Bauer, T. J. Peters, and Wyatt Spaulding, all of whom made the All-Conference squad last year. “Those three should make a pretty big difference up front,” Rathbun said of that trio. “They do a great job of communicating up front and that’s because they’ve been playing together since they were just kids.”

With the graduations last spring of brothers Austin and Tyler Bruner, senior wide receiver Alex Switzer will step into the forefront of the receiving corps this season. Alongside him will be senior Levi Nieson. Nieson will be making a switch defensively, too, as he moves from outside linebacker to inside linebacker.

Senior running backs Triston Ballinger and Slager “will pick up where they left off last year” at those positions when the season starts, their head coach explained. Rathbun said his team “isn’t particularly large at any one position,” explaining his heaviest man at that position weighs 250 pounds.

In addition to his duties on both sides of the ball, Slager will serve as the Spartans’ kicker.

Despite their size differential, “they all go on forever,” the fifth-season coach said. “They’ve all worked hard in the offseason and are in a position to do pretty well.”

Corn Belt ConferenceDefensive Shake-Up: The Bruners’ departure leaves Olympia with some shifting to be done on defense, Rathbun said, specifically at cornerback. “If a corner makes a mistake, everybody sees the result,” he said. Players wanting the position face a limited learning curve, the coach added.

As for outside linebacker, the other position for which there is competition, “anybody can cover a pass,” Rathbun said of his search for top-notch defensive staffers. “I want to see who can run reads, cover passes, and serve as kind of a total package we’re looking for.”

Seniors Cole Hamel and Nieson will serve in their linebacking positions, Rathbun explained.

Squib Kicks: Rathbun said Oly’s 2014 record inspired his players to visit the weight room more regularly during the offseason…..Oly opens the season at non-conference foe Champaign St. Thomas More Aug. 28….Prairie Central opens the Spartans’ home schedule Sept. 4….Rathbun’s four-year coaching record at Olympia is 12-25 including an 8-20 Corn Belt Conference mark and 0-1 in post-season play.

By Steve Robinson | August 16, 2014 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: Olympia HS, Pekin Daily Times

FootballSTANFORD – As Stanford Olympia High School head coach Mike Rathbun sees things going into his fourth year leading the Spartans for another season, he said he’s “more confident this year than I’ve been in a lot of years.”

That would because of front line players on both sides of the ball coming in this season led offensively by junior quarterback Collin Miller, who has been calling signals since halfway through the Spartans game at Normal University High last year. “We’ve got a great group of first string players,” Rathbun explained. But he said, his team lacks an experienced second string squad.

Oly lost four starters on offense and five on defense, but Rathbun said he isn’t worried particularly about that because of what he sees in terms of the attitude his players have thus far displayed in practice. “They come to practice with an attitude of ‘we can do this’,” Rathbun explained. “The group I’ve got right now has a never-say-die attitude. With that, I think we can go a long way.”

In practices, Rathbun said, “everything I have thrown at them, they’ve accepted with no compunction,” Rathbun said.

Miller was asked to take up the task of leading the Spartans and from that point on, Miller “understood the offense and what was required of him, and did as good a job as a sophomore,” his coach explained. Olympia has 12 juniors and Miller spent time in the offseason working to increase his speed.

Miller will be throwing to a receiving corps that doubles as a brother act – Tyler Bruner and Austin Bruner, both juniors. They will be joined by junior Justin Slager

Slager “started out as a utility player,” Rathbun said. “We can put him anywhere on the field and he will find a way to get the job done.”

Stanford-Olympia SpartansRathbun said his team will continue rotating running backs at varsity level. That group includes Slager, senior Wyatt Crump, and junior Tristan Ballinger. “With that group, we’re considerably faster than we were last year and years past,” Rathbun quickly noted.

While offense is pretty much mapped out, Rathbun admits getting a defensive unit assembled could be a work in progress in came in time for Oly’s Aug. 29 season opener at home against non-conference opponent Champaign St. Thomas More.

“We graduated all our linebackers, and we’re a smaller, faster team than what we’ve had in the past,” Rathbun admits. “We’ll need to adjust our defense to accept smaller kids into a more athletic position.”

Crump, a free safety last season, is going to be one of the new linebackers this season, his coach said. There are three players fighting for a linebacker position, Rathbun said. Slager will continue to serve as the Spartans’ kicker, he added.

Squib Kicks: Olympia’s first Corn Belt Conference opponent will be Sept. 5 on the road at Prairie Central for a 7:30p.m. start…..The Spartans will face Conference newcomer Chillicothe IVC for the first time in a home game on Oct. 17….Oly only has 5 seniors on this year’s squad….Rathbun’s coaching record after three seasons is 6-21….In the 2013 season, Rathbun said Oly only faced 1 “running clock” situation in a game in 2013.

By Steve Robinson | September 15, 2013 - 10:56 pm
Posted in Category: Olympia HS, The Normalite, U-High

FootballNORMAL – No Friday The 13th jinx was in play for Normal University High School’s football squad as they continued rolling past another opponent during their Corn Belt Conference contest against Stanford Olympia at Hancock Stadium on one of the calendar’s more fateful days. The Pioneers defeated the Spartans, 49-14.

Junior quarterback Arion Worthman before a crowd of roughly 800 fans, U-High (3-0, 2-0 Corn Belt) put the Pioneers on the board first on the team’s first possession, running 19 yards into the end zone, with 9:36 left in the first quarter, putting the home team up, 7-0, following senior kicker Luke Otto’s extra point.

Olympia’s subsequent possession ended in a punt, which the Pioneers took advantage upon getting the ball back, as Worthman connected with sophomore wide receiver Joseph Hughes on a 6-yard touchdown strike, capping a 4-play, 41 yard drive, followed by another Otto extra point, putting U-High in front, 14-0, at the 7:37 mark in the opening quarter.

Worthman took matters into his own hands for the Pioneers’ next score, as he dashed 64 yards down the near sideline, trailed by Olympia defenders, for his second touchdown of the game. But although Otto muffed his extra point try, U-High owned a 20-0 lead.

Worthman and junior receiver Niles Smith connected in the quarter for U-High’s next score, a 10-yard touchdown pass coming with six seconds left. But Otto missed the extra point, sending U-High holding a 26-0 lead going into the second quarter.

U-High FootballWorthman and Smith teamed up a second time for another touchdown with 7:40 left in the second quarter, followed by another successful Otto extra point, putting U-High up, 33-0. Olympia’s defense began getting intensifying as the half drew to a close, managing to force Worthman to make quick decisions as the half wore down, including a shovel pass to senior running back Joe Johnson, who converted it into a 48-yard touchdown, with 2:23 left until halftime. Although Otto missed the extra point, the Pioneers took a 39-0 lead into the half.

Olympia had two possessions to open the second half, keeping the ball on the ground for most of it, while their defense tried keeping U-High at a standstill offensively, managing to demonstrate that when the Spartans’ defense held the Pioneers to a 22-yard field goal by Otto with 5:42 left in the third quarter, upping U-High’s lead, 42-0, as the third quarter closed.

With U-High holding a 40-point margin over their opponents, game officials 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.

Olympia (0-3, 0-2 Corn Belt) switched quarterbacks in the fourth quarter, putting sophomore Collin Miller in the game for junior starter Austin Bruner. Miller shuffled among passing and running plays to get the Spartans’ first score, an 8-yard rushing touchdown by senior tight end Jason Mann, with 6:25 left in the contest. But Olympia missed the extra point, cutting U-High’s lead, 49-6.

Stanford-Olympia SpartansOlympia’s attempt at an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff succeeded, giving the Spartans the ball on U-High’s 47 yard line. On the first play of the new drive, Miller connected with Mann for a second touchdown, with 5:28 left in the contest. Senior running back Garrett French got the call when the Spartans tried a two-point conversion, which succeeded, leading to the eventual final score.

“The first thing I was happy with was our defense,” said U-High head coach Dusty Burk. “I thought they played outstanding. Our first group of defensive guys really shut down Olympia’s offense. They gave our offense the ball in really good position.

“We never want to let up,” Burk said. “We always want to finish the job. In the second half, we gave up some points and we didn’t finish a couple drives, gave up some turnovers. We’re never going to be satisfied. We want to finish every play and every drive.”

“U-High was as good as what I saw on film,” said Olympia head coach Mike Rathbun. “Their speed was just something we couldn’t compensate for.” The third-season Spartans head coach said Bruner “did as good as he could with what he had to work with. I have no complaints with what Austin did.”

Prairie Central visits Hancock Stadium on Sept. 20 for University High’s homecoming.