By Steve Robinson | October 14, 2017 - 10:29 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Normal Community West High School found itself in a tight defensive battle for the first half of their Big 12 Conference game against Peoria Richwoods at Wildcat Stadium on Friday, Oct. 13. The game included a scoreless second quarter for both sides.

But West head coach Darren Hess’ troops pulled forward in the second half – featuring three 3rd quarter touchdowns – for a 35-21 win in front of 450 fans. West’s win, coupled with Danville losing at Normal Community High School, 42-14, gave the Wildcats sole possession of second place in Big 12 Conference standings. Illinois High School Association will announce playoff pairings on Oct. 21.

Peoria Richwoods (4-4 overall, 4-3 Big 12) received the opening kickoff and scored three plays later on a 61 yard pass from senior quarterback Keenan Streitmatter to senior wide receiver Sharod Danage just 64 seconds into the contest, putting the Knights up, 7-0, after senior kicker Alex Nieves’ extra point.

Normal West (6-1, 5-1 Big 12) responded during the ensuing drive with a 3 yard scoring run from junior running back Adriel Fussell at 8:06 in the first quarter, followed by junior kicker Eddie Miller’s extra point, tying the score at 7-7.

Richwoods responded by concluding their ensuing possession with a 34 yard touchdown pass from Streitmatter again to Danage followed by Nieves’ extra point, with 6:30 left in the quarter. That put Richwoods up, 14-7, going into the half, thanks to a defensive second quarter performance from both sides.

Normal West FootballNormal West won the pregame coin flip and deferred receiving the ball until the opening of the second half. They stuck quickly when they got the ball, scoring three plays later as wide receiver C. J. Davis dashed 36 yards for the Wildcats’ tying touchdown at 10:52 in the quarter, followed by Miller’s extra point, knotting the score at 14-all.

Richwoods’ next possession ended in a turnover on downs giving West the ball at the Wildcats’ 39. Four plays later, Davis dodged defenders for a 36 yard touchdown, followed by Miller’s next extra point pushing West in front, 21-14 at the third quarter’s 7:30 mark.

The Knights’ ensuing possession ended in a punt which left West to start at their own 11 yard line. Eight plays later, junior quarterback C. J. Lewis connected with sophomore tight end Cole Hernandez on a 15 yard touchdown pass, followed by Miller’s next extra point. That increased West’s lead, 28-14, with 5:42 left until the start of the fourth quarter.

Peoria Richwoods football helmetRichwoods’ second possession of the fourth quarter started following a West punt, at the Knights’ 9 yard line but ended in an interception touchdown for West defensive back Armani Forrest, which pushed West up, 35-14, following Miller’s extra point, with 5:42 left in the contest.

Richwoods responded quickly as senior return man A. J. Johnson took the ensuing kickoff back 88 yards for a touchdown followed by Nieves’ last extra point on the night.

“This game was about energy, it was about matching Richwoods’ intensity, and I didn’t think we did that very well in the first half,” Hess said. He credited Richwoods’ Streitmatter-to-Danage combo “with giving the Knights momentum and it was just a matter of containing them.”

“We didn’t finish our drives off,” lamented Richwoods head coach Roland Brown. “When you don’t finish drives against a team like West that has speed and talent like they do, you’ll get worn down a little bit.”

By Steve Robinson | October 7, 2017 - 10:53 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – It might not have been noticed until after the final gun, but Normal Community High School sped through its homecoming game against Champaign Centennial High School Friday at Ironmen Field. From the opening kickoff and including a 20-minute halftime, the entire contest lasted just an hour and 58 minutes, all of it dominated by the home team en route to a 47-0 Big 12 Conference victory.

Roughly 1,000 fans watched as each team had two possessions before NCHS (7-0, 5-0 Big 12) struck first on a 16 yard scoring run by senior running back Varshaun Dixon at 7:43 in the first quarter. But junior kicker Camron Hinman missed the extra point, leaving the Ironmen with a 6-0 start.

NCHS advanced its lead, 13-0, on a 38 yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Daylen Boddie to senior wide receiver Jalen Coleman at 3:34 in that same quarter, followed by Hinman’s first successful extra point on the night.

After the Chargers’ next possession ended in a punt, Boddie scored two plays later on a 36 yard run, followed by Hinman’s next extra point, capping a two play, 47 yard drive, putting NCHS up, 20-0, going into the second quarter.

A fumble recovery by senior defensive back Trey Heffner ended the next possession for Champaign Centennial (2-5 overall, 2-4 Big 12), and two plays later, Dixon had his second touchdown of the night, from 12 yards out, followed by Hinman’s next extra point, putting the Ironmen up, 27-0 at 11:23 in the second quarter.

The Chargers’ next possession ended in a punt, giving the Ironmen the ball on the visitors’ 40 yard line. Two plays later, Boddie dashed into the end zone for his team’s next score followed by Hinman’s extra point, giving NCHS a 34-0 lead with 7:34 until halftime.

NCHS FootballThe Chargers punted to end their next possession leading to NCHS starting its next drive at mid-field One play later, senior running back Nick Hesse ran for a 50 yard score followed by another Hinman extra point, putting NCHS up, 41-0 at the 5:50 mark. With the beginning of the second half, game officials employed Illinois High School Association’s “Mercy Rule” — as a result of the 40-point difference in the game score, game officials used a continuously running clock, stopping it only for team timeouts or injury timeouts.

NCHS opted to defer receiving the ball until the second half after winning the pregame coin flip, starting the second half quickly on a 31 yard touchdown run by junior running back Connor Lay to lead to the final score following Hinman’s missed extra point. Lay’s score topped a six play, 65 yard drive.

“Really, these guys did a tremendous job,” NCHS head coach Wes Temples said. “I thought they came out and handled themselves very well.” He added the scoring gave bench players a chance to see action – something that Temples said doesn’t happen very often. “We had our backups in before halftime, and that gave them a great opportunity.”

“We didn’t execute well,” said Champaign Centennial head coach Lekevie Johnson. “We had turnovers that didn’t help us. We didn’t tackle well. We thought we had some plays in the backfield. So, when you play this kind of team, that happens. We played well early but you have to play well for four quarters.”

By Steve Robinson | September 30, 2017 - 10:04 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

FootballNORMAL – Senior quarterback Doug Holmes connected with senior wide receiver Mark Widdel for two touchdowns to thrill University High football fans in an effort to get their homecoming celebration off to a positive start, defeating Central State Eight Conference opponent Jacksonville, 38-20, in front of roughly 1,000 fans at Hancock Stadium.

The Pioneers faced a Crimsons team which needed to resort to using a fourth-string sophomore quarterback, Wesley Ervin, and leaned heavily on senior running back Marquel White for big yardage gains throughout the night.

U-High upped its record to 2-4 both in the conference and overall with the victory, with scoring that began with a 20 yard field goal by junior kicker Nathan Clay at 7:47 of the first quarter, topping a 7 play 33 yard drive. Getting that score started thanks to Jacksonville turning over the ball on downs to complete their first possession.

Jacksonville’s next possession ended on an incomplete pass on fourth down, putting the Pioneers at their own 33 yard line to start their next drive. Holmes connected with Widdel for the first time on the night on a 56 yard scoring strike with 5:05 left in the quarter, followed by Clay’s extra point, advancing the Pioneers’ lead, 10-0.

U-High Pioneers footballJacksonville’s next possession had the Crimsons marching 80 yards in 17 plays for their first score of the night at 9:27 of the second quarter, with White gaining most of the yardage, his longest jaunt was 12 yards, and he scored from three yards out to cut U-High’s lead, 10-7, following sophomore kicker Collin Brunstein’s extra point.

Holmes connected with senior wide receiver Ty Ziebarth for a 7 yard touchdown pass at 4:20 until halftime, followed by Clay’s next extra point, to give the Pioneers a 17-7 advantage.

As a result of the coin toss before the game, the Pioneers opted to defer receiving the ball until the second half but wound up fumbling to end the third play of their opening drive, turning the ball over to the Crimsons at the U-High 39 yard line. From there, White and Ervin combined keeping the ball on the ground to score, with White entering the end zone from a yard out with 8:37 left in the third quarter. That cut the Pioneers’ lead, 17-13 when a Crimsons two-point play failed.

Holmes and U-High took to the air during their next possession toward their next score. Holmes completed 3-of-4 passes for 35 yards as the Pioneers scored at 5:23 in the third quarter with Holmes running into the end zone from nine yards out followed by Clay’s extra point, increasing U-High’s lead, 24-13.

Jacksonville’s next possession ended when Pioneers sophomore defensive back Zane Sorensen recovered a fumble and U-High began their next drive at the Crimsons’ 35 yard line. One play later, Holmes and Widdel connected for a touchdown followed by Clay’s extra point, pushing the Pioneers up, 31-13.

jacksonville crimsons football helmetJacksonville got the ensuing kickoff and could only manage, after a flag thrown against them and four downs, to get to their own 30 forcing them to punt. Starting at their own 36, U-High managed to get down field thanks to plays like a 30 yard pass from Holmes to senior wide receiver Spencer Laub highlighting the drive U-High used to score again. The drive ended with Holmes running into the end zone from 7 yards out with 40 seconds left in the third quarter. Clay’s extra point put U-High up, 38-13.

From there the Crimsons used another prolonged drive which began at their own 32 to score again on the night, going 68 yards in 15 plays, concluding with White leaping over Pioneers defenders from two yards out for the touchdown, the evening’s last score, followed by Brunstein’s extra point.

“I thought our offensive line came to play today and that helped our passing game,” explained U-High head coach John Johnson. “Mark Widdel and Doug Holmes went out and played a great game. Doug beat them with his speed, too.” Johnson further credited his defense for their efforts against the Crimsons’ offense.

“My team battled to the very end,” said Jacksonville head coach Mark Grounds. “We’re fighting through some injuries, and I thought my young players made some progress. We’ll keep battling.” He also had praise for Ervin, who is the Crimsons’ fourth-string quarterback. First-string quarterback Avery Dugan is dealing with a throwing arm injury but is not healthy enough to return to that position. Doctors did, however, clear Dugan to play defensive back, which he did against the Pioneers.

By Steve Robinson | September 23, 2017 - 10:52 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Everybody attending a big high school homecoming game wants to see a big victory. It’s just anticipated and expected. And Normal West didn’t disappoint their fans and spectators from Big 12 Conference rival Danville in that regard, blasting the Vikings, 76-35, handing the visitors their first loss of the season.

Normal West (4-1, 3-1 Big 12) scored 42 points in the first half, highlighted by a 68 yard scoring run from junior wide receiver Armani Forrest at 1:26 in the first quarter to put the Wildcats up, 21-7, following junior kicker Eddie Miller’s extra point, and a 90 yard touchdown pass in the second quarter from sophomore quarterback Carson Camp to senior wide receiver C. J. Davis at 5:34 in the second quarter, followed by Miller’s extra point, giving the Wildcats a 35-14 lead.

Each team would score one time before halftime, Danville’s being a reverse in which senior quarterback Ernest Langley would be on the receiving end of a reverse, scoring on a pass from wide receiver Lance Langley, followed by a successful extra point by senior Caleb Griffin cutting West’s halftime lead, 35-21. The loss put Danville’s record at 4-1 overall, including 3-1 in Big 12 Conference play. Danville scored once more to cut West’s lead at half, 42-28.

Normal West FootballThere were fireworks that went off every time West scored, part of a supply which was to be used for a post-game display, but the fans got a head start on seeing those in the second half thanks to West’s offensive maneuvers. Danville received the ball for the second half kickoff and managed to march down to West’s 9 yard line in nine plays from their own 39. But on the 10th play, Plummer was intercepted by West senior defensive back Tre Matthews at West’s 1 yard line. Gaining some blocking and dodging tacklers along the way, Matthews scrambled into Danville’s end zone for a 99 yard interception touchdown. Miller’s extra point helped increase West’s lead, 49-28 at 8:24 in the third quarter.

Of Matthews’ defensive scoring dash, Normal West head coach Darren Hess said, “It was a spark…I didn’t think we did a good job defensively on third downs. That made a big difference for us.”

Danville senior running back Jerry Reed helped close out the Vikings’ next possession with a 5 yard run, capping a 52 yard drive on six plays for his team’s next score, followed by Griffin’s extra point, closing West’s lead, 49-35, with 4:52 left in the third quarter.

A touchdown run by West senior wide receiver Isaiah Shifflet capped a 9-play 80 yard march for West’s next score, pushing the Wildcats up, 56-35, with 1:44 left in the third quarter. following a turnover on downs by Danville, West got the ball back at Danville’s 35 yard line and fought Vikings defenders to score their next touchdown, a 2 yard run by senior running back Holden Lueck at 10:36 in the fourth quarter, followed by Miller’s extra point, putting West up, 63-35.

Danville VikingsA Danville fumble on their second play in the next possession was recovered by West senior defensive lineman Garrett Sheehan, giving the Wildcats the ball at Danville’s 32. Seven plays later, a 32 yard scoring pass from Camp to Tucker put West up, 69-35, with 6:55 left in the contest, but Danville defenders were able to block Miller’s extra point attempt. West’s last points on the night came courtesy of senior wide receiver Camani Jordan on a 9 yard scoring run in the waning moments of the contest, followed by Miller’s extra point resulting in the final score.

Hess said in the Wildcats’ 50-16 loss against Normal Community High School last week, penalties “killed” the Wildcats. But this week, the veteran coach said, “we were a better team than what we showed last week, and we showed that against a great team tonight. If you take care of the football and you’re physical up front, good things will happen. I thought, offensively, we did a lot of great things tonight.”

Danville’s first season head coach, former Vikings assistant Marcus Forrest, said turnovers and timing were what he feels doomed his team’s effort against the Wildcats. “If you don’t throw the ball on time or if you’re not where you’re supposed to be on the field as a receiver, bad things happen,” Forrest said. He called the game against Normal West “our first real learning experience and a tough test. We came up short on a good team.”

By Steve Robinson | September 18, 2017 - 7:06 am
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – The heat of the day carried over as the sun set once this game got started, but no one player dominated the annual “Chili Bowl” game between Unit 5 rivals Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School on Sept. 15 at Wildcat Field. In fact only one player – NCHS senior wide receiver Jalen Coleman – scored more than once in the contest. But NCHS pulled away early in the first half on the way to a 50-16 win before roughly 2,500 fans.

Senior running back Varshaun Dixon’s 25 yard pass reception for a touchdown from junior quarterback Daylen Boddie at 10:27 in the first quarter set the tone for the game’s pace for the Ironmen. The extra point by junior kicker Josue Nsukami put NCHS up, 7-0, giving the team a 3-0 record both overall and in Big 12 Conference play this season.

The opening possession from the starting kickoff ended in a punt for Normal West, and after what was Normal West’s second possession on the night from this point ended in a turnover on downs, Wildcat defenders made advancing the ball difficult on the Ironmen forcing Nsukami to kick a 31 yard field goal to increase their lead to 10-0 when the game went into the second quarter.

NCHS FootballA 35 yard touchdown dash by Boddie at 10:14 in the second quarter followed by a missed extra point try upped NCHS’ lead, 16-0. A nine yard touchdown pass from Boddie to Coleman followed by a botched extra point try increased NCHS’ lead, 22-0 at the 5:10 mark until halftime.

On their next possession, Normal West (3-1 overall, 2-1 Big 12) got on the scoreboard courtesy of senior running back Genesis Forrest as he dashed from 31 yards out into the end zone for his team’s first score, followed by junior kicker Eddie Miller’s extra point, cutting NCHS’ lead, 22-7 with 3:12 left in the half.

A Normal West fumble picked up by NCHS senior defensive end Alec Devecchi resulted in a 44 yard touchdown run followed by Nsukami’s next extra point, putting the Ironmen up, 29-7. The half closed on an 80 yard kickoff return by West’s junior return man Armani Forrest, followed by an extra point by Miller. That narrowed NCHS’ lead, 29-14.

Each team had an unsuccessful possession coming out of the halftime before NCHS scored thanks to an 18 yard touchdown pass from Boddie to Coleman for their second teaming on the night at 5:40 in the third quarter. Nsukami’s extra point would give the Ironmen a 36-14 lead.

Normal West FootballA Normal West fumble disrupted the Wildcats drive but helped turned into points when the defense hemmed NCHS close to their own end zone and Wildcats defenders tackled Dixon for a safety with 2:25 left in the third quarter. That cut NCHS’ lead, 36-16. But during the ensuing kickoff by the Ironmen, West turned the ball back over to the Ironmen, putting the ball at NCHS’ 45 yard line. Five plays later, Boddie connected with Dishon Hall II for a 13 yard touchdown, followed by Nsukami’s extra point, putting the Ironmen up, 43-16, with 15.6 seconds until the start of the fourth quarter.

A 50-yard scoring dash by senior wide receiver Nich Schaber at the 9:16 mark in the final stanza would end the scoring on the night, topped off by Nsukami’s extra point.

“I thought our kids played physical and our offense gave us a lot of opportunities,” said NCHS head coach Wes Temples following the contest. “Y’know, to put up 50 points on that team, that’s a darn good team….that’s a good defense, and a good football team,” referring to Normal West.

“Hat’s off to Normal Community,” said Normal West head coach Darren Hess. “We need to get back to work next week and fix some things. We had some adversity we hadn’t had in terms of being down scoring. I thought our kids competed really well throughout the game. But our kids. This game doesn’t define us as a program and we’re going to get back to work “

Both teams continue their Big 12 schedules next Friday as NCHS hosts Peoria Richwoods Richwoods while Normal West celebrates Homecoming by hosting Danville . Both games start at 7p.m.