BLOOMINGTON – Ron Rose admits he needs to make sure his team absorbs as much information while at practice on Dennie Bridges Court in Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center for this season’s version of the Fightin’ Titans to be successful this season. Of his 19-player roster, nine are brand new to the program.

To get his newer charges to understand the team’s playing system, Rose admits, instructing players becomes “a slower process and you have to get a base” established to get the newer players to understand what you want to accomplish.

“There are so many things you have to prepare for, both offensively and defensively, that you don’t want to skip stuff,” explained Rose, who will be going into his 13th season on the sidelines. “An equal challenge to that is you have 10 other guys chomping at the bit to get going because they are ready for the next step.”

His job at this stage of the year, Rose said, “becomes a fine line between keeping your eye on the development of everybody and preparing for that first game.” Rose said he believes his current group of players “have a ton of potential and we want to give our guys every opportunity to have some success and build confidence as well.

Rose said getting freshmen used to the physical nature of how much different the college game is from the high school game. “You’re 18-years-old and you’re going up against 21-year-old men who have been in college weight programs,” Rose explained. “So there is just initially, just the physical nature of whether freshmen are strong enough and physically developed to compete.” He said the returning players found the answer to those questions as they got older and so, too, the veteran coach adds, will these freshmen.

Keondre Schumacher, University High: Redshirt freshman guard went to play and study at college out of state before returning to central Illinois and the chance to play for IWU. But the 5 foot-11, 175 pound guard will not have to sit out a year per NCAA rules because he is transferring to Division III IWU from an NCAA Div. I school.

IWU lost three starting guards to graduation, so Rose is happy to see Schumacher come to play for his team. He has two years of college ball under his belt so he’s not new to the college game having transferred to IWU after attending and playing for South Carolina-based Winthrop College. He’s looking to earn a Bachelor’s degree in World Religions.

“I thought it would be cool to come play college basketball in my hometown,” said Schumacher, who is the son of IWU Track and Field head coach Chris Schumacher. He added the Division I school he came from taught him to stay competitive and to maintain a good work ethic toward the sport.

Tommy Nelson, Central Catholic: Nelson, the 6 foot-6, 205 pound freshman forward said he is getting along with his new teammates and admits, “I’m just trying to get used to the system. Right now, I’m just trying to practice hard and play well.” Nelson said he wants to major in Finance.

“As you jump up in levels in this game, there’s just a lot to learn and that’s where Tommy is right now,” Rose added.

Luke Yoder, Central Catholic: “I really like the small campus and the basketball program here,” explained 6 foot, 170 pound freshman guard Luke Yoder. He said at this stage, he is learning from his older teammates. The biggest lesson so far that he has picked up at this early stage is “I have a lot of learning and developing yet in term of skills,” he admitted. Yoder is looking to major in Health Promotion-Fitness Management.

“We’re excited Luke is in the program because he’s got a game that travels at a lot of different levels,” said Rose. “He’s tough, he handles the ball, he makes great decisions and he defends. Not many freshmen defend.

At this stage of practice, Rose said Schumacher, Nelson, and Yoder “have done a nice job of picking things up but they aren’t at the stage to where they can just play yet.” He said that goes for all of his new players as the practice phase gets started.

Circle Your Calendars: IWU will have already played an exhibition against Missouri Valley Conference member Southern Illinois University. They start their home schedule on Tuesday, Nov. 12 hosting Blackburn College. Their first Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin game will be Wednesday, Dec. 4 when they host Wheaton College for a 7p.m. contest.

BLOOMINGTON – Most basketball coaches will stress making sure their player has a good look toward the basket before even thinking about taking a shot. IWU women’s basketball coach Mia Smith. That philosophy has been altered slightly by Smith as her team’s season starts. “The first open look, if it’s a good look for that player, is what we want to take,” said Smith, who is entering her 22nd season as head coach of the Fightin’ Titans.

“If we can pass it down on the parameter, find a wing open, find it to our shooter’s hands, we’re going to fire that ball right up there,” Smith said. On defense, Smith said, “This team will have to live by their defensive game,” Smith said, adding she believes this team defends better when there is only a half court at stake rather than a full court against opponents. “Our players are probably going to log harder and longer minutes against opponents than we’ve done in the past,” Smith said. “In order to do that, we’ve got to be in great game shape, getting up and down the floor and play inline to inline. You’ll see our run and jump for sure this year.”

Smith said she believes Sydney Shanks “has been pressing in some form or style her entire athletic career,” in mentioning how the 5 foot-9 Bloomington Central Catholic product has handled how she has played the game. “The more aggressive she becomes, the more confident and aggressive the rest of our team becomes.”

Of Kendall Sosa, the 5-9 guard who graduated from Normal Community High School, Smith said, “I love that kid. I don’t just love the basketball player, I love the person. She’s an incredible young woman. I think our players are going to follow, and our team will kind of go as Kendall does.”

“We’ve got great shooters, great parameter shooters, and we’re going to shoot more threes,” Smith admitted. She added if her team doesn’t find itself in the top ten in three-point field goal percentage and three point percentage made, she would be really disappointed. “We know that’s where we need to go,” she said.

Sosa said, for her, it took a little while to understand and learn the role Smith wants to her to take on, and is quick to add, “It’s nice to have that kind of confidence from your coach.

Of Shanks and Sosa, their coach said, “They’re just quality. I don’t know what else you can say. They’re just such great kids. Sydney is so respected over in the Nursing Department, where she is majoring.” Of Sosa, her coach added, “Kendall is just an outstanding citizen. She’s kind, she’s empathic. She’s just an outstanding young woman.”

Circle Your Calendars: IWU started the season Nov. 1 dropping an 86-82 road game at Eastern Illinois. Another non-conference road game is on tap Nov. 12 for IWU at University of Chicago. They then travel to the St. Norbert Tip-Off Tournament in Depere, Wis. Nov. 9 where they will also be joined by University of Wisconsin-Stout, Calvin College, and the host school. They then travel to St. Louis for the Midwest Challenge Tournament before CCIW action begins in earnest. IWU’s first road Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin league game will be at North Central College Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 7p.m. The first CCIW foe to visit Shirk Center will be Carthage College Saturday, Dec. 7 at 5p.m.

By Steve Robinson | November 3, 2019 - 10:40 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Ninth seed Normal Community High School kept 24th seed Burbank Reavis High School scoreless for three quarters while simultaneously putting points on the scoreboard to advance to the second round by beating the Rams, 36-14 in the opening round of Illinois High School Association Class 7A playoffs. Senior wide receivers Camron Jackson and Dylan Tracy each scored two touchdowns helping to provide the Ironmen with enough distance from the Rams during the contest.

As a result of the victory, head coach Jason Drengwitz’s team will travel to the Chicago suburbs to face eighth seed Chicago Phillips who carry an 8-1 record into the contest.

Jackson scored first for NCHS (8-2) on a five yard run capping a 6 play 52 yard drive which began after a Reavis punt which gave the Ironmen the ball at their own 47. Freshman kicker Ryan Millmore followed up with an extra point to put NCHS up, 7-0.

Burbank-based Reavis’ ensuing possession ended in a punt, giving NCHS the ball at the Rams’ 43 as a starting point. Two plays later, senior quarterback Aidan Oliver connected with Tracy for a 40 yard touchdown strike with 39 seconds left in the quarter, followed by Millmore’s extra point to give the Ironmen a 14-0 advantage going into the second quarter.

Reavis (7-3) started their ensuing possession at their own 20 but wound up turning the ball over on downs after an attempted fake punt turned pass went awry giving NCHS the ball at the Rams’ 37. Five plays later, Jackson scored from a yard out, followed by Millmore’s extra point increasing NCHS’ lead, 21-0, with 7:29 left until halftime.

NCHS received the second half kickoff and continued their march down field scoring on the third play from scrimmage with Tracy scoring his second touchdown of the game as he connected from 85 yards receiving Oliver’s pass for a touchdown, giving NCHS a 27-0 lead after Millmore missed the extra point.

Reavis senior defensive back Tyler Matthews picked off an Oliver pass to help stop an Ironmen possession at the Rams’ 23 but the opponent’s possession was fraught with penalties which pushed their line of scrimmage back to inside their own 5 yard line. When Rams junior quarterback Brendan Keane attempted to punt the ball, it struck a teammate first before hitting the ground and the Rams retrieved it only to be met by NCHS defenders in the end zone for a safety. That extended the Ironmen advantage to 29-0 with 5:41 in the quarter.

Oliver scored NCHS’ final points on the night, putting the Ironmen up 36-0, from 23 yards out, dashing past defenders and having to dive past the goal line to avoid them further for the score with 2:33 left in the third quarter followed by Millmore’s extra point.

Reavis’ points all came in the fourth quarter, the first was a 56 yard pass from senior quarterback Matt O’Malley to senior wide receiver Tizoc Covarrubais followed by O’Malley scrambling between defenders to get a successful 2-point conversion, cutting NCHS’ lead, 36-8. The second score came with 59 seconds left in the game as senior running back Nick Baez dashed in from 2 yards out followed by another O’Malley conversion play resulting in the final score.

“No team has been able to run the ball effectively on us,” explained NCHS head coach Drengwitz. He credited the complete coaching staff for “just putting our kids in the best position to execute the game plan and then our kids in the best position to execute it. We made Reavis one dimensional which made them have to throw the ball, and controlled the line of scrimmage.” He added this game was the “closest we’ve come to putting all phases of the game – offense, defense, and special teams – together all year.”

“We felt we could run the ball a little better than we did tonight – a lot better,” admitted Reavis head coach Tim Zasada. “Today, we couldn’t run the ball at all and that’s a credit to Normal’s front seven players. Their linebackers and defensive linemen are really good, really physical.”

NORMAL – As what turned out to be the final seconds of Normal Community West High School ticked away, fans might not have been able to see it in his face, but senior quarterback Carson Camp’s posture – in a catcher’s pose, his head bowed – seem to say it all for his team. As those seconds and the Wildcats’ season slipped away, junior wide receiver Zach Jurich walked over and patted his field general on the shoulder.

New Lenox, Ill.-based Providence Catholic High School scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to outpace and eliminate Normal West, defeating the Wildcats, 19-14, in the Illinois High School Association Class 6A first round contest, held at Wildcat Field.

A crowd of roughly 700 fans braved mostly cloudy and windy conditions to cheer the Wildcats on hoping their team would be able to use the home victory to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

After a scoreless first quarter, Wildcat defenders did manage to pin Providence Catholic deep in their own territory forcing them to punt and provide the Wildcats their own 43 to begin a drive. Normal West, led by Camp, took time to drive down field concluding the drive when Camp connected with senior wide receiver Cole Hernandez on a 7 yard touchdown pass at the 10:13 mark in the quarter. Senior kicker Adam Conrad followed up with a successful extra point to put the Wildcats up, 7-0.

Providence Catholic (7-3) countered later in the quarter when junior quarterback Kevin Conway connected with senior wide receiver Lucas Porto for what would be the first of three scoring plays between the two on the day, this first one good for a 32 yard touchdown with 1:07 left until halftime, followed by junior kicker Lucca Kessler’s extra point. That tied the game going into the half at 7-7.

During the third quarter, the Wildcats would have three possessions ending in punts, the Celtics two before scoring revved up in the fourth quarter. Conway would find Porto on his way to the end zone when they connected for a second score, from 35 yards out, at 11:53 in the fourth quarter, putting the Celtics up, 13-7 following Kessler’s missed extra point.

With around 11 minutes to go in the contest and the Wildcats at their own 35 on fourth down, they punted. But Providence Catholic junior defensive back Dakota Straight mishandled his reception of it, seeing the ball hit the ground. In the scramble to get it, Wildcats senior defensive back Gavin Tellor came up with the ball at the Celtics’ 37 yard line. Loud cheers could be heard from Wildcats fans as a result.

One play later, Camp connected with junior wide receiver LeTre Billups who dodged defenders for a touchdown. Millmore’s extra point led to loud cheers from fans as his successful kick put Normal West in front, 14-13, with 10:41 remaining.

The ensuing kickoff for Normal West (7-3) and the Celtics’ return put the visitors on their own 24 for their next drive. They advanced to Normal West’s 40, but were flagged for holding which pushed the Celtics back to midfield. From there, the Celtics were able to get to West’s 11 when Conway took matters into his own hands. As Normal West defenders grasped at and hit him, he ran toward the goal line getting across for a touchdown with 7:27 remaining. The Celtics opted to try for 2 points, sending Porto to accomplish the task, but West defenders prevented it, leading to the final score.

In the huddle in the end zone afterward, head coach Nate Fincham could be heard telling the boys “you did the season the right way.”

“Ultimately, they’re a good football team,” Fincham said afterward about the Celtics. “They’re physical up front and they made some adjustments. But I couldn’t say enough about how proud I am of our guys for everything they did. They battled. They gave this team everything they wanted and I’m proud of everything they did.”

Despite not advancing, Fincham said there is still plenty for his team to be proud of, including claiming a share of this season’s Big 12 Conference title. These players “were part of my first group of players last year to the quarterfinals and in no way shape or form do I think they are a 1-and-done type team.

“They brought a conference championship to us this year and I couldn’t be more proud of the group,” the second-season head coach added. “When it’s all said and done, you’ve got some record setters in this class.“ Those players he singled out were Camp, Hernandez, and offensive lineman Skyler Hufeld.

“Normal West is a very good team and they were very well coached,” said Providence Catholic head coach Mark Coglianese. “We’re such a run-heavy team and we don’t throw all that much that maybe, we caught them by surprise.

“We were fortunate to score late in the first half,” Coglianese added, admitting he didn’t want to see his team behind at halftime. “We were scrambling at times. Normal West throws a lot of formations at you. They give you a lot to prepare for.”

NORMAL – When we were in grade school, we all sought to be considered part of the group of kids we had classes with. For some students, fitting right in happened almost immediately. But for kids with developmental disabilities, sometimes, those youngsters find fitting in difficult because other kids aren’t able to relate or made fun of them. But youngsters at Parkside Elementary School, through programs at Parkside Elementary School, are finding themselves fitting right in thanks to Special Olympics.

Parkside Elementary was named one of just four National Unified Champion Schools in the State of Illinois, celebrating the honor at an assembly in the school gym on Oct. 24. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program is an all-ages based program supported by the Federal Department of Education. A primary goal of the program is to motivate young people and give them tools, skills, and opportunities to help change their schools to have a genuine culture of inclusiveness, according to the national office of Special Olympics.

Unified schools have three main goals as set by Special Olympics: Inclusive sports; Youth leadership and advocacy; And Engagement in the program on the part of the whole school. At this assembly, Parkside Elementary was awarded a banner signifying the school’s commitment toward those goals.

In addition to the school’s 290 students, a number of former staff members and students who were part of the program in the past were invited to return to cerebrate receiving the honor. Also, a group of students who now attend neighboring Parkside Junior High School and were part of the program at the grade school in the past were invited to attend the celebration.

“It’s a tremendous honor for Parkside and we’re really proud of them,” stated Marty Hickman, Chief Operating Officer for Special Olympics Illinois, who represented the organization at this function. “They have exhibited all the things you would want a school to exhibit with regard to inclusion and helping students with intellectual disabilities to be part of their school community.”

A total of four schools in Illinois were receiving this honor and Parkside is the only elementary school in the State to claim the honor. The others are two high schools and a junior high school. There are a total of 400 schools Statewide which participate in the Young Athletes Program. Schools applied for the honor and needed to meet 10 excellence standards to qualify to be awarded the national recognition.

The program has been in place for 11 years, Hickman said, adding, “It creates an environment in this school where students with intellectual disabilities are more accepted, more included, and can have a richer and more full elementary school experience because of how they’re treated here.”

Fifth graders serve as peer coaches for students in Special Olympics’ Young Athletes Program, a program that involves students who are younger than age 8, explained Kathy O’Connell, Special Education physical education teacher at both the grade school and PJHS. The next step for athletes once they become 8-years-old is to be eligible to participate in Special Olympics programs and events. The Young Athletes Program has been available at the school for 13 years, O’Connell added.

O’Connell said students are taught lessons in the importance of respect toward people with disabilities. Because she teaches at PJHS, O’Connell sees the lessons at the grade school sticking with kids once they move on to secondary education. “They just grow up with it,” she said. “It just flows from one school to the other.”

To celebrate the accomplishment, the assembly’s audience included current and former students who have been involved in the Unified Sports Programs established at the school through Special Olympics, as well as hearing from some of those people.

Among the speakers were former athletes in both the Young Athletes or Unified Sports Program at the grade school. Eighteen year old Brandon Lake and his mother, Heather. Heather recounted for the audience that her son was a participant in the Young Athletes program starting at age five, and she has kept the first shirt he ever got when he entered the program at that time.

She admitted she was “an overwhelmed mama who was new to the world of disabilities” at the time she and her son came to see O’Connell about Brandon getting to be part of the program. For the Lake family, “Young Athletes Program line of Special Olympics events that Brandon participated over the years,” Heather Lake said. “But for me, personally, it marked a point in time where we were actually empowered to embrace our son’s strengths rather than his deficits.”

The assembly also heard from other parents and teammates in the Unified program who say they have learned from the experience.

Sean Foster, principal of Bloomington Central Catholic High School, also addressed the gathering, saying, “We are here to congratulate you on your accomplishment. It’s really important to have schools and organizations that partner together to help one another and serve one another. He noted that seniors at his school spend one of the last days of their high school career helping with the Young Athletes program. “By helping with this program, our students receive so much more in return.”

Before the program closed, Hickman spoke just before the banner with the national honor was presented. “I want you to understand not every school is able to be a national banner Unified Champion School,” he told the gathering. “A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement, and respect for all members of the student body and staff. “

With that, and after the presentation, school employees, members of the school’s Young Athletes Program, Special Olympics athletes, and coaches gathered around the banner as family and friends closed out the proceedings taking pictures with the newly-attained banner.